Italian · Restaurants · Special Occasion

Cotto Italian – COVID-19 edition

L and I are eating out more frequently to support our favourite restaurants during the COVID pandemic. On Sunday, we ordered a three-course takeout meal from Cotto Italian Comfort Food . For $29 a person, we were given a large Caesar salad, two slices of Parmesan garlic toast, a big pan of porcini truffle mushroom risotto with grana cheese, and two pots of tiramisu.

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When I saw that Cotto was making risotto, I instantly thought of a scene from Big Night, when an American woman orders seafood risotto and fails to understand the tradition and craftmanship behind the dish. Upset that the risotto doesn’t look as how she expected, her husband suggests she order a side of spaghetti and meatballs. For this post, let’s listen to “Oh Marie” by Louis Prima.

Cotto is offering 30% off all their wines. I asked Fiona, the owner and wife of Chef Giuseppe, for a wine that would pair with the food. She recommended 2016 Giuseppe Campagnola Ripasso della Valpolicella Classico Superiore ($42). I found the wine smooth and silky. L thought it was well-balanced and an easy to drink wine. I agree, it was hard to cut myself off after my second glass.

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L doesn’t normally like Caesar salads but he’s a fan of Cotto’s version. He liked that there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of garlic. I loved the tartness of the sun-dried tomatoes and the feathery crumbs of grana cheese. The salad dressing was refreshing and helped cut into the richness of the risotto.

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The garlic bread was decadent, generously layered with butter, parmigiano cheese and garlic. The bread was crusty on the outside and the crumb – the inner part of bread –  was soft and delicate.

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I wasn’t expecting such a large portion of risotto. We had enough for lunch the next day. When I lifted the risotto from the pan, I could see the fine strands of cheese stretching out like a cobweb. The grain was cooked to an al dente, deeply infused with the flavour of porcini mushrooms and truffle.

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The smell and taste of the truffle wasn’t overpowering. The porcini mushrooms were silky smooth but there was still a nice toothsome crunch to it. The best part of the risotto  was the contrast between the rich, earthy cheesiness and the greens.  The taste of the spring onions and the pea shoots made my tongue tingle with pleasure. This was the first risotto I’ve tried and would order again.

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Along with risotto, this was the best tiramisu I’ve consumed. The soft layers of Kahlua espresso lady fingers and mascarpone cream were light and sweet. My favourite part of the dessert was the smell of the cocoa power and amaretto. It reminded me of a frozen dessert I would have as a child, only occasionally, because it was an expensive treat.

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On our drive to Kensington, I was shocked to see the number of businesses that are permanently shut down. I feel like there’s a war going on, but instead of guns and the military, it’s an invisible virus wiping out livelihoods in Calgary.

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Do you want to help the restaurant industry in Calgary? If you have the financial means,  YYCTAKEOUT is asking Calgarians to show their support by joining #YYCTakeoutTuesday and ordering a pick-up meal. If you can’t afford to eat out, consider retweeting or sharing an Instagram story from @yyctakeoutspecials.

Cotto Italian Comfort Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars/Lounges · Beer · Happy Hour · Italian · Restaurants

Happy hour at Pubblico Italian Kitchen – COVID-19 edition

On Tuesday, it was L and my first date anniversary. I wanted to have drinks at Bar Von Der Fels, but I couldn’t get us a table. I’ve joked before that I’m going to start making multiple reservations at Bar Von Der Fels and sell my spots to other customers. I bet I can make fat coin doing that. I suggested to L we try Pubblico Italian Kitchen. When L heard Pubblico has free parking, he was game.

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In light of these chaotic times, I’m going to continue playing music that relaxes me when I’m stressed out. For this post, let’s listen to Violin Sonata No.9 “Kreutzer” by composer Ludwig van Beethoven. My father pointed out this is a very emotional work and only the second movement could be described as relaxing.

As we drove along the street, I could see all the restaurant and shops were empty. Inside Pubblico, we were the only customers. However, by the time we left, three more parties arrived for dinner. I could overhear the other customers nervously joke about coronavirus.

