In the Kitchen: Chiaro Ristorante
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When Chiaro Ristorante was born earlier this year, it had a very “clear” vision on how it would stand out in the busy restaurant landscape.
Co-owner and chef Domenic Chiaromonte made sure of it, putting his own name on it (Chiaro also means “clear” in Italian). With almost 20 years of experience as a restaurateur, caterer and executive chef, Chiaromonte insists on giving patrons nothing short of a memorable culinary experience.
“We are a ‘scratch restaurant,' which means everything we serve we've started from scratch,” says Chiaromonte, whose attention to fine detail has culminated from years of experience working alongside some of the world's most beloved chefs, including Art Smith, Massimo Capra, Albert Schnell and the late Charlie Trotter. “Our bread is made every morning, our desserts, our pizza, our sauces – daily and always fresh.”
That commitment to fresh ingredients, sourced locally as much as possible, is the hallmark of Chiaro's menu, which offers a familiar cuisine rooted in the simple flavours of Southern Italy but with a cutting-edge, modern presentation. Like an artist with his palette, you'll see Chiaromonte add layers of texture and colour to dishes like Espresso Tenderloin or Pan da Cataplana with fresh herbs, heirloom vegetables and edible flowers that are as appealing to the eye as they are to the palate.
You could say the blueprint for Chiaro had already been test-driven for five years, when Chiaromonte and his partner opened the t2 lounge. “It was designed to be a supper club,” explains Chiaromonte. “Our restaurant did very well and we also did our fair share of both corporate and social events.”
The successful venture saw the one business grow into two – t2 underwent a major face-lift and became a full nightclub and lounge, while the food operation expanded to a new site, formerly home to Vinsanto.  
Its new location allowed the restaurant to develop its own identity. A sumptuous bar area with European flair first greets customers as they cosy up to it, if only for an espresso with biscottino, while several elegant dining areas invite you to take a seat. But its Chiaro's open-concept kitchen that really shouts “welcome”.
“I encourage our guests to be able to come in the kitchen area and see what we are creating. I love that chef-guest comfort,” Chiaromonte says.
Another standout feature is a glass wall that houses a thoughtfully curated wine selection from Italy, California and around the world. “Because our wine cabinet is exposed and open, anyone can explore our great collection.”
Indeed, it's to that worldly experience that Chiaromonte credits his success.
“I've been around the world and worked for some amazing chefs and restaurants,” he says. “I'm taking all those great experiences and memories I have and putting it all into Chiaro. This place is all about love.”

Chiaro Ristorante
28 Roytec Rd., Woodbridge

Sea Salt-Crusted Spigola
Makes 1-2 servings

450 g (1lb) whole spigola fish (also known as European sea bass), head and tail intact
500 mL (2 cups) coarse salt
125 mL (1/2 cup) liquid egg white
250 mL (1 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme and parsley
lemon wedges
extra-virgin olive oil
Heat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. (Or preheat grill to medium heat setting.)
Prepare fish by removing scales and carefully run a knife down the centre of the fish, lengthwise, from the head to the tail without cutting it through to the spine. Pat dry with paper towel.
In a large bowl, combine salt, egg white, herbs and pepper. Work ingredients with your hands until it forms a silt-like paste.
Transfer fish to a greased baking pan (or ceramic baking pot). Scoop up handfuls of salt mixture and pat on top of fish until it covers the entire body to form an encasement.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes uncovered, until salt forms a crust and turns a pale yellow.
Remove salt crust and serve fish fillet hot with lemon wedges and a drizzle of olive oil.


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