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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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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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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1,000 Tastes of Toronto

On June 9 GC and I headed down to the Distillery District for the President’s Choice 1,000 Taste of Toronto.

This event was part of the Luminato festival and this year’s theme was to have all chefs feature at least one Canadian ingredient. You buy your food tickets before hand, one ticket costing $5 and each ticket is redeemable for one food item. They had tables set up throughout the streets for family style dining.

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Hey Meatball

There has been an emerging trend in Toronto food culture of restaurants popping open that specialize in one things: various grilled cheese restaurants like Cheesewerks or The Grilled Cheese, the specialty sausage restaurant Wrvst and Hey Meatball, which specializes in nothing but, you guessed it, meatballs.

Of course, as someone dating an Italian, we needed to check out this place and compare the meatballs to the ones Nonna makes.

Located in the heart of Little Italy, Hey Meatball has to be good. All the ingredients used are farm sourced from within a 100-mile radius and everything is all natural. All the pasta used is made daily – this kind of quality would be hard to find in most traditional Italian homes.

The restaurant is open concept with a great view of the kitchen. In the kitchen the cooks are dancing, singing and joking – it is like that scene out of The Big Chill. You can see all the meatballs being ground and rolled fresh to order. The tables and chairs are a mismatch of styles and sizes, as if you are sitting down to a huge family dinner at someone’s house and chairs have been grabbed from every room of the house.The walls are lined with a combination of bad paint-by-numbers (clearly ironic), photos of old Italian ladies and scenes from Italy. Looking at the walls you can picture this eclectic combination lining the walls of your Nonna’s house.

The menu is everything you would except – meatballs are the main focus but you are able to get them several different ways. I think my favourite thing about the menu is the fact that you can get 3 meatballs with sauce. This is the perfect amount for a snack, and anytime I have the option to have a dinner option as a snack, I’m there.

You order at the counter, they tell you that the meatballs are a pork and beef blend (for all our Kosher, Halal et al. friends out there) give them your name and then take a seat. They’ll call you when it’s ready. Perfect. Why can’t more place operate like this?

I ordered the Mac & Cheese with Pork/Beef meatballs.

The pasta was tender and was cooked perfectly. It was creamy and so cheesy. When my order came up, they drizzled olive oil over my mac & cheese – so Italian. Adding olive oil on top of something that traditionally does not have olive oil on it is so Italian, in a good way. The meatballs were juicy and flavourful, and this was all because of the quality of meat not because of anything else that was added in.

I polished this bowl off. It was too good not to finish it all.

GC ordered the Rodfather – named after the owner and chef of Hey Meatball, Rodney Bowers.

GC compared the meatballs on this sandwich to the quality that his Nonna makes. Now that is an endorsement. The sauce was a perfect compliment to the flavour of the meatballs and the pesto rounded out the taste of the whole sandwich. The salad was light and had a nice vinegary flavour, it cleansed the flavour of the sandwich perfectly.

Homemade cream sodas to wash everything down. Sweet, rooty, delicious. I love this trend of restaurants now making their own homemade sodas. It kind of make you think that it isn’t quite as bad as having a glass of Coke.

Before we left, we talked to Rod and told him we loved what he was doing here. We gave him the biggest compliment you can give someone who makes meatballs, “These rival Nonna’s.” He told us how an old Italian lady had come into the restaurant to order some meatballs for her son. I’m pretty sure she passed these meatballs off as her own.

Definitely a place to check out as a meat-lover.