Pizzeria Via Mercanti

A few weeks ago GC and I went to Pizzeria Via Mercanti for dinner. We were seated in the basement for the first time which is described by the staff as “Nonna’s cantina.” This is an apt description. There are a mash up of different chairs and tables, checkered table clothes, peppers and salamis hanging from the ceiling and of course, cold. It is really comforting for anyone who has ever experienced a stereotypical Italian family.

I ordered the Quattro Formaggi pizza.

IMG_4147Quattro formaggi pizza with gorgonzola, fior di latte, ricotta and grana padano. This pizza is so cheesy and delicious. If you love cheese, especially blue cheeses, you need to check out this pizza. Let it cool for a second or two so the crust can firm up underneath the weight of the cheese. I couldn’t finish it all and took a quarter for it home – it even tasted good cold the next day. Pure perfection.

GC ordered the Capricciosa pizza.

IMG_4146Capricciosa with fior di latte, prosciutto cotta, mushrooms and black olives. If you are looking for a more traditional pizza fix, this pizza is for you. Salty from the prosciutto and olives, with a slight nuttiness from the cheese and the mushrooms and rounded out with sweetness from the tomato sauce – this is a perfectly balanced pizza.

Happy munching!

Tuesday Date Night: Ciao Wine Bar

On Tuesday our weekly date night found us in Yorkville at Ciao Wine Bar. No, we didn’t suddenly become wealthy and now we will eat in Yorkville regularly, we had a Groupon – $50 worth of food for $25. And what better night to go to Ciao than on their Linguine and Lobster Special Night? Every Tuesday Ciao serves up a plate of linguine in tomato sauce with 1.5lb lobster for $21 – this is an amazing deal and with our Groupon it was like we were eating for free (sort of…)!

1. This was a huge plate of pasta. And obviously, a lot of lobster. This plate isn’t for the faint of heart. If you are going to have this for dinner, have a light, early lunch.

2. The pasta was perfectly al dente and covered in a generous scoop of sauce. The sauce was sweet, yet tart, just like fresh tomatoes and was highlighted by the sprig of fresh basil. Fresh basil reminds me of summer and the fresh vegetables and herbs that come from the garden.

3. I loved that the lobster came already cut in half. Lobster is one of those foods that is apparently an aphrodisiac but you look revolting while eating it. Having the lobster cut in half allowed for civilized dining using a fork and knife. The lobster was fruity, tender and fresh. It worked perfectly with the fruity qualities of the pasta sauce to create a coherent plate.

Although we were stuffed, we could not pass up the opportunity to have tiramisu.

4. There was too much stuff on top of this tiramisu. I like my tiramisu classic and simple: a few chocolate shavings and a sprinkle of cinnamon. There was far too much going on with this dessert. The chocolate was good but the shavings were too big and there was too many. The raspberries and blueberries were good, but the orange berries (I don’t know what kind of berries they are – any help here?) were bitter.

5. The tiramisu itself was creamy, with crunchy lady fingers and a subtle espresso flavour. Once you get over the mess on top, this is a tasty, little pick me up.

Another delicious, simple meal at Ciao. Ciao is one of my favourite Italian restaurants in Toronto. Despite being in Yorkville it is decently priced and you are given huge portions. The ingredients are fresh and simple, exactly how Italian cuisine is. The atmosphere is cozy and comfortable – perfect for a family meal, catching up with friends or a romantic meal for two.

Happy munching!

Thanksgiving Feast – Italian Style

Our first Thanksgiving meal was held at GC’s parents place. They had recently just returned from a trip to Italy and GC’s mom was inspired by the cuisine and fresh produce found throughout Italy.  Instead of turkey and stuffing we had prosciutto and pasta.

Various spreads – artichoke and asiago, red chili pepper spread and olive tapenade.

L’Antipasto – platter with various Italian meats, buffallo mozzarella and “bruschetta.”

Il Primo – Seafood tagliatelle with olive oil, fresh tomatoes and shrimp.

Il Secondi and Il Contorno – Italian chicken cordon bleu with prosciutto and mozzarella, topped with buttered cranberries with roasted potatoes and vegetables.

Il Doce – Apple Pie.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Date Night – Pizzeria Libretto

Tuesday night has become date night for GC and me. Last week we went to Stockyards (fried chicken dinner for me and a pulled pork sandwich for him) and this week we went to Pizzeria Libretto.

I started with a cocktail, the Negroni.

One part gin, one part vermouth, and one part Campari. This cocktail was too much for me – I like to pretend I am a tank when it comes to drinking but certain cocktails (Manhattans, and anything with whiskey or bourbon) I cannot handle. There is too much of a bitter alcohol taste. Once the ice had slightly melted and diluted my drink, I could handle it. If you want to feel like a classy, older, attractive Italian gentleman, drink this cocktail.

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Last week I spent some time on Lake Huron at a cottage with my family. We spent the week going to the beach, watching sunsets and visiting picturesque towns along the coast line.

Sunset in Kincardine.