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Pubblico offers a wicked happy hour. I’d go as far to say this restaurant offer one of the best deals in Marda Loop, Killarney and Richmond. I ordered a glass of the House White ($5). The white wine was crisp and non-offensive. L requested a pint of the Annex Forward Progress ($8.75).

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I wasn’t in the mood to eat, but L insisted we order at least a couple of plates. I was curious about the “Burrata Bar” as I love fresh cheese. I ordered the 18-month Prosciutto di Parma with MOB honey ($21.50).

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The crust was crunchy and chewy. The cheese itself was light and soft. The use of honey was very subtle. I didn’t find the prosciutto overly salty.

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L ordered the Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta ($4.00). We enjoyed the deep char on the outside and the soft centre of the sprout. The sauce was slightly sweet and garlicky. I’d order this again.

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I ordered a glass of the House Red ($5). I enjoyed the red wine even more than the white. The pours at Pubblico are generous too. I overheard our server Kaitlan mention to another table that the manager is passionate about bringing in wines that are unknown.

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L and I shared the Spaghetti Alla Carbonara ($11). The guanciale (pork cheek) was so frigging tasty. I loved how each piece of pork cheek crackled and popped with flavour. The noodles were firm and slick with a creamy, peppery sauce of egg and pecorino. When I commented on how much I enjoyed the pasta, our server mentioned I would like the specialty pastas even more, as the other pastas are made in-house.

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I’m keen to return again. I’d like to try some other wines and pastas. With free parking, friendly service and more than decent house wine, there’s a lot to like about Pubblico.

Puublico Italian House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Italian · Patio · Pizza · Restaurants

Annabelle’s Kitchen

On Friday, L received good news. To celebrate, we went out for dinner. I couldn’t get reservations to my top picks: Shokunin, Bar Von Der Fels or Carino. L suggested three restaurants. None of his options offered a wine list that appealed to me. I countered with Tavernetta, but L didn’t want to drive that far. I scrolled through Instagram and saw a photo from Annabelle’s Kitchen, a modern Italian restaurant in Marda Loop.

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L was indifferent but I was insistent. I stressed that Annabelle’s Kitchen is only five minutes away, and we could go to Village Ice Cream for dessert. For this post, let’s listen to “Compromise” by Molly Kate Kestner.

Annabelle’s Kitchen doesn’t take reservations. Another group that was initially behind me ran up ahead and got the last table. It wasn’t cold, so we opted to sit outside on the patio.

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Our server Taylor provided solid wine pairing recommendations for our meal. She recommended a white wine – ($10, Brigaldar, il Soave, Veneto Italy) to go with the Ravioli ($16). The wine was light and lively on the tongue. I preferred the wine with the pasta, rather than just own its own.

You could taste the individual ingredients in the pasta – the lemon, the smooth mildness of the ricotta and the subtle pop from the garden peas and basil pesto. I thought this dish tasted almost healthy – there wasn’t an over abundance of salt, olive oil, butter or cream.

For our Sausage Pizza ($20), Taylor recommended a red wine (Mati Barbera, Piedmont, Italy $11). L ordered a Sour Cherry from Banded Peak ($8.50).

The Italian sausage had a nice chew to it. L liked the creaminess of the goat cheese. I enjoyed the heat from the pepper flakes and chili oil. The crust was perfectly baked and it reminded me of Azzurri Pizzeria.  Crunchy on the bottom but not burnt.

For dessert, L wanted a salted caramel waffle cone from Village Ice Cream. I didn’t want any but L insisted I try some of his ice cream. He kept offering me tastes and I nibbled away until he complained that I ate half his cone. Here’s a pro tip for you. If you don’t want me to eat your ice cream, don’t ask me to.

We will be back – to Annabelle’s Kitchen for pizza and Village for ice cream. If you haven’t been to either businesses, I recommend checking them out.

Annabelle's Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Italian · Restaurants · Vancouver/Richmond

Vancouver – Lupo

For our first night in Vancouver, L and I went our separate ways. He went on a bicycle and brewery tour with Moody and Cuz, while I took Beep Beep and N out for dinner. I’ve asked L before to set up N with his single friends, but he said she’ll eat them alive. When I told N, she agreed with L. Unlike me, she doesn’t like nice guys. In honour of N, let’s listen to “Bad Guy by Billie Eilish.

