by Michael Abbey
I met with a very enthusiastic chef at Orto Trattoria named René Rodriguez. Among his achievements has been Top Chef Canada on the 2014 season of that Food Network Canada TV show. Rodriguez has been a chef for over 20 years in Ottawa, having owned the very popular and successful Navarra in the market, which he closed in the winter of 2017 after nine wonderful years. “It’s impossible to take time off in this industry,” he mentioned, but with that said, he managed to do so after closing Navarra. Once Rodriguez got wind of the need for solid, affordable and delightful Italian food in the Glebe, he was off to the races.
I also chatted briefly with Ian Martin, the Orto Trattoria’s maître d’. Martin has a solid background in education, a field that, though not similar to the restaurant world, does prepare one for a life built on relationships and communication.
Orto Trattoria is committed to everything client- and community-facing. The competition? What competition? With the closing of the Glebe’s last mid-scale Italian eatery in May 2014, the neighbourhood is ripe for one of the world’s most popular cuisines. Martin and Rodriguez are capitalizing on that situation and experiencing success at just about everything they put on at the Trattoria.
They believe that over 30 per cent of their business is repeat, an achievement that many mid-scale establishments would be envious of, considering the short time they have been open. Existing and new clientele can experience difficulty getting a spot without a reservation during their busiest times, 5–9 p.m. Friday and Saturday evenings. The walk-in business is good and, like most proprietors in the Glebe, they get no complaints about parking. “This project came about when I got a call from the owner looking for a creative chef.” Everything about Martin and Rodriguez is just that – creative.
They can seat five at the bar and have a round chef’s table by the back door. Rodriguez is no stranger to the Glebe, having lived on Powell Avenue in the past. “Why drive when you can walk?” was a theme that surfaced early in the discussion. That, along with the décor and sustenance, has allowed Orto Trattoria to become a keeper on many dedicated clientele’s lists for dining outings. Orto Trattoria is wheelchair accessible and has room to store the paraphernalia that accompanies little people as they too venture into Orto with their parents. They are open to private parties and would close a portion of the establishment to accommodate whatever interests the consumer.
Rodriguez developed the menu, with many signature dishes. The one that bubbled to the top during our
chat was a pasta dish with an exquisite-sounding cured ham base. Their offerings sounded to me like solid, well-prepared and attractively presented street food, with a twist. In this case, that twist is value for money in a solid European setting coupled with yummy. The Trattoria stretches back from an attractive front on the north side of Second Avenue, just west of Bank Street.
So much thought has gone into the mix of ingredients of the dishes that Rodriguez would prefer that clientele not substitute a different kind of pasta for what appears on the menu. He believes very strongly in the offerings he has created, and the attention to detail on the ingredient mix is fundamental to the flavour, look and feel, and quality of each item.
Rodriguez and Martin captivated me with their enthusiasm.
I have every reason to believe their success will mushroom and become a very popular establishment included on Glebe residents’ (and other’s) A lists.
Bene … I liked what I saw and heard.
Michael Abbey is a retired high-tech professional and bridge enthusiast who writes about business for the Glebe Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @PreferMajors.
151-C Second Ave.
Mon.– Sat. 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m.
Mon.– Wed. 5:30–10 p.m.;
Thurs. – Sat. 5:30–11 p.m.