Tag Archives: John Catucci

Two grilled tuna tacos filled with a mix of veggies and fresh salsa sit atop a crispy homemade corn tortilla

The Best Tacos in North America in 2021: John Catucci’s Bucket List Picks

Originating in Mexico sometime in the 18th century, today’s taco craze proves these simple tortilla snacks have serious lasting power. And with good reason; tacos are cheap, versatile and undeniably delicious. This hand-held street food packs intense flavour in just one bite and boasts the ability of entirely new tastes depending on your salsa of choice.  Whether you’re grabbing some late-night eats off the street corner or indulging in the diverse flavours at a high-end restaurant,  a taco simply never disappoints.  Why not make your New Year’s resolution to try the best tacos with one of food expert John Catucci’s picks of 2021!


See More: Browse the Restaurants Featured on Big Food Bucket List

Al Pastor Tacos with refried beans and a salad

Based on the lamb Shwarma brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants, the Al Pastor taco combines aromatic Middle Eastern spices with those indigenous to South America. A mainstay staple, this beef or pork-based taco can be found at just about any authentic taqueria, but for the ultimate plant-based take you’ll want to head to Tumerico in Tucson, AZ.  Prepared with smashed jackfruit, deep-fried then sauteed with pineapple for a sweet, caramelized finish. Top it all off with fresh corn, pico de gallo, onion, cilantro, a drizzle of cashew cream, and restaurant signature – a dusting of Tumeric. Beloved by meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans alike for it’s spicy, smokey flavour.

Get the recipe for Al Pastor Tacos

 

Over at Tacos Chiwas, Chef Nadia Holguin shares the flavours of her families home state of Chihuahua, Mexico. The smoked brisket Deshebrada Roja Gorditas is the supreme hand-held food; slow-cooked shredded beef and refried beans fill a homemade flour tortilla pocket. Chef Nadia makes the 12-hour trip home each month to bring in the dried red hatch chile used to make the savoury Roja sauce, so you know she is passionate about bringing her guests the absolute best.

Related: 50 Tasty Taco Recipes You’ll Crave Every Day of the Week

 

John Catucci and Chef Nick Liu smile at one another while cooking in the kitchen at DaiLo

At the height of their popularity, the traditional taco took on a whole new delicious dimension when chefs began cooking them in a fusion style. At Toronto, Ontario’s Dailo, Chef Nick Liu creates predominantly Chinese fare with signature flair, including his exquisite Crispy Octopus Tacos.  The self-titled Ninja Chef begins by substituting your standard corn tortilla with thin slices of crunchy, sweet jicama and follows up with layers of salty pork belly, crispy fried octopus and an Asian vegetable garnish. The result, as John demonstrates, is a bite worthy of three first pumps of pure joy.

 

Related: From Competitor to Judge: Nick Liu Returns to Food Network Canada on Wall of Chefs

If you’re intrigued by a new blending of flavours but aren’t ready to give up a corn base, Primal Kitchen & Bar has you covered with their Tuna Tacos.  This Halifax kitchen fills their tortilla with a seared, pink tuna steak, topped with avocado crema, pickled vegetables and delicate shavings of dried seaweed.  Not that it needs selling, but John Catucci does call it “the best fish taco” he’s ever had.

Get the recipe for Tuna Tacos

 

Now that you’ve dipped your toes in the experimental side of things, it’s time to up the ante with a true original; Abe Fisher’s Veal Schnitzel Taco, found in the heart of Philadelphia. These decadent tacos are uniquely prepared with chunks of braised veal, which are then breaded and deep-fried. Finished with a salty anchovy mayo and sweet and spicy pickled red cabbage for the perfect bite every time.

Get the recipe for Veal Schnitzel Tacos

 

If you’re looking to really surprise your taste buds, Hamilton’s own Rapscallion Rogue Eatery is slinging sweetbread tacos, made with a less conventional, but seriously amazing, buttermilk fried pancreas. This buttery, rich meat is complemented by a drizzle of smokey, poblano aioli, spicy mango salsa and garnish with pickled red onion and fresh cilantro. Meat lovers everywhere- add this to your bucket list!

Watch full episodes of Big Food Bucket List onlineYou can also stream your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

Host Jeff Mauro appears, as seen on Kitchen Crash, Season 1.

5 Hot New Releases to Binge on Amazon Prime This January

Here’s a resolution: watch more of the most delicious, drool-worthy shows to inspire you in the kitchen in 2021 (and beyond). Ring in the new year with a slew of new Food Network Canada series that you can binge-watch now with STACKTV on Amazon Prime. Ready to bid adieu to 2020 and hone your cooking skills in the year ahead? Read (and watch) on.

Kitchen Crash

Who Should Watch: The family who grocery shops together.

Host Jeff Mauro appears, as seen on Kitchen Crash, Season 1.

Jeff Mauro (The Kitchen) arrives in unsuspecting neighbourhoods to put chefs to the ultimate grocery showdown. Chefs are challenged to ambush real family homes and have a cookout right in the middle of the street. The winning chef achieves bragging rights (and a cash prize to split with the family whose pantry they raided!).