In Port Elgin we stopped in at an Italian restaurant called Rosina. I realize this isn’t a real link to the restaurant’s website, but this is as good as we are going to get regarding information about this place.

Every town, regardless of its size seems to have an Italian restaurant and luckily for Port Elgin, this is a good Italian restaurant. The interior is modern with rustic touches like the butcher block topped with a huge chunk of Parmesan cheese. Although it is nice inside, you can go in and be served looking  like a beach bum which is what we did. My favourite part of the aesthetic of this place is the little Nonna they have as their logo – she just captures Italian cuisine and eating perfectly.

I took pictures of the menu for my own purposes (I have been to too many small restaurants without websites and only realized it after the fact, forcing me to make up descriptions and ingredients) so I have included them in the off chance that someone from Port Elgin is looking for information. Based on the quality of the food we had that night, I can only assume this menu changes seasonally but I am sure there are some items on here that are year-round staples.

Amelia and Dad both ordered starters.

1. Dad ordered the Caesar Salad

Romaine hearts, crisp pancetta, anchovy croutons, parmigiano fricco, with roasted garlic and caper dressing. I love this parmigiano fricco that came with it. I think it’s a different way to incorporate parmesan into the dish. A modern take on a traditional and common salad.

2. Amelia started off with the Scallops

Pan-seared scallops, smashed avocado, garlic, arugula, pancetta, tomato and black olives in lemon thyme oil. I think it is interesting that they paired avocado with scallops and interesting in a good way. Avocado does not make its way into enough dishes even though it is completely fantastic.

For dinner Dad, Amelia and I ordered pizzas and Mom ordered veal.

1. Dad’s Funghi Pizza

Pizza Funghi with roasted portobello, button and porcini mushrooms, tomato and asiago cheese. I do apologize as this isn’t the greatest picture but it gives you the general idea that this pizza was loaded with mushrooms. Mushroom pizzas, when done right, are delicious. There are so many different types of mushrooms that we don’t get to use in our everyday cooking and a mushroom pizza really highlights the depth of flavour mushrooms are capable of. I liked that Rosina would feature different Italian cheeses on each pizza. This pizza featured asiago, a nuttier cheese that brought out the earthy qualities of the various mushrooms.

2. Amelia’s Pepperoni Pizza

Pepperoni pizza with pepperoni, tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil. The pepperoni was spicy which is not common to traditional thin crust pizzas. There is always a slight hint of spice in pepperoni, due to the curing process, but never to the extent that it leaves your mouth feeling hot when you are done. This pizza had that heat.

3. My Fig Pizza

Fig Pizza with fig marmellatta, Gorgonzola, prosciutto and arugula. This is one of the best pizzas I have ever had. The marmellata was sweet and grainy, giving the pizza the essence of figs without the fleshiness that I dislike. The Gorgonzola was creamy, with that strong blue taste that works with the sweetness of the figs to offset the overpowering qualities that figs and Gorgonzola both have. The arugula was crispy and fresh. The prosciutto was salty and a great accent for the sweet creaminess of the figs and cheese working in tandem with one another. My only complaint about this pizza was that the crust was slightly too crunchy for my liking.

4. Mom’s Grilled Fillet of Veal

Grilled fillet of veal, crushed mini red potatoes with black olive, baby carrots, sauteed baby spinach, beet tapenade and sauce agro dolce. Mom really liked this dish – her only complaint was that she ordered her veal medium-rare and and it came medium-well. Apparently this is a common issue when ordering veal.

If you live in Port Elgin or you are just cottaging in the area, this restaurant is definitely worth a taste. Classy and classic Italian flavours and aesthetics.

Happy munching!


Terroni – Part II

A few weeks ago I went out for dinner with my sister Amelia to Terroni. This time, hospital we went to the Queen St W location. We went on a Saturday night, tadalafil around 6:00, which for Queen W, is early. But surprisingly, it was packed with young hipsters, young families and old friends sharing bottles of wine and pasta. This location is more rustic, and hodgepodge than the Uptown location, making it quintessentially Queen W. There are tall shelves that line the entrance, full of pasta, sauces and other Italian foods. The tables are wooden, and the walls are filled with antique picture frames lit beautifully by chandeliers. Although this location is rustic and cozy, I think I like the Uptown location more. It is more upscale, and grown up. Uptown Terroni is the type of place I want to mimic when I am an upscale, grown up. I’ll keep you posted when that happens…

The menu is almost identical (I am sure there are slight difference) and we both ordered different things then we did the first time. I want to slowly discover everything on this menu, so if you want to go to Terroni, invite me!

I ordered the special – Lobster Spaghetti. This was delicious and why would it not be? It is lobster. It is pasta. The sauce was sweet, with hints of spice and citrus. The lobster was tender and flaky.  I loved the addition of little tomatoes in this pasta. It added a fresh from the garden quality to the meal. Anytime there is seafood pasta on a menu, I’m all over that.

Amelia ordered the Smendozzata Pizza.

Tomato, mozzarella, homemade spicy sausage, Gorgonzola, and red onions. Another delicious pizza from Terroni.