N recommended we dine at Lupo Restaurant & Vinoteca, an Italian restaurant in Yaletown. Beep Beep and N suggested that I pick all the dishes and wine. I chose a bottle of Burrowing Owl ($96, Cabernet Sauvignon 2016). I found the wine full-bodied, intense but still fresh enough to sip on a warm summer night.

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We shared the Bufala Mozzarella ($20), Parmigiana Custard ($20), Ricotta Gnocchi ($28), Taglierini ($28), and an order of Focaccia Bread ($7.00). A server accidentally brought over a plate of Octopus Mosaic ($20). When he realized his mistake, he told us to enjoy the octopus appetizer on the house.

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We all thought the burrata was excellent. The cheese was creamy and smooth. The tomatoes were ripe and sweet. The organic greens were crisp and the basil noticeably fragrant. This dish rivaled the caprese salad at Cotto Italian in Calgary.

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I wasn’t as crazy about the Parmigiana Custard. The texture was smooth and rich, and I enjoyed the cheesy custard-like texture, but it didn’t stand out like the other dishes.

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We all loved the focaccia bread – it was ultra light with a crusty, airy exterior. The toppings of cheese, olive oil, cooked tomatoes and mushrooms made it almost pizza-like. The texture and flavour of Lupo’s bread is far superior to my homemade focaccia. I would order this again.

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If you are into tomatoes, you must order the ricotta gnocchi. The gnocchi was soft, warm and gooey. Beep Beep said she could taste the fresh tomatoes in the sauce. I liked the addition of the eggplant. This was Beep Beep’s favourite dish. N was tipsy at this point and didn’t comment on the food, except to say it was good.

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My favourite dish was the linguini with wild mushrooms. I enjoyed the sensation of crunching into the delicate earthy mushrooms. I found the chili and garlic oil downright decadent. I would order this again.

N informed me that Lupo is one of her go-to restaurants because of the excellent food, professional service, and the fact it’s a hidden gem in Vancouver. I enjoyed the food and company immensely. Hitting the Sauce gives Lupo two fat thumbs up.

Lupo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Comfort food · Italian · Restaurants

Cotto Italian Comfort Food

Kamloops and Jaime were in town! I made reservations at Cotto Italian Comfort Food in Kensington. Before we left for dinner, we shared a bottle of wine at my house – Pinot Noir, Iris Vineyards (Oregon, Willamette Valley).

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Kamloops and L enjoyed this wine more than I did. I found the flavour very light with a touch of tartness.

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At the restaurant, we ordered a bottle of Chianti Classico Tenuta di Arceno ($50). I would order this Chianti again. I thought it was well-balanced and paired nicely with our dinner. This is a wine I’d pick up regularly for supper. Cotto doesn’t markup their wines as much as other restaurants in Calgary. I spoke to a wine buyer and he told me the standard industry markup is three times the retail cost. I ordered a case of Tenuta di Arceno and saw Cotto’s markup was only two times the retail cost. I heard Model Milk does two times the wholesale cost.

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All the tomato-based dishes I’ve tried at Cotto were spectacular. In honour of this lovely fruit, or vegetable, depending if you are a scientist or cook, let’s listen to Hang on Little Tomato by Pink Martini.

We ordered family style – Arancini ($12), Caprese ($28), Milanese ($29), Pappardelle Ragu ($24), and Spagetti E Pomodoro ($24). The portions are generous. The two appetizers and three mains was plenty of food for the four of us. Actually, now that I think about it, Jaime, Kamloops and L didn’t eat much. I went all out and ate in excess. I love Italian food.

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When the golden brown arancini balls arrived at our table, the scent of cheese wafted up. The rice was cooked so that the grains were still firm and well formed. The cheese fondue was light and silky smooth. We thought we tasted mushrooms in the rice.

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The caprese salad was one of the best salads I’ve eaten. Those tomatoes – oh god – just exploded with sweetness. The buffalo mozzarella was light and decadent. I could taste the toasted nuttiness in the pine nuts. The pancetta was warm and when I chewed, squirted with fatty deliciousness. The pesto sauce and arugula added freshness to the mix and made the flavours pop.

