(via Italian Poutine Is a Stoned Nonna’s Wet Dream | MUNCHIES)
Poutine may sound like a onomatopoeia for a soggy little toot, but it’s actually a national symbol of culinary identity for Canadians—and something that you put in your mouth long before making that inevitable poot sound. For a dish that’s so primitively simple, it’s often the subject of much confusion and ambiguity for foreigners: It’s rumoured that Canadians dine on it daily, it’s the peak of our culinary arts, and that we use it as a bonding agent to build our homes.
All of which is entirely true. Comprised of fries, squidgy cheese curds, and gravy, our national flower is a beloved hangover cure, becoming necessary after 2 AM and then again around noon. Even if most Canadians couldn’t translate the Quebecois word “poutine” if their next meal depended upon it (poutine is supposed to have originated from “pudding”), it’s our dish, part of our collective being, and we take insults about it like they were aimed directly at our mother. Much like Canadians, poutine comes in all shapes and sizes, and can be found re-interpreted and re-contextualized into all kinds of sloppy, delicious messes across the country.
This smothered, deep-fried friend perfectly encapsulates both Canadian snacking and the tradition of Italian dining in Sault Ste. Marie. It’s like Nonna accidentally ate your weed cookies and raided the pantry.
Putting your own distinct spin on the dish is as easy as placing another word in front of it then following through with whatever that promises. Thanksgiving Poutine? Sure, put some turkey and cranberry sauce on those fries and ask Aunty Doris to send the damn gravy. Jerk Poutine? Sure! Put some jerk chicken on it! S’mores poutine? Yep.
In the small northern Ontario city of Sault Ste. Marie, the residents’ strong Italian heritage has offered up its own take on the dish. Sault Ste. Marie—or “The Soo” as it’s affectionately known—saw a wave of Italian immigrants arrive from overseas and the US in the 20s, and as of 2006, census Canada estimated that just over a fifth of the population is Italian. Today, a third of the populace claims at least partial Italian heritage, making the city rich in family-run Italian restaurants, and even richer in endless arguments over who serves the best food. The resulting Italian poutine is a perfectly arranged marriage of Italian-Canadian immigrant culture, barring the exception that it doesn’t live in its parents’ basement.
Baadmash’s Chicken Tikka Poutine
Instead, the dish resides on the menu at Gus’s Pizza where owner Gus Serrao deep-fries beef-filled ravioli before smothering it in mozzarella and ladling homemade spaghetti sauce over the entire thing. The added layer of fried breading around the ravioli gives the pasta two bursting layers of textures similar to the gastronomic science behind placing a soft tortilla inside a crispy one. This smothered, deep-fried friend perfectly encapsulates both Canadian snacking and the tradition of Italian dining in Sault Ste. Marie. It’s like Nonna accidentally ate your weed cookies and raided the pantry.
How the Italian dining scene in the Soos got its start is widely disputed, but it is often credited to the late Aurora Butkovitch, the “Pizza Queen” who opened her own restaurant called Aurora’s in 1946, and a handful of others that still operate to this day. The network of independently owned and operated Italian establishments has formed an impenetrable restaurant mafia that deflects franchises from entering the sacred landscape. There is one Boston Pizza that sits like a benchwarmer on the outskirts of town, preying on clueless commuters and transient tourists. But for the most part, Sault Ste Marie’s streets are lined with authentic small-time joints like Gus’s, where meat-lover’s pies and hot Italian sandwiches simply insist that you can never eat enough.
Goat Poutine with Red Eye Gravy
Gus, whose family emigrated from the Calabria region of Italy, has been making pizza in the Soos for 30 years and running his own spot for the last ten. He says his Italian poutine creation was inspired by a desire to make the Canadian dish more Italian, and it does. I distinctly feel like a wise guy, a mangia cake, and a numb-nuts all at once. Gus’s unique take also sets his shop apart from the superfluous others in town as the only place that serves such an unhinged interpretation of both Italian food and poutine. But Gus isn’t going for a humblebrag with his food, and when talking about his creation the guy is as straightforward as putting food down on the table should be. “I just created it myself for the menu”. Kapish?
No glitz, no ancient family recipe, no stroke of genius—just one guy feeding his community a dish we all thought we’d already have enough versions of. But it’s Gus’s no-nonsense attitude that perfectly captures the national conscience about poutine; don’t overthink and just eat it. You’ll understand later.
TOPICS: Canada, curds, drunk food, Fries, gus’s pizza, Italian food, italian poutine, ontario, poutine,sault ste marie, the soos