If you haven’t ventured into Downtown Markham to experience the Dine Out DMT Festival, there is still time. From now until March 6th, participating restaurants are offering a prix fixe menu from $15 to $45, as well as ticketed culinary events. Foodie fanatics, this is your opportunity to try something new, or to revisit your favourite restaurants for the inspired flavours you love at special, lower prices. This event, hosted by The Remington Group in partnership with a collective of hospitality partners in the area, is a celebration of food and drink in one of York Region’s most vibrant up-and-coming locations.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Lanna Cuisine with my special someone for a meal which, in my humble opinion, borders on epic. No, that is not an overstatement. If you can’t call a meal epic when you nearly tapped your waiter’s hand away for trying to clear your plate because it still had smudges of mind-blowingly good curry… when can you? To read about our experience, visit the York Durham Headwaters blog: Thai Excellence at Lanna Cuisine – A Dine Out DTM Festival Experience.
When I was offered a second opportunity to try out another of the fabulous establishments taking part in this event, I didn’t even have to think about it. My taste buds and tummy teamed up and answered for me: Um, yes, please!
This time, Peter and I took our kids for a family experience to Costa Sorrento. At this upscale pizza and pasta bar, the essence of Italy is captured in everything—from the décor to the scents to the flavours. “We try to keep everything we do as authentic as possible,” says Domi Cioffi who, with her husband Nino, own the restaurant. “We make pizza the traditional way, which is why it is different than what many people are used to at the take out restaurants. We make our pizza dough by hand; we make our pasta by hand—nearly everything is made in-house. We don’t buy a lot of things ready-made.”
The Cioffi family knows authentic Italian cuisine. Nino was born in the town of Sorrento, which overlooks the Bay of Naples in Southern Italy. It is there that he still owns and operates a family-run ice cream, pizzeria and restaurant on the main strip. In fact, the name Costa Sorrento translates to “The Coast of Sorrento,” a nod to the family’s roots.
It was a snowy Wednesday evening when Peter and I travelled the short drive to Downtown Markham with two of the three kids that make up our blended family. (Sadly, my son Christopher was at his dad’s and we just couldn’t make it work… Christopher has not fully forgiven me yet; I may need to resort to bribery.) Our intention was to enjoy Costa Sorrento’s prix fixe selections for the Dine Out DTM Festival. Admittedly, I was a little apprehensive. You see, Costa Sorrento is, well, gorgeous. And let’s face it, kids will be kids. Their appreciation of a good meal and a luxurious atmosphere is generally hit or miss.
I quickly realized we had nothing to worry about. Although it is upscale, Costa Sorrento is as much a family establishment as it is a fine dining one. The décor is inviting and elegant, and with its open concept floor plan and viewable kitchen, it is accessible and relaxed. There is even an enormous pizza oven in the kitchen so the kids can watch their very own pizzas going in and out.
“That’s what we wanted to create,” Domi says when I mention this. “We wanted to reach out to families as well as couples. We wanted to appeal to all age groups because we feel that Italian food is all-encompassing. It goes beyond cultural lines—everybody loves Italian. So, we aim to be inviting to all ethnicities and all ages.”
The prix fixe menu for Costa Sorrento for the Dine Out DTM Festival has something for everyone. With three choices for an appetizer, four for a main course, and two for dessert, we were able amongst the four of us to order a variety of items and share them. Peter went for the lamb shank with mint sage vegetables and truffle mashed potatoes, and I went for the grilled octopus on lentil salad with grilled tuna. Now, as I mentioned, kids will be kids, and I thought this transcendent fact would make my choice safe from having to share…
No such luck. What are the odds that this would be the night they’d decide to be adventurous and dig into my precious sea food?
Both Hannah and Lucas opted for the pizza, after being sold on it by restaurant manager, Mark Forzon. “It’s all made by hand,” he tells them. “The dough is made the night before and rises slowly overnight. Our pizza is so good that all other pizza is ruined for me.”
It is a lofty claim, one which we were happy to put to the test. It turns out that Mark was spot on. There is something special about a pizza where the crust is every bit as delectable as the toppings that go on top of it. The hand-stretched dough is crisped in all the right ways, with a flavour that simply cannot be found in any fast-food pizza restaurant. If I had to share my grilled octopus, then I think a slice of authentic Italian pizza from each kid is a fair trade.
For one of our party, young Lucas, being adventurous in eating is a rarity. In truth, I was surprised he tried the octopus. When it came down to dessert and he learned that chocolate gelato was on the menu, he stayed true to form and decided to stick with what he loved. Here, Mark explained to us that Nino Cioffi comes from a family of multi-generational gelato makers. This is a skill which has been brought directly from Italy to our very table. If you’re not familiar with gelato, then this is creamier, smoother, silkier and denser than ice cream. It is a mouthful of decadence. Lucas certainly thought so: his gelato dish was scraped clean by the end.
We enjoyed our Costa Sorrento experience immensely. It was a night out where we could, as a family of four, feel a little bit special in a beautiful setting where every detail from the water glasses, to the display of world-class wines, to the presentation of the food was considered. We will definitely be making another visit very soon.
This time, though… I am not sharing my octopus!
The Dine Out DTM Festival is on until March 6th. Participating restaurants are: Aroma Espresso Bar; Cineplex Cinemas Markham and VIP; Copper Branch; Costa Sorrento; Draco at Toronto Marriott Markham; Good Catch Boil House; Rouge River Brewing Company (featured with culinary event); Lanna Cuisine; Me Va Me Kitchen Express; Poke Guys; Ruth’s Chris Steak House; Terre Rouge; Kiu Japanese Restaurant; and Patisserie Fleur. For more information, visit www.downtownmarkham.ca.
Story by Katherine Ryalen