Uno Mustachio

One of my favourite parts of my new job is the proximity to St. Lawrence Market. Before I worked at Yonge and King, discount I was forced to visit the market on Saturdays due to the less than convenient hours. The market on Saturdays is an unbearable event. It is crowded, ambulance people are violently shoving you out of their way as they try and sample their 18th pretzel with Kozlik’s mustard and you can’t spend time looking at the bounty in front of you. Because I was visiting on the busiest days of the week, I would try and make my visits to the market as short as possible: a quick dart, in and out, to pick up a fancy cookie cutter, a bagel with lox and cream cheese or a tube of cured meat. I had no idea about the amazingness of the prepared foods in the basement of the market.

Until now. The basement of St. Lawrence is truly what makes the market amazing and contributes to its title from National Geographic as the world’s best food market. The basement houses all sorts of food stalls where you can buy prepared menu items to enjoy in the food court downstairs or one of the many picnic tables surrounding the building outside. My first visit to the basement of the market left me with an order of pierogis from European Delight ($4.25/dozen) and I was hooked. I knew I slowly had to discover the halls of the basement and see what other deliciousness it had in store for me.

Last week I visited Uno Mustachio in search of a sandwich.

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It should be noted that I am fairly loyal to California Sandwiches and have eaten dozens, if not hundreds of sandwiches from them. I even had to delete the Uber Eats app from my phone at one time because I was ordering too many chicken parm sandwiches. Yes, I have re-downloaded the app and have since ordered more sandwiches.

But when I saw something called the Godfather on Uno Mastachio’s menu I knew it had to be good. Uno Mustachio doesn’t limit you to just a chicken/veal parmigiana or an eggplant parmigiana sandwich. They allow you to get BOTH and have a name for it so you don’t feel like a ridiculous, glutinous human being! I ordered my Godfather sandwich with veal and all the fixings (roasted red peppers, sautéed onions, sautéed mushrooms, and roasted jalapeno peppers) and this garnered me much respect from the older Italian gentleman who rang through my order.

This sandwich is unreal. The pieces of veal are generously massive, spilling g over the sides of the Kaiser bun. The veal is crispy but the breading is a light coating, it is not overly greasy or too heavy to stick to the meat. The veal itself is thin and moist. The meat is tender and easily bites off intact with its coating. The eggplant is thinly sliced, avoiding any of the fibrous starchiness that is common with eggplant parmigiana.
The toppings are the right mix of flavours and textures. The combination of both sweet and hot peppers adds a kick and sweetness with each bite, playing on the same flavours found in the sauce. There is a generous smear of sauce on the bun but not in excess that will result in sauce flying everywhere. You could wear a white shirt while eating this sandwich.

This sandwich blew me away and was incredibly filling. I obviously finished the whole thing even though it was the size of my head and then I felt like a whale immediately after. I will definitely be having another one of these sandwiches (not with much frequency as I am trying not to have a heart attack before 30) and I think my California Sandwiches days are over.

Happy munching!

Maker Pizza… again.

Yes, I went to Maker Pizza two weekends in a row and yes, I had the Bodega sandwich both times. But this time, we split the Bodega and ordered a small pizza to share. I don’t think that is an argument in my favour for health and fitness but it is definitely an argument in my favour for good life choices in delicious food.

We ordered the Porkys but this is what came out to us.IMG_5869No, that is not pork, it is mushrooms and lots of them. Although I love mushrooms and mushroom pizzas, not everyone in attendance that afternoon loves them. When I returned to the counter to clarify my order, the woman behind the counter said, “Oh, ok. Sorry about that. Just keep it. I’ll bring out your order shortly.” HELLS YES. I already was in love with Maker Pizza but now I am completely sold on them.

The pizza that was brought to us was the So Mushroom: honey mushrooms, mascarpone, chopped garlic, grana padano, sea salt and pepper.

