Café La Scala
Address: 725 Corydon Ave
Recent renovations have transformed Café La Scala into a hybrid of urban cool and fine dining. This new incarnation of one of Corydon Avenue’s long-time gems melds sleek nightlife elements with elegant style, catering to the after dark crowd without sacrificing quality.
The spot’s seasoned owner, Perry Scaletta, adopts a philosophy of getting to know his customers. Whether bustling around the open kitchen in a state of hyper-focus or pulling up a chair to go over the night’s specials with a group of diners, his energy is infectious.
Cooking is refined, with revelatory touches popping up subtly throughout the menu. Meatballs are as classically Italian as you can get, but the inspired addition of pear adds fresh sweetness.
The menu’s collection of small plates has enough complexity of flavour to hold diners’ undivided attention while still maintaining a casualness ideal for those who want food to play a supporting role to cocktails. Signature dumplings, swimming in a gingery sweet chile cream sauce, or a favourite lemon and honey suffused arugula salad, are still there to satisfy long-time (and new) fans, reformatted as a stop in a night-long parade of flavours.
Other shareable plates include a stick-to-the-ribs mushroom risotto, made, on one visit, with barley, and finished with an earthy swirl of truffle oil. Tender rings of Sicilian-style calamari, which eschews the batter-heavy deep fry popular at pubs for a simple turn on the grill, luxuriates under a flourish of wine-laced tomato sauce, and a dusting of Parmigiana.
Sleek new elements like colour changing tables and a backlit bar give the space a lounge-like atmosphere. These accents blend with traces of the restaurant’s fine dining past, like the Tony Tascona masterpieces that have long graced the walls, and a line up of traditional entrées. Flavours slant Italian and preparations are time honoured, from osso bucco (made with lamb shank, not veal) to pastas. A stellar cioppino piles tender seafood beneath a shimmery red stock, with a hit of Sambuca to give this classic a modern edge.