Woodbridge’s loss is Bradford West Gwillimbury’s gain.
For years, Chef Walter Marocco and a partner operated Cotto e Crudo, which translates roughly to “cooked and raw.”
Marocco, who trained as a chef in his native Italy, was the cotto side of the business. His partner ran a butcher shop — but the partnership didn’t last. On his own, Marocco was dissatisfied.
“It was a hot table, which wasn’t our style,” said his wife, Antonella. That, and the increasing hustle and bustle in burgeoning Woodbridge led the Maroccos to relocate to Bond Head.
“We sold the business, and we’re loving every minute of it,” said Antonella, adding especially since they opened Cotto88 Italian Eatery on County Rd. 88, the modern part of the former Quaint House.
They have totally renovated the space, swapping quaint for modern European design, classic shades of grey, and an extensive wine bar.
And they have brought a menu that is a salute to the cuisine of their native Terracina, a seaside town located in central Italy, between Rome and Naples.
“We grew up with seafood, seafood, seafood,” said Antonella.
This is why fish and seafood, from fresh octopus, to the catch of the day, play a prominent part on the menu.
The menu covers only two pages — antipasti, primi, secondi, pizza, and desserts.
The limited menu allows Marocco to focus on food preparation and quality. “Everything is made here — even the desserts,” said Antonella. “Everything done fresh.”
With that kind of standard, “you can’t have a seven-page menu,” she said.
Marocco’s recipe for success can be summed up: “Simple. Grilled. Sea salt. Good olive oil.”
The couple met in Italy in 1983, and opened their first restaurant, La Buca di Bacco, in 1988. Their new venture is a salute to that tradition.
The antipasti include plates of carpaccio — shaved beef or octopus, prepared by Marocco — suitable for sharing, or fresh salads with spinach or fennel, a soup of the day, and fritto misto, fried calamari and shrimp with the chef’s signature sauce.
Pastas make up the primi — fettuccine with porcini mushrooms and truffle oil, spaghetti al pomodoro, carbonara, rigatoni al polpo (octopus in fresh tomato sauce), and risotto. Secondi include classic steaks, grilled lamb, seafood or meat boards for two, and the catch of the day.
As for the pizzas, the dough, sauce and toppings are all prepared by Marocco.
In addition to the standard menu, there are always weekly specials, ranging from a special seafood soup of mussels, clams and calamari, to polenta medallions stuffed with cream cheese and mushrooms.
“Every week, it changes up,” said Antonella. “Fun food! We try to make something a little fancy.”
The special treatment at Cotto88 begins the moment a customer is seated. Out comes the complementary focaccia bread, olive oil and olives.
“You have to put something in front of people when they walk in, especially bread. We Italians are big on carbs,” said Antonella.
Cotto88 Italian Eatery, at 4240 County Rd. 88 in Bond Head, is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily (closed Mondays), and for dinner from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, and 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
For more information, visit cotto88.com or call 905-551-5188.