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The large pork chop was impressively thick, covering almost most of the wooden board. The breading was still glistening from a sweet glaze and sizzling from the fryer. The side salad was simple and sweet. The polenta fries were amazing – crispy and delicious. I’d order the polenta fries again.

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The meatball in the pappardelle ragu was super sized and dense. The side of pasta was very good – al dente and saturated in a bright, sweet, creamy tomato sauce.

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My second favourite dish of the night was the Rigatoni Pomodoro. The pasta had a good bite to it. The cherry tomato and basil sauce was addicting – I’d pay to learn how to make a sauce like this. I really don’t know Cotto can make something as simple as tomato sauce into this elevated delicacy that drove all our tastebuds crazy. I’m normally a white cream sauce kinda gal, but at Cotto, it’s tomatoes all the way.

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Jaime, Kamloops and L shared a dessert – Coviglia Napoletana. I didn’t try a bite but Kamloops described the combination of chocolate semi-freddo, salted caramel and candied hazelnuts as a frozen chocolate hedgehog. Jaime looked up at Kamloops with a puzzled look on her face, so I’m not sure she agreed with him.

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Jaime noticed that her go to drink – canarino – was on the menu. I wonder if a lot of Chinese customers dine at Cotto, because that’s a popular drink for our peeps. I heckled Jaime mercilessly about being a paw paw (Chinese grandmother) until I got tired of the sport. The next time I have her over for a dinner party, I’m going to write on my cocktail chalkboard – The Jaime (Hot Water & Lemon).

Cotto is the sort of place I’d host a party for my family. The food is delicious and well-priced. Cotto makes it on Hitting the Sauce’s list of favourite restaurants in Calgary.

Cotto Italian Comfort Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Italian · Restaurants · Seafood

Garden of Italy – Nenshi Approved

I’m always keen to know where politicians (e.g. Mayor Nenshi) and food writers (e.g. Gwendolyn Richards) dine in Calgary. I’m interested in where they eat and what they order. I swear I’m not a creep. For this post, let’s listen to Mariah Carey’s Obsessed.

I’ve taken a class with Richards, so I know she frequents Calcutta Cricket, Ten Foot Henry, Anju, Bridgette Bar and Bar Von der Fels. I heard that Nenshi likes Africana BBQ Curries and Cleaver (specifically for Plank Mondays). One place he’s tweeted about is Garden of Italy.

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I visited Garden of Italy’s Facebook page and saw the evidence, a picture of Nenshi with Chef Nahid. After further investigation, it turns out I know one of the owners – Ruby. Naturally I asked Ruby what Nenshi orders. She informed me that he has ordered the Baked Lasagna (twice), Garden Penne and a pizza (she didn’t specify which one). Seriously, politicians get zero privacy. I’m not helping either.

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For Disco Mary’s birthday, we wanted to celebrate at Garden of Italy. Ruby decorated our table with a birthday sign. What a sweetie!

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We started with glasses of pinot gris ($10) and Bruschetta ($4). The bread was toasted and had a light crunch to it. Piled high was a juicy, vibrant mixture of fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil. This was a lovely start to our meal. I would order the bruschetta again.

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Based on Ruby’s recommendation, I ordered the Seafood Platter ($35). The platter contained salmon, basa, mussels, shrimp, scallops, calamari and scampi. Each piece of seafood was cooked perfectly. The salmon was tender and moist. The calamari was toothsome. The mussels were fat and plump. The shrimp had a nice crunch to it. The homemade white wine tomato sauce was so mouthwatering that I’d suggest to Garden of Italy to sell it. The portion was large but I still ate everything on my plate.

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Legal ordered the Fettuccine with Creamy Garlic Prawns ($20). She mentioned the taste of seafood was predominant. Unlike some other pasta joints, you get an excellent ratio of seafood to pasta. Less noodles but more succulent seafood.

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Meets enjoyed her Gnocchi ($18). She thought the dumplings were buttery and light. The gorgonzola cream had the right amount of sharpness. Damn Meets, maybe you should start blogging too. Meets said the food was a thousand times better than Chianti’s and she wants to return again. The portions of the pasta are filling, but with the exception of the seafood pasta aren’t so huge you are taking leftovers home.

