What’s the vibe?

Just a few steps away from Craig Harding’s Campagnolo, the chef has teamed up again with his wife and creative director Alexandra Hutchinson to open La Palma. The mechanic shop-turned-restaurant has a casual and light atmosphere that merges a Venice Beach vibe with the artistic energy of its Trinity-Bellwoods neighbourhood.

Inside, a hand-painted mural with hues of green, black and pink creates a crisp and clean look. While the back chef’s table offers a unique peek into Harding and his team at work, it can get a little steamy in warm weather. So opt for a seat by the massive garage doors that line the front of the restaurant and let in the summer breeze. You can grab a quick take-out meal or stay for cocktails, food and conversation to make the most of its girls’ night out-appropriate ambiance.

What to drink?

While they boast a thorough wine list featuring many Italian options (rosé is a popular choice for the lunching ladies we’re surrounded by) La Palma’s cocktail menu is worth exploring. Cardamom-infused gin gives their Cardamom Spritz its subtle floral spice, accented with grapefruit for a refreshing and summer-appropriate sipper. The restaurant’s signature La Palma cocktail features Montenegro, fresh mint leaves and egg whites to achieve a silky almost creamy texture. Local and international beers, ciders and a few non-alcoholic cocktails round out the beverage list.

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What to eat?

The lightness of La Palma’s atmosphere is reflected in the dishes, which draw on not only Italian cuisine but also a touch of the Mediterranean. The diversity of the menu, ranging from pasta to pizza, is also vegetarian friendly with an extensive selection of meat-free mains and salads.

We began with crisply seared albacore tuna encrusted with spicy sumac and accompanied by strawberries and watermelon to balance. Our veggie favourite was the sweetly glazed heirloom carrots served on toasted sunflower tahini and charmoula – a paste made with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and cilantro. Those with a penchant for pasta shouldn’t miss the 100-layer lasagna. Its top layer is seared in olive oil, mimicking that highly sought-after crispy edge in a pan of homemade lasagna. But the most Instagrammable dish of the evening was our last – the millefoglia. This dessert is made of several layers of puff pastry and a sweet vanilla cream with passion fruit and mango drizzle and edible flowers to complete.

Dinner and drinks for two: around $110

849 Dundas Street West, 416-368-4567, lapalma.ca