Oh. My. God. This is the best mushroom pizza I have ever had and one of the best pizzas I have ever had. Unlike other Neapolitan pizzas, this crust is slightly thicker and completely cooked through to the middle of the pizza. There is none of that your toppings will slide off the centre and burn your face nonsense that can often happen with this style of pizza. The crust itself is salty, doughy and has subtle yeasty flavour to it. It is the best pizza dough I have tasted. The dough is all made by a guy named Kevin who’s name adorns every box of pizza. At first I thought this was a play on Home Alone and Kevin McCallister’s love of cheese pizza but quickly learned that Kevin is Maker Pizza’s pizza maker and he knows what he is doing.

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I loved the mushrooms on this pizza. The honey mushrooms are thin and papery, melting as soon as they touch your tongue. I love any mushroom that looks like a toadstool; they have a whimsical quality about them which almost makes them taste more woody and earthy. The cheese was creamy, milky and thick and was wrapped up in flavours of pepper and garlic.

I want to eat this pizza again and again and again.

Once I was almost too full on pizza, the Porkys came out and I obviously had to have a slice of that too.

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The Porkys with pork shoulder sugo, stracciatella, basil, garlic, chili peppers, grand Padano, sea salt and pepper.

Again, another delicious pizza. The pork shoulder had a pulled-pork consistency, wrapped up in delicious tomato sauce rather than barbecue. It added a slightly fruity acidity to the richness of the white pizza, which you don’t often find; most white pizzas feature more veggies than meat.

Yes, for those of you keeping track, as this point I had enjoyed half a Bodega sandwich, a slice of So Mushroom pizza and a slice of Porkys pizza. I was obviously stuffed but took my leftovers home and waited anxiously to eat the next bites of this pizza. Even now, I am thinking about my next bite. Maybe this weekend, make it three in a row?

Happy munching!

Maker Pizza – The Bodega

I’m currently on a huge sandwich kick: I’ve been eating various iterations of Cubano sandwiches, I recently munched a lobster roll from Buster’s Sea Cove in St. Lawrence Market, I’m planning a burger date in the next week or so with my pal Lynsey and I’ve been eating copious amounts of breaded chicken sandwiches from California Sandwiches thanks to Uber Eats.

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While the excessive eating of Uber Eats has to stop (or I at least have to walk to California Sandwiches location that is 10 minutes away from my house), the sandwich eating does not. Sandwiches are the most convenient way to eat meat and cheese. On the weekend GC and I put this theory to the test and headed down to Maker Pizza to try their sandwiches. Yes, we went to a pizza joint to eat sandwiches but I suggest you do too. We both ordered the Bodega which is arguably one of the best sandwiches I have ever eaten.

IMG_5815The Bodega with mortadella, ham, turkey, salami, mozzarella, provolone, tomato, white onion, iceberg lettuce, roasted red pepper, roasted jalapeno, pepperoncini, sub sauce and served on a sesame bun.

This sandwich is as intimidating, epic and ridiculous as it looks. Despite having four types of deli meat (which I now think all sandwiches should), the sandwich is not greasy or heavy. This is because the veggie portion of the sandwich is made into a slaw with a vinegary tartness to it, which lightens the sandwich. By making the vegetables into a slaw, you do not have any of that wet, sliminess that can sometimes happen with having lettuce on a sandwich – which is why GC does not put lettuce on his sandwiches. The lettuce doesn’t shift and pull with each bite, leaving your sandwich intact until the very last bite. The jalapeño and pepperoncini add a nice level of heat to the sandwich which also helps break up the greasiness of the deli meat. The heat doesn’t overpower the sandwich or your palate, simply highlights the peppery tastes of the mortadella and salami. The cheese combination is perfect. Provolone and mozzarella play together to create a smoky and creamy cheese duet that can stand up against the strong flavours of the meat quartet.

I fell in love with this sandwich and Maker Pizza. I am already planning my next date with this sandwich (hopefully this Saturday) and future picnics that will happen in Alexandra Park with various pizzas from this restaurant.

Happy munching!

Easter 2016

It is Easter Monday and seemingly everyone else is off from work except me. The subway was empty this morning; I didn’t have to do my typical wait on the train for 10 minutes in the tunnel north of St. Clair West while empty trains are sent through for more important people. The offices at work are empty and it is a slow, rainy day.

