Chef Craig Harding and creative director Alexandra Hutchison were in California last year when inspiration struck for La Palma, their Italian by way of SoCal restaurant located in Trinity Bellwoods. While roughly 4,000 kilometres separate Toronto and L.A., the pair noticed an atmospheric kinship between Venice Beach and their own neighbourhood.
“There are actually a lot of parallels,” says Hutchison. “They both have artistic communities, and Trinity Bellwoods Park is really like a beach for Toronto—people use it for sunbathing, Frisbees, and picnics.”
The couple’s second restaurant is steps from Campagnolo, the traditional Italian eatery they opened in 2000. At La Palma, Mediterranean dishes are playfully dressed up with unexpected flavours, like miso and sunflower tahini. Grilled steaks and vegetables are Argentinian inspired and wood-fired pizzas come sliced for sharing.
“I wanted it to be light and simple,” Harding says of the menu that’s available throughout the day. “I want people to be able to come in here and quickly get out, or order a ton of food and sit around with cocktails and wine.”
While La Palma’s wine program is rooted in the Mediterranean, cocktails are lighter and more playful. A classic Negroni loses its hue and gets a dose of bubbles from Prosecco. The restaurant’s signature La Palma cocktail blends Amaro, Aperol, and egg whites to match a sunset.
Like California, La Palma is sundrenched and airy—in large part thanks to garage doors lining the front of the restaurant left behind from the building’s previous owner, a mechanic. The walls feature an abstract hand-painted mural in swatches of green, black, and millennial pink. Hutchison, who designed the restaurant’s interiors, chose to light the room like a gallery space.
“I was playing with the idea of Venice Beach and Trinity Bellwoods having this art-centric vibe,” she adds. “It’s a celebration of art, which is really the inspiration for the entire restaurant.”
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