Big Food Bucket List

Who Should Watch: Supporters of local restaurants.

John Catucci watches as a restaurant patron takes a big bite of a pizza dish

John Catucci returns for all-new episodes of the most delicious and hilarious channel show. From Orlando, Florida to Hamilton, Ontario, John is leaving no stone unturned and trying all the delicious joints on his bucket list.

Related: Big Food Bucket List Restaurants That Offer Takeout Now

Kids Baking Championship

Who Should Watch: Little bakers, and the ones who love them.

Wideshot of Bella, Miabella, Haylin, Nemo, Keaton, Trey, Cydney, Mckenzly, Andrew, D'von, Namiah, Jonah racing to pantry, as seen on Kids Baking Championship, Season 9.

Duff Goldman and Valerie Bertinelli return for an all-new season of the exciting baking competition. Child prodigy bakers compete in a series of challenges to prove that they have the baking chops to be named the baking champion.

See More: Ree Drummond’s Very Best Dinner Recipes for Kids

Chopped $50,000 Champs Challenge

Who Should Watch: Couch culinary critics.

Contestants Brittany Rescigno, Gregory Headen, Fernanda Tapia, and Cory Oppold prepare to open their appetizer baskets during the Champions Tournament, as seen on Chopped, Season 45.

Former Chopped champions return to compete once more! It’s a battle of racing clocks and mystery basket curveballs as the best of the best compete to win a whopping $50,000.

Delicious Miss Brown

Who Should Watch: Anyone whose new year resolution is to cook more!

Miss Kardea Brown plates her Steakhouse Burger with frizzled onion, thick cut bacon, tomato and blue cheese dressing, as seen on Delicious Miss Brown, Season 3.

Caterer and cook Kardea Brown is whipping up Southern comfort food and sharing her recipes with you. Many of her recipes pay homage to her Gullah heritage (a distinct group of African Americans living in the Lowcountry region), inspired by recipes from her mother and grandmother. One thing is certain – when you’re in Miss Brown’s kitchen, there are sure to be some delicious eats!

Related: Easy, Comforting Recipes From Delicious Miss Brown

John Catucci

The Dining Out King at Home: Catching Up With John Catucci

We all know and love John Catucci as the guy who introduces us to all of the best restos and on-the-road grub. But even he has been hanging out at home more as a result of the current pandemic, chatting up fans on his Instagram account, reconnecting with his family, and re-watching basically every Marvel movie ever made. However, now that Big Food Bucket List is returning for a delicious new season, we thought it was the perfect time to pick the host’s brain on all of the fun (and yummy!) things he’s been getting up to lately.

He’s really perfected that green thumb

Because John is always on the road testing out all of that delicious food, he hasn’t ever really been able to enjoy a summer at home—not in a long while anyhow. This year that changed, and so John took the opportunity to finally start his very own veggie garden. To do that he teamed up with The Good Seed, and together they came up with a plan to grow all of the host’s favourites in garden boxes in his backyard.

“This is really the first summer I’ve been home to really tend to it and watch it and to learn from it. It’s pretty amazing. I have more than four different types of tomatoes growing, zucchini, cucumbers, and I harvested a whole bunch of carrots,” he says, noting that earlier in the season he had leafy greens and garlic too. “It’s been quite amazing being able to kind of go out there in the morning, water it, take a look at it. It’s really helped with my mental health for sure. It’s been so beneficial.”

Related: See Recipes From Big Food Bucket List

His backyard is now his own little oasis

Considering how much time John has been spending in his backyard, you can’t blame the guy for wanting to spruce up the space a little bit, right? To elevate his backyard game John invested in some string lights (he got savvy with some YouTube tutorials to hang them), and he painted the railing a pretty blue colour… one that he may have accidentally stolen from a neighbour.

“I realized it was the exact same blue colour that my neighbor down the street used,” he laughs. “It must have filtered into my subconscious. So then when I saw her I was like, ‘I hope you don’t mind but we kind of stole your idea…’”

See More: Summer Favourites From Big Food Bucket List You Can Enjoy on Patios Now

That baking craze is real in his household


Remember those people who hoarded flour and yeast at the beginning of quarantine? Yeah, John admits that he was totally one of those guys. Like gardening, he says that baking gives him a sense of accomplishment because he’s creating something with his hands that can then feed his family. In fact, he says that after making quarantine bread and even cinnamon rolls, he thinks he may have been a baker in another life.

“I was eating my feelings for sure,” he jokes. “There was a lot of bread. A lot of bread. There’s something about being able to see it from start to finish… I really got obsessed with it, trying to figure out the perfect amount of kneading… there were days and like, all day I would be doing it. There’s just something magical about baking your own bread.”

He’s been perfecting some classics

When it comes to downright comfort food, John admits that he’s prone to snacking on anything with Nutella, and he still loves sipping on a good Negroni. (No, he has not seen the controversial but mesmerizing Stanley Tucci tutorial just yet.) However, in terms of his go-to meal it’s got to be pasta, pasta, and more pasta. While he hasn’t started making his own noodles, he has definitely been working on perfecting his own sauce during these stay-at-home months.

