I first met Steve Lovisa a month or so before he opened the Foundry Kitchen and Bar restaurant on Water Street in Port Perry. What I found difficult to believe was that it was already five years ago.
Steve puts 110% into everything he does, and that is why his accomplishments are always effective. He has a rare talent of balancing business and creativity, a trait which has brought the people of North Durham, one of the finest eateries in the area.
Steve was born in Fort Frances, Ontario and studied at Confederation College in Thunder Bay. After completing school he wanted a taste of international travel and cuisine. He decided to trek to Europe, staying in great cities like Paris and Barcelona, as well as his personal favourite, San Sebastian, located on northern Spain’s beautiful Bay of Biscay.
After honing his skills in international settings, Steve returned to Canada and continued studying the art of creating cuisine. He knew he had to acquire knowledge of the commercial side of the industry as well, and had heard about an opportunity in Prince Edward Island. It sounded like the perfect occasion to learn about the business side of being a restaurateur, as well as expand his knowledge as a chef.
“The course was awesome,” Steve explained. “I learned everything from nutrition to food science.” While he was in PEI an amazing opportunity presented itself. Steve was asked to set-up an Italian restaurant on the Island, and the experience he gained from the successful venture was very rewarding.
Steve knew the GTA was the place to be if he wanted to grow his knowledge of the industry. He was offered the task of opening a restaurant in Newmarket, which ended up being very effective and then moved to do the same in Whitby. “The experience was immeasurable. It was like setting up my own restaurant, without using my own money.”
Having his own eatery was always in the back of his mind, and a stint at the Urban Pantry in Uxbridge and Jester’s Court in Port Perry, rounded out his skills. He was now ready for the next stage in his life, his own business.
Steve took over KJ’s Shack on Water Street, and gutted the place from top to bottom. He built the kitchen from scratch, and renovated the front-of-house adding high-end finishes everywhere. Best of all, his menu is delectable.
I had to ask how he has adapted during COVID times, as many establishments are struggling, to say the least. “I will admit, it has not been easy. We have made business decisions that have helped, but the one thing that has made it work for us is the customers.” Steve went on to explain how understanding the patrons of North Durham are, and his take-out business is doing great.
I could not resist the opportunity to ask Chef Lovisa what his favourite recipe is. I saw a beam of excitement in his eye as he started to explain.
“Without question, it is gnocchi, a real labour of love. You look at the ingredients and think, this is so simple, but once you start making it, you realize it is a lot of work and most of it is done by feel. After making these lovely little dumplings (‘pillows of love’ as I affectionately refer to them), you’ll get the hang of it and wonder why you ever needed a recipe to begin with. You have to get your hands dirty to make them right, and it’s that care and feel for the product, as well as the time invested that, makes it so special.
“Gnocchi is one of my favourite things to eat,” Steve said enthusiastically. “Whenever I see gnocchi on a menu I instantly gravitate toward it, but always check to make sure it’s made in-house. Store bought gnocchi tends to be very dense and heavy, and leaves me feeling like I shouldn’t have eaten so much. If you make gnocchi right, it will be light and fluffy and will fill your belly with love. It will warm you through and through (and you’ll wish you could eat more!).
“Gnocchi is great with cream sauces, tomato sauce, brown butter and sage with a few drops of lemon, or simply with a good olive oil, charred cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and cheese.
“Put on some good tunes, grab some wine, throw on an apron and clear your afternoon so you can make a dinner to share with others (or enjoy it all, yourself).
His description left my mouth watering and I wanted to go home and follow his instructions to create this fantastic dish. Steve Lovisa, owner of this gastro pub/bistro, is an excellent chef in his own right. Take out or dine-in (when possible), Foundry Kitchen & Bar, on Water Street, is a great addition to Port Perry’s fine dining list.
One thing the pandemic has given Steve, is a little more time to spend with his wife and three children
Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. His show, ‘The Jonathan van Bilsen Show,’ on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube, features many of the people included in this column.