If you’re craving paella, I’ve got you covered. Recently, I happened to be exploring my neighbourhood (and the neighbourhoods around me) a bit better, which led me to discover a quaint Spanish restaurant, serving up some of the tastiest paella I’ve had in a while at El Prado.
Located in zona Cenisia, very close to Torino Porta Susa, is where you can find El Prado. With a laid-back vibe and (thankfully) air conditioning, this restaurant fits all the criteria for an easy dinner in mid-July.
Inside, brick walls are decorated with caricatures of chefs uttering famous quotes, some regarding paella, others not so much. While it is kind of kitschy, it works. Aside from the unique décor, there are flashes of Spain through the warm colour scheme and rustically chic design elements.
Flipping through the menu, it’s apparent that this is very much a spot for seafood and more specifically, seafood paella—oh, and maybe also sangria! While they offer some standard tapas offerings like tortilla de patatas and jamón, their paellas are the real show stoppers.
If you’ve never had paella, basically it’s a rice dish that sort of reminds me of a Spanish-style risotto, keywords being sort of. While many non-Spaniards would consider it a dish emblematic of Spain, it’s actually known most famously as a dish hailing from Valencia.
A typical paella consists of saffron coloured rice, vegetables like green beans and the addition of meat or seafood that’s all cooked in olive oil and broth. The rices commonly used are Valencian varieties like bahia, bomba, and senia, which are especially unique as they triple in volume as they cook, absorbing the maximum amount of flavour.
Named after the shallow pan in which the rice dish is cooked, paella pans allow rice to have maximum contact with the base so that the rice can develop the socarrat, which is the carefully toasted layer at the bottom of the paella.
Obviously, I had to try the paella, seafood to be exact. When it finally arrived, the smell was just incredible. Fresh seafood flavours and slight honey saffron notes, I couldn’t wait to dig in. The rice was a gorgeous golden hue—and yes, the bottom was perfectly crisp, not burnt, providing a bit of texture amidst the dish’s silkiness. Mixed into the luxuriously rich paella were tiny rings of calamari and pieces of cuttlefish, tender baby octopus and a bunch of fresh muscles. The paella was also topped with a few beautiful prawns that were super meaty and so much sweeter than regular shrimp.
Conclusion, the paella was stunning. Rich and savoury with just enough flavour of the sea without being overly fishy, the seafood paella is not to be missed. I’m curious to try more of their other varieties, but I have to say that I was impressed at how perfectly the seafood was cooked. Not a single squid or muscle was rubbery, everything was soft and tender, just how seafood should be.
This wasn’t my first paella though. I’ve had the rice dish a few times in Toronto at Carmen, a Queen West tapas bar (that’s since closed) that had a sexy chorizo paella, and Labora, a King Street haunt with an overly fishy tasting (and $$$) paella, which has also since closed.
As for Torino, I’ve had the pleasure of dining at only one other Spanish restaurant, El Bonito. While their paella is good, El Bonito has a much larger menu in terms of tasty tapas, which I do enjoy. So, save ordering paella for El Prado!
Overall, the staff was super welcoming, the restaurant was pretty busy, and the paella’s deliciousness was hard to deny. Price point was about €20-25, depending on which paella you order, which I think is a fairly good deal as one order can feed up to two, maybe even three. As I wait to one day try the real thing in Valencia, El Prado will have to satisfy my cravings in the meantime, but I’m not too disappointed about that!