Tuscany – the bountiful land of gallons of wine, dreamy hillside views and food known for its simplicity. The sun is always shining and the warm, fresh air is distinct. Italy is the mecca for gastronomic indulgences and is typically at the top of every food lover’s bucket list. If you’re in the Toronto Entertainment District, getting on a plane isn’t the only way to experience the authentic Tuscan taste. Meet Alida Solomon – chef and owner of Tutti Matti located on 364 Adelaide St. W. Wanting to bring the authentic flavours of Tuscany to Torontonians, she opened her restaurant in our district 16 years ago – creating an escape to Tuscany in our own backyards.
Over the years, Alida has not only watched the district evolve, but specifically the district’s food culture. Despite the ever-changing food trends, the importance of providing quality and staple Tuscan recipes on her menu was without a doubt her top priority. Having travelled quite a bit as a child, Solomon grew up in a household where learning in non-traditional settings was valued. Her three teachers were ‘food, museums and travel’. Following this philosophy into her adult years, Solomon graduated from George Brown and set off on her big Italian adventure, landing a job in Montalcino, Tuscany. Having anticipated only staying in the country for six months, Solomon returned to Canada seven years later.
“I’m not Italian, I wasn’t educated in Canada, I am a woman, I culturally have a different religion and background of everybody else in the business and I always felt like I had to prove something to somebody.” – Alida Solomon, Tutti Matti
Upon her return to Canada at the end of 2002, Alida envisioned what she wanted her own restaurant to focus on; the simplicity of Italian cuisine. Solomon wants the dishes she serves to not follow the traditional model of any other restaurant in the city. Hence, her menu includes a strict ‘no substitution’ rule she enforces to honour the tradition of Italian dining. “What I realized was that no one in the city was serving things the way they were in Italy… I wanted to give Toronto what I learned.” As a result, Tutti Matti was born to bring the Toronto Entertainment District true Italian culture.
Tutti Matti’s rotational menu is focussed on seasonal ingredients. Alida explains this menu concept and tells us, “it really teaches you what you can do with one item and understanding that we don’t waste anything”. A few days a week, Alida makes her way to the docks to grab fresh produce. It costs more, but she’s adamant it makes a world of difference in her dishes without having to go overboard on each plate. For those who haven’t visited Tutti Matti yet, you can expect to be served respectable plates of real, simple ingredients creating mouth-watering dishes such as her homemade gnudi, pinci, pappardelle and tagliatelle.
“People have this thing about food in general where they feel like ‘more is more’ and I think the one thing that Tuscan food is, it’s about simplicity and authenticity and respect” – Alida Solomon, Tutti Matti
Being a pioneer in the Toronto Entertainment District, Alida has garnered a plethora of accolades under her belt – the most recent being ‘Chef of the Year’ at the 2018 Ontario Hostelry Institute Gold Awards. In an industry historically consumed by men, Alida has been subjected to discrimination throughout her career but shows no signs of backing down. Last November, paving the way for other budding women in the industry, Alida began the Sharp Lady Foundation in conjunction with George Brown College to fund female hospitality scholarships. Earlier this year, Open Kitchen approached Alida with a similar initiative to raise funds for the advancement of women within the industry which saw huge success during the June 2018 ‘Celebration of Summer’ event held at Tutti Matti. In addition, Alida is also working on a passion project documentary filmed in Italy called “Motherland”, taking the step to celebrate female chefs and winemakers and shedding light on the lack of women in the industry.
“There’s so many amazing stories to be told about women in the hospitality industry that are exciting and interesting that everybody would watch” – Alida Solomon, Tutti Matti
Since its conception in 2002, Tutti Matti has become a quintessential representation of the commitment to quality present within Toronto Entertainment District’s food scene.