The only question I have for myself after all of this time is, what took me so long? Why after close to two years in Ottawa has it taken me forever to get to Preston St.?
In the past month I have been lucky enough to have 2 great experiences there and today being able to spend some time with Joe Calabro at Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana Ltd was a complete pleasure.
We wandered in searching for breakfast. My daughter told me about this place, raved about their chocolate creme brulee. I had forgotten, but not for long, when I walked through that front door I was like a kid in a candy store, in fact the first two people I thought about were my nieces and how I couldn’t wait to bring them here, to see the looks on their faces. A beautiful display case full of gorgeous cakes, macaroons, biscotti, truffles, meringues, you name it. Next to that a hot counter full of the days special pastas, sandwiches, and a beautiful coffee counter where amazing creations were being lovingly concocted.
Even after seeing all of this, I still wanted breakfast and they serve it until early afternoon. I ordered a toasted western on whole wheat that arrived with home fries and an assortment of fresh fruit, I opted for a 12 oz regular coffee (my first in weeks). The western was perfect and much to my delight had red peppers in it. Adrian could not pass up one of the pasta specials, he ordered the meat cannelloni with a tomato cream sauce. The two large cannelloni were perfection, the pasta cooked perfectly, the meat filling generous and the tomato cream sauce balanced everything with its delicate flavours. Cait had the gnocchi, tender and delicious which also came with tomato cream sauce. The staff here were fun, knowledgeable, considerate.
There are two seating areas, one as you come in and a more private space in front of the counter where they make the coffee. On the walls, pictures of Joe Calabro, the places he has been, competitions he was part of, the awards he has won.
I couldn’t really resist asking to take a few pictures to blog about, so the staff needed to ask the boss and few minutes later there he was, this humble, kind, award-winning chef, 30 years with this wonderful business. Joe is a member of the Canadian Federation of Chefs, a member of the European World Master Chefs Society and member of Les Toques Blanches International. Not only did he oblige with the picture-taking but offered to take me upstairs to view the beautiful cakes he creates, for weddings, birthdays, baptisms, and anniversaries. My family in tow we headed upstairs and honestly I felt like I walked into heaven, rooms filled with beautiful cakes, I could only imagine how a bride would feel in this space. I asked Joe what the average wedding cake costs, his start at about $400 and go up, the average being about $850. I thought this extremely reasonable, these cakes were like art.
The sugar and marzipan creations were skillfully done, every detail carefully crafted. Cookies and other party favours can be personalized. They do both corporate work and contribute to the community through endless amounts of non-profit support.
We couldn’t leave without something sweet. I felt it important to have something Italian, so we ordered 2 large cannoli and 1 pink macaroon (I have wanted a macaroon since seeing some on David Lebovitz’s web page). The cannoli are filled right there, with sweet ricotta cream each end being topped with candied fruit. There was a secret hidden in these cannoli’s, a flavour barely there, but it’s softness elevated the experience that much more, fruity, nutty, both perhaps? I decided I didn’t want to know, I wanted something magic.
Later, heading home, the scent of baking chocolate lingered on our clothes and I realized how fortunate I had been this day, me the one who loves to write about food and experiment with new recipes, stumbling in to Paradise on Preston Street.
Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana Ltd., 200 Preston St. Ottawa, ON