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Jo ordered the Tutto Mare Linguini ($25). Out of all the pastas that were ordered, this was the most hearty. You get a big mound of noodles, with mussels, shrimp, scallops, clams, calamari in that same delicious white wine tomato sauce. Jo said the mussels and clams tasted very fresh. She took about half her food home.

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Disco Mary ordered Lombardy Chicken ($25). I didn’t ask her how her food was because at this time, I was deep into my own dish. I did overhear her say the pasta was al dente and the chicken was good. She doesn’t have Meets’ flair for describing food. Disco Mary took half her chicken home.

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Ruby brought out a complimentary dessert for the birthday girl. Meets, without any prompting and perhaps emboldened by my praise of her, informed me that the tiramisu had the proper hint of coffee. I liked the simplicity of this dessert. You could detect each ingredient – the homemade ladyfingers, espresso and the ultra light mascarpone cream cheese.

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Our server Sam was awesome. She’s British and hilarious, so funny in fact I asked her to join us for our next girls’ night. She warned me that she was more than our group could handle. Bring it on sister.

I would return for the bruschetta, the seafood platter and the lasagna because Mayor Nenshi ate it twice, so it must be good! Hitting the Sauce gives Garden of Italy two fat thumbs up.

Garden of Italy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Italian · Restaurants

Bread & Circus

My buddy Jaime and her husband Kamloops treated us out for dinner at Bread & Circus. Bread & Circus is located in a space between Una Take-Out and Frenchie’s Wine Bar. The location is weird and wonderful. I felt like the restaurant was in a secret hidden location.

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We were seated at the back of the restaurant in front of Frenchie’s Wine Bar. My husband L and I admired the picture of a French bulldog, so much in fact, we want a portrait done of our schnoodle Brut. L thought the lights over the painting was a nice touch.

My choice of music for this post? Let’s crack that whip and put on a show by the one and only… Britney!

Bread& Circus makes excellent cocktails. Jaime liked the traditional, heavy cocktail glasses. I concur. There’s nothing that ruins a fine drink more than a cheap piece of glass. Kamloops was impressed with his Manhattan ($13), noting the cherries were good. Jaime was pleased with her Lazio Negroni ($10). I ordered a glass of Costadila prosecco ($13) and L predictably stuck to Peroni ($7). We also ordered a bottle of Noelia Riccii Il Sangiovese ($60).

For appetizers, we shared the Chicken Liver and Almonds ($13) and Cauliflower and Cumin ($12). The chicken liver was cool, smooth and creamy like a paste. Topped with chervil, pickled red onion, honey oat granola and a cured egg, there was a delightful buttery crunch and sweetness to the dish.

The salad consisted of cauliflower, chickpeas, whey, cumin dressing and crystallized buckwheat. The cauliflower was cool and shaved so thin it was a treat to bite into. Cauliflower and cumin go together like bread and butter. The dressing was creamy and made the salad decadent.

Jaime ordered the Cacio e Pepe ($19). The linguini noodles are made in-house. We were warned the cheese was salty. The noodles were a delicate tangle. Jaime couldn’t finish it all so I helped her out.

I ordered the Carbonara ($20). The best part were the bits of smoked bacon. When I bite into it, I could taste delicious squirt of fat.

Kamloops ordered the Gnochhi alla Romana Braised lamb ragu ($24). I liked this dish so much, I probably ate half of it. I loved the combination of eggplant, mint and 3-year old aged parmigiano-reggiano.

One of the best pastas was the Oxtail Rigatoni ($23) I like how rigatoni was al dente with a bite of a chew to it. The red wine raisins gave a bit of sweetness to it. The pine nuts were toasted and still warm.

Each dish we tried was a different experience and the flavours worked. If you have a healthy appetite, I’d suggest you get an appetizer, your own pasta and a dessert. The food is rich, so the portions reflect that. When I got up from dinner, I regretted eating half of Jaime and Kamloop’s dishes. Life is hard when you’re a glutton.

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Thank you Jaime and Kamloops for a wonderful meal. It was great to spend time with you again.