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Easter weekend was relaxing, spent outside with beautiful weather and with amazing people. On Friday we made our traditional Italian pasta appetizers, calascioni. This is something that Ninni remembers making as a young girl in Italy, when these types of expensive meats and cheese could only be bought at Easter. This tradition has been passed on to me and Giancarlo and we now share this tradition with his best friend Nick and his wife, Rachel. The day is spent rolling out homemade pasta dough, cutting out perfect circles, filling each ravioli-like pocket with the meat and cheese mixture and baking in the oven until they are golden and oozing cheese. After a few hours of hard work, we enjoyed dinner, wine and Yahtzee.

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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?

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Brunch at Fabbrica

It’s official: the Italians need to come up with a word for brunch. Some might say that Italians don’t actually eat breakfast, they just have an espresso and a cigarette. And this is definitely the impression that my Italian relatives who visited for our wedding gave me. But Italian restaurants in Toronto are changing this idea of what Italian breakfast can and should mean. A few weeks ago, we enjoyed brunch at Fabbrica.FullSizeRender

This is my third visit to Fabbrica and it has always consistently delivered. The interior is modern and simple with classic Italian touches like marble tabletops and a cantina with large windows so guests can view the hanging salamis and prosciuttos. When the beautiful latte pictured above arrived I know that my brunch would deliver.

I ordered the Fabbrica Benny.

IMG_3591The Fabbrica Benny with poached eggs, guanciale and fontina crumpet, prosciutto and hollandaise.

Yum, yum, yum. The hollandaise is incredibly thick. The eggs are runny and gooey. The prosciutto is tender, fatty and the right amount of salt. The crumpet is a nice touch – it is a heftier alternative to your typical light and airy English muffin. It is salty and adds a sharp, nutty undertone throughout the crumpet with the fontina. I would have liked if the portion was slightly bigger but to be fair, I will always want more Benny.

The side of tomatoes is a light and slightly citrus way to clean your palate when you are finished with the richness of the Benny. The balsamic vinegar is sweet and thick and a natural compliment to the tomatoes. This is the Italian spin on the traditional British grilled tomatoes.

GC ordered the Shortrib hash.IMG_3594The short rib hash with poached egg, caramelized onion, braised short rib and potato served with toasted ciabatta.

Oh.mi.gawd. It is an inevitability that when two people dine together, one meal is going to be better than the other. But lucky for GC, that did not happen at our Fabbrica brunch. This is the best hash I have ever eaten. The short rib is incredibly tender, the meat just delicately flakes with every slight pierce of the fork. The veg is tender but retains it’s crunchiness. The onion adds a subtle sweetness and helps cut the richness of the short rib. The egg justifies this dish as a breakfast item and acts like a glue, cementing all the aspects of the hash in each bite.

I know no one wants to go to North York – I get it. I live in North York and don’t even want to travel to Fabbrica, but you should. Everything about Fabbrica is spot on – the service, the decor, the coffee and the food. It is a meal you will not regret traveling for. I will be fantasizing about this brunch until I can it again.

Happy munching!

Bar Buca

When you’ve eaten your way through most brunch restaurants in Toronto you get tired of seeing the same thing on every menu. I can make your standard bacon and eggs big breakfast that appears at every restaurant and to be frank with you, I like my eggs better. Now when I go for brunch I am looking for something more; I am looking for something different. This fits the description of Bar Buca.

I first went to Bar Buca back in February for brunch with Cynthia. Bar Buca is sleek and modern, using slick materials like marble, steel and concrete. It very much captures the look of contemporary and upscale Italy. You could easily picture this restaurant juxtaposed against the historic streets in Rome. There is an espresso bar at the front of the restaurant that brews coffee for dine-in and take-out. There is a long, wooden chair rail that wraps around the front of the restaurant. The tables are high bar tables with smooth wooden tops and stool seating. There is a long marble bar with leather stools and overlooks the tiny, open-concept kitchen. Seating is limited and communal, a concept I support. I will gladly take sitting with strangers if it means I can enjoy good food instead of waiting in line.

