Sediamoci: Chef Jon Vettraino of Viaggio

You may not know Jon Vettraino personally, but if you frequent Toronto’s top eateries, you definitely know his work. The esteemed chef and restaurateur has left a significant mark on Toronto’s culinary scene. His journey began working at some of Toronto’s finest food destinations, such as Buca Osteria, Splendido and 416 Snack Bar, where he honed his culinary skills before venturing into entrepreneurship.

As the chef and founder of Viaggio, Vettraino reimagines Italian cuisine with innovative flair, drawing inspiration from a food-finding tour across Italy. We chatted to him about the inspirations, creative process, cultural influences, and distinctive ingredients that make Viaggio a must-visit.

The concept for Viaggio’s seasonally-rotating menu was conceived while you were on a food-finding tour of Italy. What locations and dining experiences inspired you the most?

I think places like Rome, Florence, the northern Veneto and Bergamo have had the most influence on my approach to Italian cuisine. When I was working in the Veneto in the north eastern corner of Italy, I had a truly unique meal. I tagged along with the rest of the kitchen crew from Locanda San Lorenzo for lunch at a place that you’d have to live there to know it even existed. It was a tiny dining room in the mountains with no signage. We were the only people there, there was no menu. They brought us a local bottle of Valpolicella and proceeded to send course after course of very rustic and delicious food. Polenta came with almost everything, we had a dish of stewed snails they’d collected from the hills, a spugnole or morel mushroom dish and of course lamb to finish which is what the town of Puos D’Alpago is known for. At the end of the meal they left a bottle of home made grappa on the table and I think we barely made it home.

What makes the cuisine you prepare different from other regionally-focused Italian restaurants?

I wouldn’t say we focus on any one region or even strictly Italian food. We draw from classic Italian dishes and techniques but I’ve never been interested in trying to replicate a classic Roman trattoria or Napolitana pizzeria. If you go in search of great food in Italy you’ll find plenty of Michelin recognized restaurants that are breaking with tradition. At Viaggio we have sauces made with dashi and miso butter, and pizzas with chicken tikka and pastrami.

How do you integrate European ingredients from places like Austria and France, while ensuring the dishes feel truly Italian?

I like to keep an ingredient or preparation that keeps a dish Italian, but to be honest as time goes on I care less about managing the guest expectations of getting an Italian food experience and just try to focus on delivering a really delicious and unique meal.

With Viaggio’s seasonal menu changes, what can visitors expect in spring and summer versus fall and winter?

In spring and summer a diner at Viaggio can expect lighter fare as well as dishes that are built around the fantastic produce that becomes available. In the spring it’s all about asparagus, morels and wild leeks. In the summer we move into zucchini flowers, heirloom tomatoes, corn and peaches. Also, pizza! Our pizza oven is part of the patio kitchen so we can only serve it between June and October.

You brought your beloved Tiramisu pancakes from The Commodore’s brunch to Viaggio’s dessert menu. What makes this dish so special?

I think our tiramisu pancakes are special because tiramisu is so well loved, but we’re presenting it in a whole new way so it’s familiar but new at the same time. Our pancakes are light and tall, and the tiramisu mousse is classic but it’s aerated so it’s like a fluffy cloud. It was just something I tried and it worked so well I knew I could never get rid of it.

Lastly, what are your go-to DOP, DOC or IGP products to cook with?

Grana Padano cheese is certainly at the top of the list. There are few dishes at Viaggio that aren’t touched by. Aged balsamic vinegar is another one, and extra virgin olive oil of course!


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