New restaurant hopes to see Dalhousie St. blossom


By Jolene Perron


While the history of Italian restaurants in the location, and their Italian name has given them an Italian label, chef David Cantin of Sotto Casual Dining on Dalhousie St. is looking to break out of that shell and introduce something new to town.

“I never thought about it as an interest,” explained Cantin. “My father did all of the cooking at home, it was just normal for my father to cook and for all the kids to help out and it was something that I thought happened everywhere. When I got into University, I realized a lot of people couldn’t cook at all and I was lucky enough to get a job at the Royal York and start at the bottom.”

Chef David Cantin opened Sotto at the beginning of August, and is hoping to give Amherstburg a new culinary experience with his ever-changing menus.

From the Royal York, to CP Hotels, which is now Fairmont, Cantin has had the opportunity to cook in a number of places, from Asia to Thailand and everywhere in between. His well-rounded knowledge of the art that is culinary allowed him to teach at St. Clair College for the last 15 years. Previously, he also owned a restaurant on Erie St. in Windsor, which closed just after 9/11. Now for just over a month, he has been building his clientele on Dalhousie St. restaurant. Sotto – which is Italian for “below,” opened up due to pure opportunity.

“It just kind of happened, the opportunity presented itself,” explained Cantin. “I have been teaching predominately at the college and working as a consultant. I just wanted to have a restaurant where we did things right, and it was a good environment for cooks to learn. I get tired of teaching cooks and graduating them at the college and then knowing that I’m sending them out into an industry where a lot of times they don’t get to use the skills that they have.”

Cantin explained many restaurants simply just don’t change their menus enough for an apprentice to really complete their apprenticeship. As a result, many apprentice chefs have to move around frequently, every six months or so, to build on their learning. It was with this knowledge that Cantin strived to provide an environment where he could change at least 50 per cent of his menu every two weeks so that there is always something new to learn.

“We focus on tapas, which means small portions,” said Cantin. “The best way to think about it now is, rather than an appetizer, which may run you say $15, and you might be able to eat two appetizers and make it a meal, tapas is probably a third of that price around $5. It’s generally two or three bites. I use the tapas to introduce our guests to items that perhaps they haven’t had an opportunity to try. If they go to a restaurant and want to try it, often times they have to commit to $25, or $35 entrees whereas here for $5 you can try something. If it’s popular it may find its way into the menu, we have already had a couple tapas items do that.”

Tapus, a dish which chef David Cantin at Sotto restaurant focuses on, simply means small portions. It allows for Cantin to change his menu frequently, offer small portions of new dishes for his guests to try, and give his apprentice chefs a well-rounded culinary experience.

Cantin explained he is more interested in providing training for his cooks, and he can’t do that with a static menu. He also aims to have his guests come back to him twice a month, and be able to have them experience something new and interesting.

Looking forward, Cantin has many high hopes, but not necessarily for his restaurant alone. He explained, his interactions thus far with both the Chamber of Commerce and the tourism departments in Amherstburg both prove to be promising. He said he seem them hustling.

“When I first heard of the opportunity that this was available, I honestly didn’t know Amherstburg all that well, I certainly didn’t know Dalhousie Street,” said Cantin. “I had approached Dalhousie Street to see this restaurant and I just couldn’t believe it, looking down the street is one of the nicest streets in Essex County. I thought we should be able, and when I say we I don’t mean me here at the restaurant but all of the businesses on this street, we should be able to make this a destination. We are not the reason for people to come to Amherstburg, we want to be another reason for them to come because this is fantastic, it’s just beautiful.”

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