Frenchie Wine Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Comfort food · Italian · Restaurants

Cotto Italian Comfort Food

I had plans to hit up a 90’s Old School Party on Saturday. I wanted to kick back and relive my youth and who better to share this experience with than my husband. However, L was not keen and instead, offered to take me out for dinner. I was easily persuaded. I picked Cotto in Kensington as I’ve been meaning to go for months. I hate stereotypes but I love cheesy music, so for this post I chose That’s Amore .

We arrived at 7:00 pm. We sat next to two woman who were chatting away. Their plates of pasta lay untouched. L and I ordered our drinks at 7:10 pm. The woman next to us still hadn’t touched her plate, and asked the server for cheese for her carbonara. At about 7:20 pm she started to eat. She called over her server and said while the porchetta was delicious, it was cold. I could barely choke down my indignation. Hey Carbonara Lady, you were yakking away for a good 20 minutes. Of course your food got cold. All your hot air couldn’t heat up your pasta, even though you were huffing up a storm. The server graciously brought Carbonara Lady a fresh bowl.

The complimentary house baked bread was so good I wanted to buy some to take home. The interior of the bread was cake-like and a touch sweet, with a hint of rosemary. The crust itself was beautifully baked with a nice crumbly exterior. I like the  brown bag container – it was a cute touch.

I asked for a white wine that wasn’t sweet or dry. Our server recommended a chardonnay ($7) that was just what I wanted. And for seven dollars – a total steal. L stuck with a glass of Peroni ($7).

L and I shared the Alla Luciana ($13). The calamari was so silky and smooth. You know it’s good when it you actually prefer the calamari sautéed rather than fried. The tomato sauce was tangy with a bit of a heat. Best calamari I’ve eaten.

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I ordered the Spaghetti Carbonara ($19). There was a ton of smoked boar guanciale – so much I could get multiple pieces in each bite of pasta. The large piece of seared porchetta belly was really rich. The noodles were firm but still took on the flavour of the sauce.

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The Ricotta Gnocchi ($20) was my favourite of the pastas. The tomato sauce was light yet creamy and flavourful. The gnocchi was soft and absorbed up all that sauce. There was ample pieces of fior di latte that were like clouds of melted gooey goodness.

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The food here is delicious and so affordable. We were both stuffed after sharing the appetizer and two pastas. The menu’s not large but I have a feeling that what is on it is stellar. I want to return to try the pork chops, bruschetta, and caprese.

Cotto Italian Comfort Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Beer · Happy Hour · Italian · Pizza · Restaurants

Posto – Pizza Lunch

Jyoti Gondek invited me along with a few other of her volunteers to Posto for lunch and a chat about her election campaign as city councillor for Ward 3. Jyoti let me pick the food, though Finance said she would order her own meal because she has so many allergies. I asked Chris for his input, but I changed the dishes last-minute when I realized he wasn’t going let me order what I wanted.  Sucker. He was too polite to protest.

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Finance ordered the special salad of the day – fresh heirloom Alberta red tomatoes, fior di latte, fresh basil with a balsamic vinaigrette ($16). The tomatoes were ripe and juicy. The cheese was subtle and soft.

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I ordered a pizza with smoked salmon, leeks, capers, creme fraiche and lemon ($24.00). I really liked the lightness of the creme fraiche and the creamy sauce on the crust. The smoked salmon was cool on the tongue and the capers added a nice saltiness to it. The crust is just awesome. Slightly charred, airy crust with a chew to it.

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We shared the special pizza of the day – house-made mortadella (pork sausage) with pistachios and balsamic vinaigrette ($22). The meat was juicy and flavourful. There was a touch of sweetness to the pie from the balsamic. I thought the sprinkle of pistachios went well with all the other flavours of the ingredients.

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If you haven’t been yet, I would recommend Posto for pizza. It’s a cozy date night spot. Best time to go is on Sundays, when pizzas are half-price all night long! I would recommend the potato, creme fraiche, leek, smoked pancetta ($21) and the spinach, shallot, garlic, wild mushroom, grana padano ($21), and the smoked salmon pizza.