“It was all carbs, all the time. I was really kind of perfecting a really delicious tomato sauce—tomatoes that I had jarred last summer and we still had,” he says. “It was that whole idea of cooking it low and slow for hours and hours. Just the way the flavours developed and would come together… there were times where I really impressed myself, it was really good!”

Related: Pasta 101: How to Pair Pasta Shapes With Sauces

He also continues supporting local restaurants

 

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Beautiful afternoon @gallucci_winery for @rose.interbartolo birthday lunch. #pizza #prosciutto #afogatto #ontario #stouffville

A post shared by John Catucci (@johncatucci) on

As much as John enjoyed being able to take a summer at home and to partake in some great home-cooked meals, he and his family also made a huge effort to continue supporting restaurants in his neighbourhood so that they could hopefully stay afloat during these difficult times.

“I definitely cooked more but we also made a conscious effort to order in. The amount of restaurants that have had to close down during all this has just been so sad. I wanted to show up for the restaurants that were still open, that were still doing takeout, making sure that they were able to stay open,” he explains.

“A lot of people did that. They did what they could to help their restaurants in their neighbourhoods and in their communities. It’s not just a place where you go to eat, it’s a community hub,” he adds. “It’s a place that draws people to your neighbourhood. When the restaurant goes, the neighbourhood goes. I’m so happy to know restaurants are able to open up again—we should still show them love as much as we can.”

See More: Can’t Dine Out? These 20 Restaurants Are Offering Date-Night Delivery

Working out has been a mind-saver

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Everything is bigger in Texas. Even the treadmills! #houston #workout #sweaty #italian

A post shared by John Catucci (@johncatucci) on

John has always been conscious to add exercise to his daily routine, especially since he eats and talks about food for a living. With all of the comfort food to tuck into these past few months though, and with nowhere to really go, John has had to up his at-home workouts too. Luckily his trainer put together plans (including all the burpees) that helped John stay healthy—not just physically, but mentally too.

“That was another lifesaver, that really helped with my mental health, with my stress and with my anxiety,” he reveals. “And now when I don’t do it for a while I can feel all those anxious feelings coming up. It’s pretty wild. Working out, the baking, the gardening… that’s been the holy trinity for me!”

Watch Big Food Bucket List September 12 at 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. ET/PT and stream all your favourite Food Network Canada shows through STACKTV with Amazon Prime Video Channels, or with the new Global TV app, live and on-demand when you sign-in with your cable subscription.

How to Brunch Like Big Food Bucket List’s John Catucci

Is there really any better meal than brunch? Think about it. Not only does it give you the chance to sleep in a bit, but it’s the one time of day where a boozy mimosa or Caesar is perfectly acceptable, mixing salty, fatty foods like sausage and bacon with sweet French toast or pancakes is the norm, and there’s a never-ending pot of coffee or tea ready for the taking.

The brunch crowd is taking over food tourism by storm and it’s no wonder: people are being more fun and creative with their offerings, taking brunch plates everywhere to new and delicious heights.

See more: From Brunch to Date Night: Bucket List Restaurants for Every Occasion

So what does Big Bucket Food List host John Catucci look for in a hot brunch spot? A place that takes the time to elevate their dishes by actually making certain staples, like bacon or bread, in-house.

“If I have the morning off and I’m going to go for brunch, I will seek out those places,” he says. “Anybody can put eggs on a plate with toast… but if they’re curing their own bacon and baking their own bread or donuts I will seek them out.”

Catucci certainly had the opportunity to do exactly that on Big Food Bucket List, when he highlighted delicious brunch spots across North America. One of his absolute favourites was right here in Canada, at Calgary’s Monki Breakfastclub & Bistro.

There, the chefs get creative with things like an array of eggs benedict plates, which are served with either classic or prosecco hollandaise (yup, prosecco!) and can be ordered to enjoy on a waffle instead of an English muffin.


Monki Bistro’s Brisket Benedict with Prosecco Hollandaise

“They put like a beet-root sauce in there so that the hollandaise was pink. It was so much fun,” Catucci says. “And then they use brisket instead of back bacon on their eggs benedict. That was a real fun sort of change.”

Another gem that Catucci tried from Monki’s was a seriously sweet rendition of French toast—the Hazelnut Chocolate French Toast, which comes stuffed with a banana and Frangelico cream mixture that we just want to eat with a spoon. As if that weren’t sinful enough, the entire concoction is then pan-fried in an egg-wash, slathered with a hazelnut chocolate sauce, and made to look like a perfectly decorated cake.


Monki Bistro’s Chocolate Hazelnut French Toast

It’s hard to imagine forking your way through that dish in just one seating, but the plate is also far from the most stacked Catucci saw on the series. Over in Earltown, NS he also sampled the Wild About Blueberry Pancakes at Sugar Moon Farm, which have been voted best in the country. Considering the buttermilk pancakes come piled with blueberries and a maple whipped cream made from in-house maple syrup, we can see why. Served with a side of smoked bacon, there’s really nothing else we need in our lives.