We were seated at the marble bar, drooling over the fresh foccaccia that was coming out of the oven in a steady stream.

I ordered the Ammazza Fegato.

IMG_3303The Ammazza Fegato with Tuscan offal sausage, farro, cavolo nero, king oyster and a poached farm egg.

This is rich and decadent. The farro is meaty, with a slightly crunchy grit to it. It is swimming in a pool of butter. The king oyster mushrooms are woodsy and fleshy. They add a silky meatiness to the base of this dish. The egg is nested and protected in one of the best sausages I have ever eaten. Offal refers to a combination of organ meats and this combination creates a juicy and evenly flavoured sausage. When I slice into the egg, it oozes all over the sausage and mixes with the butter and farro and creates this thick and creamy sauce.

This is one of the best breakfast I have eaten.

Cynthia ordered the Uova Rossa.

IMG_3301The Uova Rossa with duck egg yolk, bay scallop, crisp potato and scallions.

The duck yolk is thick and creamy. The scallops add a sweet ocean flavour to the dish. They are salty and fresh. The potatoes add a crunchiness and the scallions are freshness.

The highlight of the brunch: we were seating at the bar with a single seat on either side of us. The manager came over and asked us how we enjoyed our breakfast. I assumed that because we are adorable (obviously Cynthia, not me) he was just being polite. He proceeded to ask us if we could move seats and it would be worth our will. He brought over a beautiful, perfectly round bombolone filled with vanilla cream and rolled in cinnamon sugar.

IMG_3692All I have to do to get a free donut is move over one stool? OBVIOUSLY. This is the best donut I have ever eaten. It was still warm from being fried. It is filled with a thick and luscious cream, with the most aromatic vanilla flavour I have had in any dessert. The cinnamon sugar is lightly covering the entire surface of the donut. The donut itself is airy and light.

I only* (coffee is slowly becoming a necessity in my life despite having always made a conscious effort to not be a coffee drinker) drink coffee when I go for brunch. And Italians know coffee. Bar Buca is an amazing place to get your coffee fix. They serve their coffee with a sugar that is a mix of espresso crema and sugar. This is basically crack. It is thick, creamy and the right balance between coffee bite and sugary sweetness.

This donut and that coffee was the reason I wanted to return to Bar Buca with my favourite Italian, GC.

GC ordered the Carbonara Schiacciata or stuffed foccaccia.

IMG_3689The Carbonara Schiacciata with guanciale, farm eggs, crotonese and black pepper.

This sandwich. The foccaccia is light but at the same time dense. It is salty and is subtly piney from the rosemary. The egg is partially broken and spread thinly across the bread. Guanciale is a cured Italian meat made from pork jowl and the use of this meat adds a salty briny flavour to the sandwich, rather than a smoky taste which would be derived from using a meat like prosciutto. The crotonese cheese is salty and nutty, but more subtle and sweet than most Italian sheep cheeses.

I ordered the Coniglio Alla Milanese.

IMG_3690The Coniglio Alla Milanese with rabbit loin, prosciutto, smoked mozzarella and fresh gremolata.

Rabbit is not my favourite meat. I find it too much work for what you get. But this. This is how I can eat rabbit. This is essentially an Italian cordon bleu. The rabbit is thinly sliced and is extremely delicate. The prosciutto is even more thinly sliced, draped over the rabbit like tissue paper. The mozzarella is smoky and creamy, it oozes out over the rabbit with each slice and bite. The gremolata adds a fresh, spring citrus element to the rabbit, lightening the dish. The egg floating on top of the rabbit makes this meal breakfast and not dinner.

I am obviously in love with this restaurant. It is an upscale brunch that is not for the faint of heart. I acknowledge that to many, this is not what brunch is about but this is what I am looking for when I go for brunch. Brunch should not be restricted to just eggs and toast. Brunch is just as much of an opportunity to experiment and push boundaries as any other meal. And Bar Buca does that.

Happy munching!

