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CASTLEGARTH
Experience an Italian renaissance
By Cindy Deachman

Know of any Italian blood in White Lake, Renfrew County, south of Arnprior? Certainly no place names sound Italian. There’s Scotch Bush and Waba. Then Lafleurs Lake and Mount St. Patrick. Now Streich Lake, Ompah, and Flower Station. Historically speaking, you’d never know it, but right in the hub of White Lake can be heard the rumblings of an Italian renaissance. A reawakening, all right, with food at its heart. At a restaurant named Castlegarth.

Eight years ago Matthew Brearley returned to his village with his wife, Jennifer, opening up shop just up the road from his parents’ farm. Now no Italian restaurant in the Ottawa Valley can match it for local, organic produce, not to mention terrific food. For years, Matthew has been spellbound by Italian country cooking. He caught the bug from Toronto chef Andrew Milne-Allan, a man he describes as a crazy New Zealander who is more Italian than real Italians. “He’d even squeeze the grapes for his own wine!” exclaims Matthew. “I wanted to learn how to cook like that.” His experiences while working with Milne-Allan from 2001 to 2002 gave Matthew the courage to find his own voice, inventiveness, and ambition. On this day, he rolls out his pasta dough and lays down spoonfuls of ricotta, homemade with lemon juice (taste it, then marvel). He cuts the dough and shapes it into large-format ravioli, cooks them, and serves them strewn with his own crispy prosciutto, asparagus (in springtime), and a dusting of parmigiano. Cut into a pouch, and raw yolk breaks out. Pasta, self-sauced. Not a regular menu item, unfortunately.

Meanwhile, Jennifer keeps Castlegarth humming. At the door, she gives a warm welcome. She is also the sommelier, one with verve and imagination. Who knew, for instance, that Alsatian gewürztraminer would balance Matthew’s homemade mortadella with pistachios? The couple has also opened a storefront. They sell their duck rillette, pork liver pâté, legs of prosciutto, dried fruit mostarda, pickled cabbage, and other preserves, as well as bread from a local baker. Now you’ll be able to choose between the in-house bounty and the bounty to go.

90 Burnstown Rd., White Lake, 613-623-3472, www.castlegarth.ca.

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