Sugar Moon’s Wild About Blueberries Pancakes

Then there are the brunch places that totally twist traditional brunch dishes, like chicken and waffles, in a whole new way. Like in Boston, where Saltie Girl makes good use of its proximity to the water with a Fried Lobster & Waffles dish that we’d dive into for days. Who wouldn’t, with that light but golden brown batter on delicate chunks of lobster and a perfectly turned waffle? Add in some of the restaurant’s signature spicy maple syrup and this is a dish you dream of for days after consuming it.


Saltie Girl’s Fried Lobster and Waffles

Of course, it’s impossible to talk about brunch without also bringing up one of the most creative food cities in the world—New Orleans. Sure, the destination may be known for some of the best fried chicken and creole-spiced anything around, but Catucci also sought out mouth-watering brunch dishes at Brennan’s, a spot that’s so popular it’s dubbed a “New Orleans tradition.” Breakfast there is so much so their jam that they even offer two-course breakfast dishes.

So what did Catucci flock to on the menu? A dish called Eggs Cardinal, which may be a cardinal sin to enjoy so much. If you’re a fan of eggs benedict, this thing is next-level as it uses a crispy shrimp boudin (a type of sausage) as the base. It’s made using a mixture that includes shrimp, peppers, creole spice, and onion before it’s smoked, covered in panko and fried. They then place a perfectly poached egg on top and douse the thing in hollandaise sauce, giving you the most perfect mix of salty, crispy, creamy, and saucy brunch possible.


Brennan’s Eggs Cardinal

It’s probably a good thing we can’t eat it every day, because we totally would. Wouldn’t you?

Ah, the #BrunchLife.

Watch Big Food Bucket List Fridays at 9 PM and 9:30 PM ET.

Big Food Bucket List Burgers

The Best Burgers: John Catucci’s Picks for 2019

With a job that takes him to some of the best spots and hidden gem restaurants across North America in search of crave-worthy dishes, John Catucci knows what it takes for a burger to be great.

In the first season of Big Food Bucket List, he gets to explore fresh and unusual takes — from a sweet and savoury version using a classic Chinese snack to a place that glazes their bacon strips with yellow mustard — to more standard versions of the beloved hamburger.

The only thing Catucci’s favourite burgers have in common? They all feature a beef patty (or several) on some sort of bun. Beyond that, only the chef’s creativity is the limit — even if it’s a version that honours the burger in its most classic form.

At Hamilton’s Hambrgr, the burger patties are made from a mix of chuck and inside round beef cuts, giving them a lot of juice and flavour. That signature mix is formed into a ball before it gets smashed against the sizzling hot flat-top grill, causing a Maillard reaction — similar to caramelization — that creates a golden crust. Those patties are paired with slices of bacon slathered with standard yellow mustard before they’re grilled on the flat top — adding an extra level of tang to the meaty #Hamont creation.

Hamont Burger Hamburgr

Get the recipe for The #HAMONT Burger

Burgers cooked on a flat top, especially with processed cheese, have a flavour that just can’t be recreated, says Catucci. “There’s something about that thin, flat, smashed Maillard effect… and the processed cheese that works so perfectly. It’s everything you want in a burger,” says Catucci. But, for nostalgia’s sake, Catucci likes a good charbroiled version. “It reminds me of the burger place my parents would take me to as a kid. That’s the flavour of childhood.”

Related: Big Food Bucket List Restaurant Locator

Hodad’s in San Diego comes by their relatively classic take on a burger honestly. Now owned by the third generation of the same family, this spot has been dishing up burgers for decades. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t done some tinkering. Forget slices of bacon, Hodad’s creates a patty from the salty pork to slide between their smashed beef patties — however many you’d like. “It’s a delicious mess,” says Catucci. “Your shirt is going to be ruined, but you’re going to be happy.”

Hodad's Burger
Hodad’s Double Bacon Cheeseburger

When it comes to burger toppings, Catucci goes for the standards: lettuce, tomato, mustard and relish. But he appreciates a burger that goes off the beaten path for condiments. There is no rivalry between classic and inventive for the Bucket List host — all burgers are welcome.

That’s one of the reasons why Catucci likes what Patois in Toronto is doing. At this spot, known for bringing foods and flavours from different cultures together, the burger veers from any classic version. First, there’s no ordinary mayo spread on their signature Chinese Pineapple Bun Burger, it’s oyster mayo. And the smashed patty is topped with not just lettuce and tomato, but a handful of smoky potato sticks for salty crunch. What really sets this burger apart, though, is a sweet Chinese pineapple bun takes the place of a regular version, creating a salty-sweet concoction. “It almost tastes like steak,” says Catucci. “It’s unlike any other burger I’ve had.”

Patois Chinese Bun Burger

Get the recipe for Patois’ Chinese Pineapple Bun Burger

Meanwhile, at Saltie Girl in Boston, MA, traditional bacon is replaced with a slab of golden-crusted pork belly for their namesake burger, which also eschews American cheese for gruyere and gets a spicy kick from their ‘Angry Sauce’ spiked with sriracha. No smashing here, the fist-sized patty is cooked in cast iron to get a nice crust and the whole thing is capped off with deep-fried chunks of lobster.