Ital Board

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThe above is a snack I mae for a date-night with GC. It is an antipasto snack platter inspired by the Ital board at 416 Snack Bar: arancini, recipe antipasto skewers, prosciutto, two types of Italian cheese, olives, crostini and Italian greyhounds with rosemary sugar.

The recipe for the Italian greyhound is below the cut. Happy munching!

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Lasagna Grilled Cheese

As March comes to a close we can finally look forward to April: warmer weather, Easter, and of course, National Grilled Cheese Month. I plan to fully embrace this month-long celebration of one of my favourite foods. In preparation of April I have to look back to a sandwich I made a few weeks ago: the Lasagna Grilled Cheese.

IMG_5541 IMG_5544Recipe: Joy the Baker

I think this sandwich, while delicious, is misnamed. There is no tomato sauce, and more importantly, there is no meat and real lasagna has to have meat. Sorry vegetarians, I love you but real lasagna needs and should have meat. A more appropriate name would be a cannelloni grilled cheese. But really, what’s in a name? The important thing is delicious, simple and amazing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe combination of cheese is a perfect blend of creamy, salty and sweet. The ricotta is creamy and smooth but at the same time has a coarse, saltiness to it. The mozzarella is milky, thick and rich. The use of two cheeses in this sandwich brings it to the next level – from snack to full-on meal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe cheeses are both mellowed out and complimented by the basil and the tomatoes. Both are sweet but salty and taste like an Italian backyard in July. This recipe was fresh, simple and makes me yearn for summer. I will be making this grilled cheese again and again this summer using fresh ingredients from the garden.

Check out the recipe on Joy the Baker’s site and maybe check out this recipe too – it’s what I will be making next.

Happy munching!

Gusto 101

To celebrate my birthday, the lovely Cynthia took me out to Gusto 101 for dinner. The atmosphere in Gusto is great – it is a converted auto garage with exposed beams and ventilation but warmth from the banquette seating, the natural wood tables and the dim lighting. There is an entire wall of fresh Italian loaves that taunt you as you wait to be served. It has a very industrial Italian feel to it; a converted space that has been completely redefined as a space of good food and good company. It reminds me of traditional Italian cantinas or cold cellars: spaces that seem cold and uninviting but when filled with people make pasta and drinking good wine, are the best spaces in the house.

We started with some glasses of house red (served at $1/ounce!) and beef tartare.

Photo Credit: Gusto 101 website
Beef tartare with fresh fig compote, ricotta cream, and truffle oil.

This is not what ours looked like (we only had one but it was still good). It restored my faith in beef tartare after what happened at Union. The fig compote and ricotta cream added a lightness to the dish which you don’t usually find with tartares. The meat was chunky and loosely packed, allowing it to spread across the crostini and your tongue with every mouthful. The red wine complimented this perfectly.

Cynthia ordered the Fettuccine ai Funghi

Photo Credit: Peggy’s Toronto Food Adventure
Fettuccine ai Funghi  with portobello, porcini, oyster mushrooms, truffle paste, in a light cream sauce.

This is the most substantial and filling vegetarian pasta you will ever eat. The sauce was creamy and light, and as it cooled, it became richer and thicker. The flavours were comforting and bold – woody and nutty, with that soft, fleshiness of mushrooms. If you are a mushroom lover, this is a must-try dish.

I ordered the Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia.

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Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia with manila clams, shrimps, mussels, baby scallops, peperoncino white wine, and grape tomatoes.

The only difference between my meal and what is pictured is that my pasta was black from squid ink. This was actually the first pasta I have ever eaten that has been infused with flavour and colour. If you are not into seafood, do not order this plate of pasta. It is overloaded with fresh seafood and is definitely worth your money. My only complaint – the scallops could have been slightly bigger, but I will always ask for bigger scallops. The tomato sauce brought out the fruitiness of the seafood which was tender and fresh. The pasta was al dente and retained a good amount of firmness to it. I also liked how they kept with Italian tradition and did not serve it with parmesan as it was a seafood dish.

A great dinner, with even better company – happy munching!