La Palma is a sleek venture from Chef Craig Harding and designer Alexandra Hutchison of Campagnolo. A cafe and Italian takeaway spot during the day that turns into an elegant restaurant with sexy cocktails at night and also serves breakfast and brunch, La Palma’s intention is to bring California cool to Toronto.
This space used to be one of many humble cafes along Dundas West, Cafe Brasiliano to be exact. When the owners asked if Harding and Hutchison wanted to take over the spot, they wanted to create a similar establishment in its place that would have a little of everything.
They wanted the menu to be a little healthier than expected, and for the food and design to support each other in evoking Venice Beach vibes.
Local artist Madison van Rijn created a unique mural for the space combining influences of watercolour with green stripes and street art with drippy black ones.
The mozzarella and bolognese 100 layer lasagna ($18) is an instant classic. They wanted to create a lasagna that would be all crunchy corner bits, and it delivers with a nice crisp on every single one of those 100 layers.
Oxtail gnocchi ($17) layers Harding’s signature handmade, melt-in-your-mouth potato gnocchi with an oxtail ragu and crusts it in a fine layer of parm and breadcrumbs.
An Argentine wood grill is used for tons of meat and veggies, and next to it in the open kitchen is a wood-burning pizza oven also used for baking bread.
It’s used to cook massive cuts of meat served with traditional sauces, such as an eighteen-ounce aged Ontario bone in striploin ($49) cooked to tender, fatty perfection and served with zesty romesco and chili garlic broccolini on the side ($10).
Another favourite brought over from Campagnolo are lovely donuts ($3.50). This one is a salted caramel, and they also do a hibiscus grilled option ($3). Pastries like these make a fitting end to an Italian meal or a nice nosh with coffee.
The signature La Palma ($13) is a tart combination of aperol, montenegro, orange, lime, and bitters.
An egg white foam so stiff it’s evocative of cappuccino supports a dehydrated orange wedge almost my whole visit.
Start or end your visit here with a drip coffee or macchiato ($3) or a classic latte, unless you’d prefer one of their coffee cocktails.
The stools at the bar where anyone would feel comfortable ordering a few drinks, coffee and pastry rather than a full meal are the originals from Cafe Brasiliano, redone.
Tables in the sweeping main dining area are inspired by Brancusi. This fun, elegant, park adjacent jack-of-all-trades might be just the perfect fit to the Dundas West neighbourhood.