A3 Napoli

If you are contemplating getting a new job and you are unsure whether or not you should take the plunge, hospital you only need one reason: food and drink. The number of dinners and drinks people have wanted to share with me since the announcement of my new job is ridiculously amazing. There are drinks to celebrating getting the job, order then drinks to celebrate leaving the job, drinks to celebrate the new job and then drinks to celebrate how the new job is going.

Last night Cynthia and I caught up about my new job over beers and food at A3 Napoli. A3 Napoli is a joint venture between the people behind Pizzeria Libretto and Porchetta & Co., two of my favourite Italian spots in the city. It is a little restaurant located in Little Italy, a neighbourhood I seldom venture to; when you live with an 85-year old Italian woman why would you bother?

The restaurant is long and narrow, featuring exposed brick walls, geometric tiles on the floor and neon-tube lighting of Italian phrases. When you walk in the restaurant there is an open concept kitchen to the left and a bar to order from on the right. There is a small selection of beers on tap, including two craft brews and of course, Peroni. I am fairly certain that this restaurant used to be some sort of gelato/cone pizza place that I had tried years ago. I was having flashbacks the moment I walked in.

I arrived before Cynthia and I grabbed a table near the back of the restaurant. The server brought a menu over to the table and said that once I was ready to come to the front and order. If the restaurant was busy it would be difficult to have this kind of service as the server would be occupied taking orders. There was not a clear menu to reference while ordering at the counter or a clear spot where the menus were typically housed.

We ordered a couple of pints of Peroni and the A3 Gran Fritto.

toronto-restaurants-a3-napoli-fritti-mistiPhoto credit: Toronto Life

The A3 Gran Fritto with land, sea, montanara, frittatina and zucchini fritti with all the sauces.

Land: arancini, meatballs, and mozzarella served with marinara.
Sea: shrimp, calamari, and baccala served with lemon aioli.
Montanara: lightly fried dough, with tomato, mozzarella and basil.
Frittatina: Neappolitan fried mac and cheese with ham.

This is an excessive amount of food for two people. Before we ordered, we had briefly debated if we should order more food and the server assured us that we would be more than okay. I have this habit of when servers scoff at the amount of food I can eat I immediately want to order more; thank god we didn’t. This platter is now served on a two tiered platter which is difficult to photograph and looks a little sparse.

IMG_5725The top tier holds the sea fritto. The calamari was not crispy enough and was slightly rubbery. It was not good quality squid and was not fried long enough. The baccala was flaky, lemony and had hints of salt; it was not overloaded with that salty, fishiness you typically associate with baccala. The shrimp were incredibly crispy but slightly overdone and had turned a bit rubbery. If you are looking for a fried seafood to order on its own, I would recommend the baccala.

The land fritto were overall better executed and tastier but it is easier to hide quality in fried meat and cheese than it is with seafood. The arancini were cheesy and the risotto was tender. The breading was light and didn’t overwhelm the cheesy goodness inside. The meatball was dense, dry and unnecessarily fried. Why would you fry a meatball, especially a beef meatball which can be dry already. I prefer Ninni’s meatballs which are chicken, juicy and cooked in saugo. The fried mozzarella should have been eaten immediately to truly be enjoyed. It was a large wedge of mozzarella that had been breaded and fried, there was nothing more or anything unique about it. Although cheese is my favourite food and I love mozzarella sticks/all forms of fried cheese, that should be reserved for pubs.

The zucchini and cauliflower were lightly breaded, perfectly fried and not overly greasy. They reminded me of this appetizer Ninni makes for Christmas. Super tasty, super simple.

The montanara is what I would liken to a fried version of a pizza. But do we really need to change pizza? We all know that calazones are pointless.

And do we really want a pizza where the only difference is the dough is fried rather than served up crispy and doughy? Frying the dough removes any crunch to the pizza and the dough is no longer thick, it pillows out and creates a pocket of nothingness.

The frittatina was delicious. Despite the fact that it seemed like the mac and cheese was likely KD, it was still delicious. The pasta was smothered in cheese, and dotted with larger, chucks of cheese and ham. It was fried and crispy and delicious. This is another item I would recommend off this platter.

To order this whole platter between two people is ridiculous. You can eat the whole thing but it will sink to the bottom of your stomach like a greasy, fatty brick. My favourites were the frittatina, the vegetables and the baccala. My next visit would consist of only those items. I think A3 is best enjoyed as mostly beers on the back patio highlighted with a few choice fried items.

Happy munching!

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