Trinidad’s three-time award-winning restaurant Aioli is nationally-recognized for its outstanding service and innovative dishes inspired by traditional Mediterranean cuisine. Now, you can have that same fine-dining flavor you love without leaving your house or breaking the bank. Last week, founder and executive chef John Aboud opened his second food joint Aioli Marketplace as a one-stop-shop for grab-and-go meals and all authentic Italian food products, from the classics to hard-to-find specialty items.
The gourmet shop, tucked away just underneath the restaurant, is homey and packed. Lucky shoppers arrive just as fresh focaccia makes its way out of the kitchen. A dazzling array of cured meat products including salami, prosciutto and mortadella hang from the ceiling. It’s sliced and boxed on the spot. Behind the counter, staff stays busy but friendly, getting to know customers who come for pounds of pasta and hot lunches to go. Take-home meals and desserts fill the refrigerators and freezers. In the back, shoppers browse through an impressive selection of over 160 wines hailing from Spain, Italy, France, and the New World, which includes Argentina, New Zealand, South Africa and all other non-traditional wine producers.
The decor is playful to say the least. Three portraits of women with pasta as hair sit next to the seated bar. A wine and cheese pairing infographic is stuck to the oak floors to help shoppers find the perfect wine for the perfect meal. Behind the counter is a large colourful chalkboard with catchy phrases like “In Pizza We Crust” and “Food for now, Food for Later”, alongside illustrations of different types of pasta such as fettuccine, penne, ravioli and spaghetti. Wooden peels, the shovel-like tools used to slide pizzas in and out of the oven, are illustrated, too. Our favorite panel says “Sweet dreams are made of cheese” (because they are). Designer Nicholas Huggins took a whole nine hours to complete the chalk illustrations and it paid off—they’re beautiful.
Meats, cheeses, seafood, pastas, sauces, oils, vinegars, herbs, baked goods, wine; Aioli Marketplace really has it all—and for its worth, it comes at an reasonably affordable price. Customers can choose from basic, hand-crafted ingredients to create their own dishes at home, frozen meals like lasagna, ravioli and seasoned meats to quickly pop in the oven, packaged salads and sushi and hot prepared foods to stay or go. The eggplant and goat cheese ravioli, homemade lemon marinara, za’atar crusted lamb leg, and salmon in dill cream are all to die for.
Chef Johnny Aboud believes that the grab-and-go concept is a necessity for people to get back time. “Now, you can relax instead of spending hours laboring in the kitchen”, he says. “Grab food, go home and enjoy quality time with the people you love, or the people you’re sharing a meal with.”
Aioli Marketplace, located at at Ellerslie Plaza, Maraval, is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.