Get the recipe for Saltie Girl Burger

It’s juicy patty and size leaves Catucci needing more than one napkin. “It’s a complete mess of a burger, but that’s part of what makes it a bucket list, he says.”

While the burgers on this round of Big Food Bucket List are generally beef based, Catucci says he’s enjoyed several veggie or vegan burgers in his travels and he hopes to see even more in the near future as restaurants expand their offerings. “It’s amazing what you can do (with veggie burgers),” he says, noting there is still an appetite for vegetable versions that echo of their meaty counterparts. (The Beyond Meat version, for example, is making serious inroads.) “I’m hoping if there’s another season, I’ll get to eat more of those, for sure.”

Watch Big Food Bucket List Fridays at 9 PM and 9:30 PM ET.

The Best Fried Chicken John Catucci Has Ever Had – Plus a Surprising Fast Food Fave

What’s better than a juicy, crispy piece of fried chicken? When that beautiful buttermilk batter meets a perfectly seasoned piece of breast, leg or thigh, our mouths can’t help but water at the very thought of diving right in.

Know who else is in love with fried chicken? Big Food Bucket List host John Catucci. The foodie/traveller extraordinaire is all about a good, old-fashioned plate of the comfort food staple, and this season he’s eating a lot of it. From classic buttermilk fried chicken to southern fried chicken wings, check out the dishes that are topping John’s bucket list.

With all the fried chicken recipes out there, what does it take to capture John’s stomach? “We went to a place called Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans this season that had the best fried chicken I’ve ever had,” he tells us. “They did a wet batter—it wasn’t a dredge—and they mixed it all together with hot sauce as well. And then they fry it up.”


Willie Mae Scotch House’s Fried Chicken

Drooling yet? We are. And it’s not just John who is preaching the accolades of Willie Mae’s fried chicken—this spot is also Beyonce’s favourite.

According to John, the end result was a perfectly prepared piece of poultry that was “incredibly crispy” on the outside and “incredibly juicy” on the inside. No wonder the James Beard Award-winning spot has been named as having “America’s Best Chicken.”

“I’d never had anything like that,” Catucci raves. “A lot of times [places] will do that double dredge where it gets a really crispy batter but sometimes that kind of takes away from the chicken itself. This didn’t—this was just superb.”


Butchie’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken Wings with Baba’s Cucumber Salad, Green Beans and Devilled Eggs

So what does one pair with the most superb fried chicken he’s ever had in his life? A good old-fashioned biscuit and some coleslaw, of course. Catucci reveals that he’s into a vinegary coleslaw because it cuts through the fattiness of the chicken, but he’d also “smash” a creamy coleslaw if it was on the table.

The one thing Catucci wouldn’t smash though? Fried chicken smothered in hot sauce (sorry, Beyonce). He’s a mild man, all the way.


Burdock and Co.’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken

“It’s gotta be mild. I’m such a wimp!” he laughs.

If you’re not able to get to one of these bucket list fried chicken dishes anytime soon, don’t worry. Catucci has another obsession that’s a bit more accessible, and also slightly surprising.

“Recently I was at my sister’s house watching the Raptors game and we ordered Popeyes… it’s great chicken!” he reveals. “We were like, ‘Holy…this is good.’ They make great chicken. I’ve honestly been craving it. We have to pace ourselves because there’s one just down the street from my house.”

Watch Big Food Bucket List Fridays at 9 PM and 9:30 PM ET.

John Catucci on Where You Gotta Eat During the Holidays

You Gotta Eat Here host John Catucci has sampled food across Canada, so when he offers his suggestions for our nation’s best spots to grab a holiday meal, we just have one question: Where?

John is full of recommendations, so put on your stretchy pants and get your Santa bellies ready, Canada, because there’s plenty of homegrown deliciousness to enjoy this holiday season.

Scandilicious (Vancouver, BC)

Mother-daughter team Anita and Kristina offer a menu of traditional Norwegian family recipes at this Vancouver hotspot, including gluten-free options.  John’s favourite is the ‘Applepieffle,’ a liege waffle topped with spiced poached apples and a gingerbread cookie spread. “It took me a while to be able to say ‘applepieffle’ without getting tongue tied,” says John, but it was worth the effort. “Apple pie + waffle = SO GOOD!”

That Little Place by the Lights

That Little Place By The Lights (Huntsville, ON)

Lasagna is a must-try at this cottage country favourite. Chef Annie’s masterpiece features of layers of succulent homemade pasta, laced with her signature Bolognese sauce and stuffed with a cheese and béchamel filling. John says it’s the best lasagna you’ll ever taste.  “Please don’t tell my Zia Felicetta, or she won’t ever make me lasagna again.”

Saturday Dinette (Toronto, ON)

Grab a seat at the counter, enjoy the rocking tunes and tuck into chef Suzanne’s massive soy-braised beef ribs, served with a hearty walnut dip. Then get back out there and finish your shopping! “Suzanne is an incredible chef and an amazing woman,” says John. “When you walk into her place, she makes you feel like you’re part of the family.”

Yellow Belly Brewery

Yellowbelly Brewery (St. John’s, NFLD)

Can’t decide between cheese pizza and chicken Caesar salad? Then just order John’s favourite, the four-cheese and chicken Caesar pizza, and you won’t have to. “I love being able to pick up my salad, in case I need to go somewhere,” says John. “I’m not going anywhere, I’m just saying it’s a nice option.”

The Satay Brothers (Montreal, QC)

Add some Singaporean spice to your season with the street food favourites at this Montreal establishment. John especially loves the pork belly buns, two steamed buns stuffed with braised pork belly, hoisin sauce, fresh cucumber, and cilantro; they’re the perfect combination of soft and crunchy textures and sweet and salty flavours. “If you’ve never had a steamed bun, do it,” says John. “Chewy, soft clouds of deliciousness stuffed with the most succulent pork belly.  Leave one out for Santa.  I’m sure he’s getting tired of all those cookies”

Still hungry? Check out the You Gotta Eat Here! map for more delicious options.

doughnuts

John Catucci Predicts What You Gotta Eat Next

Food trends come and go, but no matter what the masses are noshing and Instagramming, you can guarantee You Gotta Eat Here! host John Catucci will be right there with them. We talked to the food star and sampling savant to find out which treats you’ll be lining up for this summer.

Von-Doughnuts

Artisanal Doughnuts
Fancy doughnuts aren’t new, but they’re not going anywhere either, says John.  One doughy fried treat in particular has convinced him that we’re still at the peak of doughnut popularity. “We went to this place called Cartems in Vancouver, that just did incredible doughnuts like an Earl Grey doughnut,” he says. “That floored me. It was a cake doughnut, and they used bergamot in the cake batter and in the glaze as well. It’s like you’re eating a doughnut and having a tea on the side.”

Get the recipe for The Porky Monkey Doughnut from Von Doughnuts.

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken
Just like doughnuts, John thinks fried chicken will continue sticking to your ribs and the popularity charts. He says 2016 is the year of fried chicken, in every form. “Bone in or out, in a sandwich, on a plate, with waffles, or just by itself. That’s always going to be there.” John particularly enjoys the fried chicken sandwiches at Toronto’s The Combine Eatery.

Get the recipe for Fried Chicken from Wallflower Modern Diner.

steak and kidney pie

Posh Nosh
If you’re already a pie and a pint kind of person, prepare to start jostling for elbow room at your British local. Elevated English pub fare will be the next cuisine to capture Canadian palates, says John, citing Toronto’s The Borough as a leader in fancy pub food. He cites their Yorkie Burger, a beef patty served between two Yorkshire puddings, as an example of what’s to come. “It has the flavours of a roast beef dinner that you like, but smashed in a burger,” he enthuses.

Get the recipe for Steak and Kidney Pie from The Dam Pub.

Canada’s Multicultural Food City Is…

With its soaring mountains and beautiful ocean views, Vancouver boasts an enviable landscape, but for You Gotta Eat Here! host John Catucci, big mountains are a small part of Vancouver’s appeal.

“Sure, Vancouver’s a beautiful city, but you can’t eat scenery!” he says. “Lucky for me, it’s also one of the country’s most exciting food cities. Vancouverites can enjoy food from all over the world without having to leave the Lower Mainland. When you’re this good looking, the whole world comes to you.”

Here, in no particular order, are some of the Vancouver eateries that inspired him to name Vancouver his favourite Canadian city for multicultural dining.

IMG_3459---Calabash_Jerk-Poutine

Calabash Bistro (Caribbean)
Fusion treats like the calabash poutine — jerk-dusted fries topped with melted Brie and jerk chicken — are washed down with delicious rum drinks at this laid-back Caribbean bistro. Visit late at night to enjoy your Caribbean meal with a side of live entertainment; Calabash hosts live reggae, hip hop, funk and poetry five nights a week.

IMG_1014---The-Reef---Island-Thyme-Chicken-SIG

The Reef (Caribbean)
Trini Roti, Domenica Beef, and Maracas Bay Mahi showcase the Caribbean’s diversity of flavours. Can’t get to The Reef? We’ve got their recipe for Island Thyme Chicken boasting juicy bone-in chicken breasts marinated in coconut milk.

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DD Mau (Vietnamese)
Bahn Mi, or Vietnamese sandwiches, are the specialty at downtown Vancouver’s DD Mau. Favourites include the BBQ Roasted Duck, Crispy Roasted Pork and Lemongrass Tofu, washed down with an avocado smoothie. For a taste of DD Mau at home, try their recipe for Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi.

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La Mezcaleria (Mexican)
This stylish spot on Commercial Drive is beloved for its organic brunches and fresh margaritas. Serving inventive creations like BBQ Tamarind Squid and Barbacoa de Cordero (lamb shoulder roasted in banana leaves and served in volcanic rock) alongside favourites like Enchiladas Classicas and Queso Fundido, La Mezcaleria has something for everyone. Try their recipe for Enchiladas Classicas at home!

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Nuba (Lebanese)
With several downtown locations, it’s easy to find a Nuba to satisfy your cravings for Lebanese treats. Favourites include standards like Chicken Tawook, Falafel and Hummus, as well as Grilled Halloumi Cheese served with fresh tomato, nuts and pomegranate mint dressing and Lamb Hushwie (sautéed minced lamb with onions and pine nuts, served on a creamy base of fresh hummus).

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Campagnolo Roma (Italian)
Simple, unfussy Italian is on the menu at Campagnolo, a busy East Hastings establishment serving comforting classics like Bucatini all Amatriciana (bucatini noodles with cured pork, tomato and Parmesan cheese), as well as fresh pizzas and house-made meatballs.

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Vij’s Rangoli (Indian)
Vancouver has many Indian restaurants, but Vikram Vij’s namesake spot, which features a fusion of classic Indian spices and local delicacies, is one of the most celebrated. Some favourites from You Gotta Eat Here!’s visit include Spicy Pulled Pork on Sautéed Greens with Sour Cream Chutney and Naan, and Split Pea, Lentil and Spinach Mash with Mogo Fries and Bengali Curry. For visitors on the go, Vij’s has an extensive menu of boil-in-the-bag takeout treats.

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Longtail Kitchen (Thai)
Fresh B.C. seafood meets classic Thai flavours in this New Westminster restaurant that serves modern versions of Thai street eats. Enjoy the variety of Thai curries, the classic Pad Thai with Prawns, or try the Som Dtam Green Papaya Salad at home.

Catch all new episodes of You Gotta Eat Here! Fridays at 9 E/P. Be sure to visit the location map to plan your next  multicultural dining experience. 

The Sandwich Capital of Canada Is…

Hogtown, the Six, T-dot, the Big Smoke, the Sandwich Capital of Canada. Whatever you call it, Toronto is a big city with big-city pleasures and big-city problems, so it’s no wonder busy residents often eat on the go.

They’ve got sports teams to cheer for and complain about, traffic to get stuck in, and weather to hide from,” says You Gotta Eat Here! host John Catucci. “Torontonians don’t have time to eat their food with a fork and knife — they want to pick it up with both hands! That’s why you’ll find some amazing sandwiches here in Canada’s sandwich capital!”

Want to know what Toronto’s hiding between its slices? In no particular order, here are some of the GTA’s best sandwiches, as featured on You Gotta Eat Here!

Buttermilk Fried Turkey Sandwich, The ClubhouseFried-Turkey-Sandwich-(2)Can’t get to Toronto’s Kensington Market to sample The Clubhouse’s Buttermilk Fried Turkey Sandwich, smothered in smoky mayo and topped with crispy cranberry cilantro slaw? Luckily, we’ve got the recipe.

 Cuban Medianoche, La CubanaBraised-Shortrib-Medianoche-1Pressed sandwiches are the specialty at La Cubana. With two locations in trendy Toronto hoods Roncesvalles Village and Ossington Village, this eatery knows how to please cool Torontonians. The secret? Fresh, classic fare with a throwback vibe. Be sure to try the Traditional Medianoche, a soft white milk bun filled with molasses pork, ham and Gruyère.

Hogtown BLT, The CureThe-Hogtown-Cure---Hogtown-Ultimate-BLT---IMG_8073If hunger is what ails you, Hogtown’s got a cure — The Cure’s Hogtown BLT. The Cure (formerly The Hogtown Cure) piles its signature sandwich with house-made bacon, peameal bacon, arugula and tomato, layering it on a bun smothered with bacon jam and remoulade. Yum!

The Beastwich, BeastBeastwichYou can’t beat the Beast…but you can try. (For real, you CAN try: with this recipe). Or, head on over to this Toronto hotspot for its Beastwich, an intimidating tower of a buttermilk biscuit filled with a fried chicken thigh, pimento cheese, pork sausage gravy and a fried egg.

Smoked Meat Sandwich, Caplansky’s DeliCaplansky's-Smoked-MEat-SandwichCaplansky’s is an old-school Jewish deli, serving all-day breakfasts and sandwiches piled high with house-smoked meats. Chef Zane Caplansky‘s signature dish is not to be missed!

Sloppy Joe, White Brick Kitchen IMG_3291---White-Brick_Bacon-Brisket-Sloppy-JoeIf the only Sloppy Joe you’ve ever had came from a can, prepare for a revelation. White Brick Kitchen’s version is hot mess of ground chuck, bacon, sour cream and BBQ sauce. Try it yourself at home, if you’d like — we’ve got the recipe.

Pulled Pork Beanasaurus, Sul Irmaos Smokehouse BeanosaurusSul Irmaos is a GTA favourite, celebrated for its Portuguese BBQ and comfort food. Their Pulled Pork Beanasaurus is a medley of Southern slow-cooked pork, kettle-cooked baked beans, creamy coleslaw and crunchy fried mac and cheese bites. Prefer to make the Pulled Pork Beanasaurus at home? Here’s the recipe.

Catch new episodes of You Gotta Eat Here! Fridays at 9 E/P. Be sure to visit the location map to find the nearest sandwich shop near you.