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Posto Pizzeria and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Italian · Restaurants

Chianti Cafe – Willow Park

It was Disco Mary’s birthday on Saturday. Vintage Girl organized this gathering and she picked Chianti Cafe. She and Mindy comes to this location often and Mindy knows one of the servers.

When Vintage Girl booked the reservations, I thought of a restaurant I am dying to try called Garden of Italy. A couple of weeks ago, I saw Mayor Nenshi tweet about his meal there. I sent the girls an email suggesting we go, thus hinting we change the original plans. I guess I’m not as subtle as I think. Vintage Girl asked me straight out just when and for what occasion we should go to Garden of Italy?  I sheepishly said, “Whoever has a birthday after Disco Mary.” I’m a beta, not an alpha. Oh well, we are going to Garden of Italy for Vintage Girl’s birthday in May, though that’s months away.

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I use to go to the Crowfoot location with my friends for the $8.99 pasta specials when I was in grad school. The only thing that’s changed is the parmesan cheese is no longer grated fresh at your table. Instead, there’s a shaker. Mindy told me it’s the same cheese. Apparently, management discovered that grating the cheese at the table led to greater waste.

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Mindy ordered the spinach and bacon salad ($6). It tasted pretty much like I remembered. The bacon tasted like bacon bits and there was a generous amount of mushrooms. Mindy prefers the salad with more dressing. I agree, it helps mask the flavour of spinach.

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We shared a couple of appetizers: Ravioli Bites Trio ($9) and Fonduta ($10). Mindy dug into the dip before I could take a picture. She apologized profusely as Disco Mary reprimanded her, “She’s got to take a picture first!” No worries girls, I can improvise.

The crab dip was cheesy and warm, with chunks of crab and artichoke. The bread was toasted and smeared with a delicious pesto spread. Chianti’s version is better than my past attempts making crab dip.

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The trio of pasta wasn’t as yummy as the crab dip. The filling was sparse and the pasta  itself was hard. The sauce was a smokey chipotle that tasted like it came out of a bottle. Taste wise, there was little difference between the three types of stuffed pasta.

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I couldn’t decide which pasta to pick for my entree. Mindy told me that Chianti’s is very accommodating and they will let you switch the sauces, noodles or you can pick two and have both. I ordered the Mare e Monte Fettucine ($12.50)  and the Mediterranean Ravioli ($12.50). I’m not sure if Chianti charges extra for making changes or requesting a split order because Mindy treated me out for my belated birthday.

The mare e monte sauce was a light cream sauce mixed with scallops, peas and mushrooms. The scallops were plump and tender. I found the Mediterranean sauce bland. The lemon garlic wine oregano sauce was watery and I could just taste the individual components of the dish, boiled ravioli, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, feta cheese, spinach and artichokes. Again, the ravioli was hard.

my-dish

One of the many reasons I love going out with these girls is because they give me so much food. I tried Disco Mary’s Salmon Con Gamberoni ($18.50). The baked salmon was moist and tender. The mascarpone cheese sauce was heavy and swirled around my ravioli, made it taste a lot better.

salmon dish.jpg

Mindy’s Pollo Alla Parmigiana ($16.50) was a good choice. The breaded chicken was crispy, covered in ham and bubbling with cheese. She opted for the shrimp fettucine, which was loaded with cheese and garlic.  I found out from our server that the spaghetti, linguine and fettucine is homemade, but the other pastas are not.

veal

I didn’t take pictures of Vintage Girl or Jeanette’s food because their plates were far away from me and I was too lazy to get up. I tried Jeanette’s veal and I thought it was tasty.

cake.jpg

Our server brought out a piece of chocolate cake with a candle for the birthday girl. I took a couple of bites. Drizzled with caramel sauce and dotted with whipped cream, with lots of layers of dense chocolate cake and sweet icing, it did the trick.

Chianti in Willow Park was busy, filled with mostly families and groups of friends. I can see why. Service was friendly and attentive throughout our meal.  I also appreciate how accommodating the restaurant was when it comes to changing the dishes based on your preference. Chianti’s is a good option for family with kids. There’s something for all ages and the food is affordable, more so on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays.

Chianti Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato