Who said you need a swanky real estate property with history to create a memorable experience? Sometimes, a newly-built space, with enough attention to design and detail, can feel wholesome and authentic.
We got invited by our friends to check out this restaurant, as it appeared Oretta was the talk of the town earlier in the year.
King St. West has been changing and growing at a breakneck pace. A lot of older buildings have been taken over by larger chains (e.g., The Keg, etc.) or feisty new upstarts (namely, Portland Variety). The neighbourhood’s transformation is not yet over, but what is shaping up is already an interesting mix.
Oretta occupies the main floor of a newly-built condo. The large glaring building facade gives the business an intimidating, but cool appearance. The minimal white decal logo is of a basic wordmark, set in a clean, loosely-kerned sans-serif, placed inside a circular geometric frame which is made of outlines - currently a trendy and illustrative look. Once again, this didn’t to the sterile feel. We also noticed a backlit sign, glowing in light pink (same font, but tighter kerning). below it was the most unique feature, drawing in the patrons - a beautiful statement sign made from the cut plates of metal, placed vertically to the viewer. The letters cast shadows ensuring there was only one way to read it. Strangely enough, this feature was hung high above the entrance, making it a difficult for any pedestrian to notice and appreciate its environmental subtlety.
The spacious and bright interior with delicate warm, gold-metal details, soft pastel pink walls and deep, cobalt-blue booths instantly relaxed us. Here, too, the playful colourful flooring tiles organically transitioned into a vinyl wood. All these little highlights got us thinking that we’re visiting a much more storied establishment with years of service. Even architecturally, the rounded arches and domed ceiling contributed to such an impression. The metal-rounded space separators were another notable feature; though they’re tall standing, they were almost lifting ceiling higher. A simple lighting was throwing circular shapes in various directions, which, combined with covered scones cast elegant shadows across the vast floor.
Ma Cherie was particularly impressed by the design of the menus, with cherry red and rose pink covers, made from an acrylic leather, with a gold-foiled logo, which appeared quite regal. They spelled out “Stavolta” and “6”, though, that was not relevant for non-Italian speakers. Upon opening, the endpapers were covered with a geometric pattern, including a circular logo.
Ma Cherie went for the cocktail, suggested by our server Kam, as one of the more popular choices. Kam skilfully navigated our food sensitivities and preferences, as we made our choices.
In addition, we ordered their tuna dish special of lightly cooked pieces of albacore, plus a large side of kale and onion zesty salad with a generous amount of olive oil.
Our second choice was their Alpi pizza, covered lightly with ingredients and quite pale in appearance. Its white fontina cheese base had scattered walnuts, caramelized pear, and thin long strips of bacon as toppings. It was full in flavour, and the much-needed addition of thyme ensured it all came well together. We enjoyed our dishes, both small in quantity but just right in taste.
We took a stroll up the beautiful staircase, that was a work of art in its own right (bent metal pieces and paint creating dimensional effects) to visit a multi-use space upstairs. There was a dining area, as well as a private kitchen island, and a rental space to give special visitors a show, involving the chef. A small section was separated for a wine cellar, near the back of the restaurant, that ensured the sunlight wasn’t beaming upon the pricey bottles. The section also served to showcase their wines. We were glad to have gone to the washrooms, which brought us on the exploratory tour of the space - an advertising of its own. If you continue exploring, there is a second staircase to an inner courtyard of the building with a café. We heard that it has also been a hot spot for the area.
PS: We were a bit confused when given the bill with a postcard of an old Italian village. The stylish and modern Oretta did not feel like a nostalgic, homey restaurant that the card suggested. Who knows, maybe we misread the cues.