Cucina Barone brings healthy comfort food to Westboro

By Andrea Prazmowski – 

Anna Barone wants to feed you the way her mama fed her.

Cucina Barone is opening its doors on December 8 at 393 Winston Ave., a block north of Winston Square at Richmond Road. It’s a “first generation food shop,” says Anna, meaning she’s harvested childhood traditions of a family life centred around Southern Italian cooking, with seven siblings and immigrant parents, and added nuances of foods specific to Canada – like maple syrup – and the many cultures she encountered in her Sault Ste. Marie neighbourhood.

And, she emphasizes, the most important ingredients are the celebration of “really, good simple food” and the joy of sharing it with others.

A “first generation food shop” is moving into this unsuspecting building on Winston Avenue in Westboro.

Growing up, “food and family was paramount in how we lived life,” says Anna, her voice alive with enthusiasm. “Right within the city we had a 2000 square foot garden; we hardly ever bought food in the stores. Every fall we made our own passata, we crushed our own grapes, we made our own prosciutto.”

The menu at Cucina Barone includes comfort goods and recipes from her mother’s kitchen, like panini, lasagne and other pasta dishes, sausage with rapini, and sourdough breads. Desserts include Anna’s signature Mookies – a soft baked creation that is a cross between a muffin and a cookie, made with oats, nuts and dried fruit – and brownies that score high on taste and nutrients and low on sugar, made with olive oil, chickpeas, beets and chia seeds. The café offers eat-in and take-out options and a full Bottega with a variety of food products for sale.

Anna Barone of Cucina Barone. Photo by Andrea Tomkins

The focus, says Anna, is on high-quality and local foods. Suppliers include Waratah Downs Organic Farm in Iroquois, Breads By Us, and True Loaf. The Piggy Market, also on Winston Street, is providing sausages-to-order.

Beyond the Southern Italian-with-a-Canadian-twist menu, Cucina Barone will celebrate other food traditions. Sharon Green, the Food Operations Manager, is Jewish, explains Anna. “I put it to her: I want the best latkes ever!” To Julie Theberge, Front House Manager, she said “let’s get the best tourtiere!”

Anna is used to coaching people to bring out their best. Always athletic, she’s been a strength coach since the age of 16 and had a professional career in Mixed Martial Arts. She continues coaching now, as owner of Victory Strength and Boxing on Picton Avenue. In its former location at City Centre it was Victory Performance Centre, which included a café. Now the two businesses are in different locations but Cucina Barone will provide the food for Victory’s Food Plan for its clients – a 20-day plan of three meals, a snack and dessert, designed to help clients eat healthily and discover the foods that suit them best.

Not only does Anna promote eating locally – she’s also an example of really living locally. Cucina Barone is just a couple blocks east of her Richmond Road home, and a couple blocks further east she’s at Victory. Anna says she loves being in Westboro — being part of the community, connecting with people, and feeding them.

“You bring somebody to your table to eat and it’s the best thing. It really is.”

For more information, go to cucinabarone.ca.

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