Ravioli Fatti

John Catucci on Why You Gotta Eat in Italy

Arrivederci, Canada! On Friday, April 8th, 2016, host John Catucci of You Gotta Eat Here! heads to Italy to sample some the finest cuisine the country has to offer.

First, John heads to Rome to discover three must-eat restaurants in the Eternal City.

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“It’s an incredible eating experience,” he says of the trip. “There’s a difference in just the freshness of the food. There’s something about the soil, about the sun. We can’t get it here.”

The host raves about one restaurant in Rome called Flavio that offers the most delicious pasta he’s ever eaten.

“They had a ricotta pasta with a fresh tomato sauce, it wasn’t cooked. It was just fresh tomatoes that [the chef] squeezed with his hands and put mint, thyme and a whole bunch of other fresh herbs and tossed the pasta in it. That was probably the most delicious pasta I’ve ever eaten!”

Flavio's Ravioli Fatti in Cas alla Velaveodetto

Ravioli Fatti in Cas alla Velaveodetto from Flavio

Unlike here in Canada, Italians believe in smaller portions. Dining is an experience and according to John, Italians don’t rush their meals like we often do.

“There’s no rush to turn over tables. They have an appetite for food. They want the best food possible and they’ll wait around for it. That’s part of the culture. It’s waiting around for a table, being seen, enjoying the moment and having a glass of wine with your meal.”

All'Antico Vinaio's Favalosa

Favalosa from All’Antico Vinaio

Just when he thought he was full, it was off to Florence where John tasted paninis — worth lining up all day for — at the busy All’Antico Vinaio. He notes the sandwiches, made fresh to order, cost only 5 Euros.

“There was one fennel-based salami that was so delicious. It was thin and shredded. The bread, they bake fresh all day. There are two other restaurants across the street, so they bake the bread there and bring it back across to cut it,” he says.

But what’s a trip to Italy without pizza? That’s exactly what John ate at Tonda.

Tonda's Capricciosa

Capricciosa from Tonda

There, they make their cacio e pepe pizza by shaping the dough, then laying ice on it before putting it in the  oven. This slows the cooking process of the top of the dough, leaving it moist, while the bottom becomes crisp. John adds that chef and owner Stefano Callegari uses 200-year-old sourdough for the tasty pies.

Tonda's Cacio e Pepe Pizza

Cacio e Pepe from Tonda

Tune in to a special one-hour episode of You Gotta Eat Here! Italy Edition on Friday, April 8 at 9 E/P. No passport required!

John Catucci is Bugging Out on April Fools’ Day

Want to mess with your kids this April Fools’ Day? Of course you do, and our resident joker, You Gotta Eat Here! host John Catucci, has got just the prank.

“Find a big plastic bug and when you make food for your kid, put that in the food when they’re not looking.”

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Maybe don’t do it if your kid suffers from entomophobia, or fear of bugs, or you might “have a kid that’s traumatized by a plate of pasta,” says John.

No kids? No problem — this simple prank works on adults, too.

“That’s what my wife did on one of our dates,” says John. “She put a fake bug while I went to the bathroom. The food was at the table. I come back to spoon my pasta and there’s a bug in it! And she’s just laughing at me.”

Want to celebrate a gentler, yet still bug-themed April Fools’ Day with your little ones? Try our recipes for Ladybug and Spider Salad, Spider Burgers and Lady Bug Pops, instead.

ladybug pops

Looking for more foodie April Fools’ Day ideas? Fool all your friends with these sneaky fake foods.

John Catucci’s Italian Easter Traditions

If you’ve ever been a guest at an Italian holiday or family celebration, you know Italians cook up the most delizioso feast. Easter is one of the great Italian feasts of the year,  where a spread of savoury meats, cheeses and salumi, a bounty of seasonal vegetables, and rich sweet desserts are devoured to celebrate this important spring holiday.

John-Catucci-You-Gotta-Eat-Here

You Gotta Eat Here! host John Catucci, whose family hails from southern Italy, told us that an antipasto platter called a Benedetto (John calls it a “pyramid of deliciousness”) is a big part of his family’s Easter feast. This traditional dish is made by layering slices of different savoury cured meats, creamy ricotta, oranges, lemons and hard boiled eggs. John’s family would make a special trip to buy the cured meats and other Easter ingredients at Diana Meat and Grocery, a traditional Italian grocer  in Toronto’s Corso Italia neighbourhood.

Benedetto-Italian-Easter
Image credits (from left to right): michelaalicino.it; cucinasuditalia.blogspot.ca; cucchiarando.wordpress.com

A large platter of Italian meats and cheese sounds satisfying enough but that was just the beginning. The feast culminated with John’s dad’s roast lamb, the traditional choice for the Catucci family’s Easter feast. To make your own Easter roast lamb,  check out these great recipes from Food Network Canada chefs:

Lynn-Crawford-Roast-Lamb

For more great Easter ideas and recipes, visit our Easter Guide.

Watch new episodes of You Gotta Eat Here! with John Catucci Fridays at 9 ET/6 PT.

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