By Cindy Deachman
Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel and so the denouement of a long-held dream. Burnt Butter Italian Kitchen in Hintonburg is up and running, and Steve Wallace and Gen Lamorie-Wallace can breathe deeply. The husband-and-wife team was never content simply to hold the keys. They knew they wanted to build both a smoothly running operation and a place within the larger nexus — other neighbourhood businesses, nearby suppliers and, of course, diners enjoying themselves.
Such restaurant ambitions started early on. The ’80s saw the diffident yet determined Steve cooking at Ottawa’s Austrian Inn (now closed). Chopping mushrooms, his textbooks propped up against the counter, back then this economics student was also absorbing the ins and outs of a fiscal system in real life. (Steve went on to manage the Ritz, both in the Market and on Elgin Street — then, later, Anthony’s.) Meantime, in Arnprior at Bonnie Jane’s Scones, Gen developed entrepreneurial ties (especially with clientele), bitten, as she was, by the small-business bug.
To work their hearts’ desire — and this according to DIY ethics — Steve and Gen rolled up their sleeves: Steve undertaking renovations, Gen attending to organization and design. Friends and relations also made enormous contributions: designing a wine rack, laying tiles, even shooting black-and-white scenes of Hintonburg to hang on the walls.
Now that Burnt Butter has opened its doors, Steve, the chef, focuses his attention on turning out Italian-inspired dishes — for instance, a triple-A strip loin stuffed with pancetta, bocconcini, and arugula, served with a shallot demi-glace. A bustling Gen looks around and proudly describes the fruits of their labour as “fun — a cozy environment, a bit of a din around.”
Here, then, is a dream — one spun within other dreams. Sure, Steve and Gen want, along with a healthy economic reality, to create solidarity within their neighbourhood. But the big picture? To give their customers one whale of a time.
Burnt Butter Italian Kitchen, 1100 Wellington St. W., 613-792-4000, www.burntbutter.ca.