As always, another great meal.

Butler’s Barracks – Tragically Hip

On June 30th, GC and I went to a Tragically Hip concert at Fort George’s Butler’s Barracks in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

This concert did something new and different – instead of having traditional, overpriced, sub-par concert food, it had food trucks and vendors. I didn’t know this at the time of purchasing tickets and it was just a happy coincidence but it made the concert experience far more enjoyable.

1. There was a VIP area of the concert. I am completely ok with that. What I am not ok with is the fact that two trucks were locked away from my hungry tummy – El Gastro and Roaming Buffalo. I understand VIPs need special priviledges and perks in order to make them VIPs but come on, don’t deny me food!

2. There was over 20 trucks and vendors. When the gates opened, there were no line ups but between 5 pm and the end of the concert the lines were typical of any food event. This was not the crowd that was used to this type of waiting but I think they learned it was worthwhile.

3. Our first stop was Tide & Vine. It was only appropriate to visit the truck that got me onto oysters. They were serving up oysters with three sauces: white vinegar and Bombay gin, red wine vinegar and red onion and traditional cocktail sauce. The best sauce was the traditional cocktail sauce – it was spicy and fruity. The white vinegar and Bombay gin was a big disappointment; it just tasted watery. The red wine vinegar and red onion was not concentrated enough and because the hole in the nozzle was so narrower, there was no delicious chunks of red onion on my oysters. It was good for me to go back to Tide & Vine and get a little perspective on oysters – yes they are good, but all of the oysters themselves I have eaten have been the same quality. It is just the sauces that have varied in quality and flavour. I will always have oysters when they are available to me but I will stick with the traditional toppings of cocktail sauce and horseradish.

4. We went to Dobro Jesti where we got two rice balls and an order of garlic donuts. I love these garlic donuts and we made them even better by dipping them in the marinara sauce that comes with the rice balls. Next time I order these garlic donuts, I’m going to ask for a side of marinara.

5. We had a few more items to snack on before ordering dinner. First, a chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing from The Cupcake Diner.

And then some gourmet popsicles from Augie’s Gourmet Ice Pops.

I ordered the Strawberry Basil Lemon ice pop and GC ordered the Watermelon Lemon Mint ice pop. Both were refreshing, light but tasted primarily of their base, fruit flavours.

6. We sat back and enjoyed some music. After The New Pornographers we decided to have some dinner. GC wanted to try Rome n’ Chariot so we ordered two orders of the Holy Trinity: one order with Eggplant Parm, Veal Parm and Meatball and one order with one Veal Parm and two Meatball sliders. GC said it was very good and that he liked the meatballs better than Hey Meatball which he likes more than his Italian grandmother’s meatballs. With that logic, he should like Rome n’ Chariot more than his grandmother’s but he doesn’t. Regardless, this was another successful visit to Rome n’ Chariot and I’m glad my Italian approved.

7. On our way back to our seats we grabbed some drinks from The Grind House.

I ordered the Homemade Mint Lemonade and GC ordered an Iced Coffee. Delicious and refreshing. The lemonade made me want to make my own lemonade with fresh mint… Apparently they have a location in Kensington Market so this is something I will have to check out.

8. Our last bit of food was from Shriner’s Creek Kettle Popcorn where we got three bags of popcorn to take home – two Cheddar and one Cinammon Apple Pie.. Whenever I encounter them I feel like such a fiend because I get at least three bags.

This was a great event. It would appear that this is an annual Canada Day weekend concert that the Hip puts on and it is a show that is definitely worth checking out. The food trucks and vendors being there was just a happy surprise but it made the day all the better. I hope this is a trend – food trucks/vendors and concerts – that is going to stay. When we went to see The Beach Boys in June, Blue Donkey and Gorilla Cheese were both there and from following the various trucks on Facebook and Twitter, many other trucks have been at other concerts. Food and music are just a logical pairing and it’s great when it’s good music and good food that are rocking together.

Another beautiful day with food, music and of course, GC.

Rome N’ Chariot

Last week I went down the Union Station for some Italian food by Rome N’ Chariot.

The trucks were located on Front St, just slightly west of Bay St, near the Royal York. This is a new location for the food trucks as they are trying to raise awareness and their presence in Toronto. If this means there will be a multitude of food trucks rotating through this location at lunch time, I 100% support this.

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Sarpa Restaurant

Last week we went for a big family dinner to celebrate the retiree, my dad – JDL.

His button says, “I’m smiling because I’m retiring.” My dad has been teaching for over 30 years and he has definitely earned his retirement. He is one of the best people of all time and future kids will not even realize what they are missing.

We went to Sarpa Restaurant in Richmond Hill to celebrate the occasion.

Sarpa is an Italian restaurant with a modern interior. We were in the party room which could be closed off from the rest of the restaurant using shuttered doors. It also featured its own private patio which we did not take advantage of but we enjoyed the view and the breeze nonetheless. The environment was upscale without being stuffy and pretentious. It was the perfect atmosphere to enjoy a great meal and celebrate a great career.

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