Originally published by Watershed Magazine
Words by Signe Langford. Photos by Johnny C.Y. Lam
With the opening of her newest culinary venture, Enid Grace, Prince Edward County’s own It Girl has moved across the street to a bigger space where she can dig even deeper into the food and culture of her beloved Italy.
It started in the third grade. “I was always a little bit obsessed with Italy,” says restaurateur, Enid Grace. “We had to do a project, and I chose Italy. I made two dishes; one with beans and pasta; I can’t remember the other one.” What she does remember is, at the age of eight, her lifelong love affair with Italy had already begun.
At 15, on her first trip to Europe – a high school exchange to the Netherlands – Enid became fascinated by the food markets, and the people’s relationship to shopping, cooking, and eating. “I noticed the way the locals ate was so different to how we eat at home, and I could see the connection between how Europeans spent their days and the way food played such an important part in their lives.”
After finishing her studies, she was free to travel more, spending months at a time exploring Italy, eating and drinking it all in. “The outdoor food markets…” sighs Enid. “Everything is just drenched in history. I was amazed at meeting the farming families who came every week, and that nothing was in plastic, or boxes.” That’s probably still true for much of the Old World, but Enid recalls, “In Italy, the purveyors in the markets were just so passionate about food, and so willing to share…”
These were revelations and the culinary education that would lead her back home to Prince Edward County and to a beautiful life in food.
Raised in Rednersville, Enid returned in 2010, and this past decade has been a homecoming of sorts for her. “If you had asked a teenage me where I would be now, I never would have thought I could be doing this – living this life back here where I grew up – but here I am in this amazingly supportive community.”
From her tiny international food cart – Passport – to her eponymous café, Wellington embraced their girl with morning lineups out the door for her French and Italian baked goods, but Enid is ready to write the next chapter of her story.
Enid Grace Culinary and Piccolina Italian Bar is a bigger, more diverse space with longer hours, offering morning coffees and Italian pastries at the espresso bar, cooking classes at her teaching table that fronts the inviting open kitchen, dining at Enid’s Table, and a little al fresco seating, too. The Mediterranean experience begins for her guests when they enter her front door, passing between two potted orange trees, provided by friend and PEC gardening superstar, Carson Arthur. “In Northern Italy, oranges play a central role, in the foods, the décor, and the landscape,” explains Enid.
“The menu is seasonally driven, Northern Italian – my heart belongs to Piemonte – with sweet and savoury pastries in the morning: Piadina (flatbread sandwiches), focaccia, and cornetti (Italian jam-filled croissant), and cicchetti (think Italian tapas) at the aperitivo hour.”
For a cook without a drop of Italian blood, Enid’s passion and understanding is surprisingly second nature. “For an Italian cook, good food means using the best and fewest seasonal ingredients – three to five is ideal – preparing them simply. That’s what I’m doing here, with a focus on some of my favourite dishes: risotto, gnudi, egg-enriched pastas, polenta and antipasti…Guests can come in every day and still try something different.”
As a self-taught chef – Enid’s degree is in marketing – the term “chef” makes her a tad uncomfortable. “I’m really a cook. I learned in Italian homes and kitchens while living there. In Italy, many professional chefs are self-taught, and they cook to feed their families and their communities. My mission, first and foremost, is to nourish and contribute to my community. This is my home, so I’m a cook, and I am so grateful to Prince Edward County for welcoming me back and supporting me.”
Enid supports her community by buying from local farmers, makers, and wineries. “I source most of my ingredients locally, but if it isn’t made here or doesn’t grow here, I’ll bring it in from Italy.” The wine list features wines from her two loves: Prince Edward County and Italy.
At 37, Enid is “…totally independent and happily so. I have the best community of friends and family here, with so many female entrepreneurs to encourage me. In fact, the majority of food and hospitality scene here is headed up by women.” Brava!
Watershed Magazine celebrates life in Northumberland, Quinte and Prince Edward County with page after page of award-winning editorial and design. Find out more at watershedmagazine.com
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