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

Fusion · Italian · Japanese · Restaurants

Carino Riserva – L’s birthday dinner

For L’s birthday dinner, he picked Carino Riserva. In past visits, I noticed that you must have a reservation or you won’t get into the restaurant. Despite being popular with locals and Japanese guests, I don’t think Carino gets the accolades in magazines and social media that it deserves.

I think that new restaurants get covered by food writers for one or two articles, but then it seems to be back to the same rotation of restaurants that show up in the ‘best restaurants’ category in Avenue Calgary.  I’m not knocking the restaurants, writers or the magazine. I’m just saying I don’t want to read about the same restaurants year after year. I have a good memory and the articles on the same restaurants gets redundant. Edit- I stand corrected. Avenue Magazine rated Carino best fusion restaurant. My bad! My memory isn’t as good as I thought.

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Last night, L and I had the best meal of 2018. For this post, let’s listen to one of L’s favourite bands – Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, GT400.

 

We sat by the window. I would recommend requesting this table if you have out-of-town guests. We enjoyed people watching and recognizing familiar faces walking the trendy streets of Mission.

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I appreciated our server’s food and wine recommendations. She also prevented us from ordering too much food. If you like your wine, but don’t want to pay a fortune, this is the place for you. I’ve never tried a wine I didn’t like at Carino. The owner Toshi was Teatro’s head sommelier for years. Wines by the glass range from $9-12.  I ordered a flute of prosecco ($9.00) and L stuck with Sapporo ($7.50).

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A feature appetizer was the pork gyoza ($7.50) with basil dipping sauce. The dumplings were plump with juicy meat. The wrapping was beautifully pinched and grilled to a crisp.

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Look at the fresh basil in the filling! L thought the gyoza showed the best of Italian and Japanese cuisine. Freaking fantastic. I would order this again.

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We shared a second appetizer – Steamed Clams and Mussel Hot Pot ($18) with Italian sausage and fries. The flame burning underneath the black cauldron added a mystique to the ambience of our table. The sausage was sweet and I could taste fennel. The broth was so tasty, we kept drinking it. I would buy this broth if I could- it was like a seafood bisque.

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The absolute star of the show was the Alberta Beef Tenderloin with Wagyu Meat Sauce and Aglio Et Olio ($35). I can’t believe pasta with so few ingredients can taste that good. The noodles were served piping hot and al dente. The flavour of the oil was incredible – it must speak to the quality of the olive oil and the chef’s cooking technique. I want to compare Carino’s version to Cotto Italian Comfort Food, the next time the latter restaurant has aglio et olio on their weekly pasta feature.

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L declared Carino’s steak the best he’s had in his life. The steak was charred on the outside and cooked to a medium rare in the middle. The beef was tender and juicy. The mix of arugula and bitter greens acted like a palate cleanser in between bites of steak. We both ate as slowly as we could to enjoy every morsel. I ordered a glass of Liberta ($11) to go with my steak.

This entire meal with three alcoholic drinks cost only $92 dollars! Just goes to show you don’t need to spend a fortune to have a fantastic meal in Calgary. In fact, the best meal we had all year. I’ve already booked Carino Riserva for my birthday dinner with L and Beep Beep.

Carino makes it on Hitting the Sauce’s Phat Picks – which is a list of my own favourite restaurants in the city. I’ll take my own advice and try to keep the list fresh by trying new restaurants. I’m the biggest culprit for revisiting the same old restaurant instead of trying something new. Next on my list – Big Catch’s new restaurant, OMO Teppan & Kitchen, Raj Palace, Han Maru, and Namsam Korean Cuisine.

Carino Riserva 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

Bars/Lounges · Brunch · Pizza · Restaurants · Special Occasion

Bridgette Bar – Date Night

On the weekends, Bridgette Bar is normally booked solid until 9:00pm, which is around the time I like to be in bed to watch Cops. Despite trying, I haven’t been able to land a table for weeks. So on Wednesday night, when L and I decided have our weekly date night, we picked Bridgette Bar.

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The interior of the restaurant is awesome. I like the brick walls.  The restaurant is spacious with high ceilings and lots of light. Unlike Toronto and Montreal, Calgary doesn’t have a lot of heritage type buildings. Bridgette decor reminds me a bit of Model Milk, Workshop and Charbar , both of which have a historic vibe.

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There are two beers on the menu I like – Tokyo Drift: IPA #3
(Last Best) and Electric Unicorn (Phillips). L and I ordered glasses of Electric Unicorn ($8.50), an easy drinking white IPA with a hint of sweetness.

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We started with an order of garlic bread with cheese curds ($7). The bread was more like a croissant and inside the flaky, fragile shell was a good amount of gooey warm cheese. The taste of garlic wasn’t overpowering.

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My favourite dish of the night was the grilled octopus ($13). Octopus done well is so delicious. The warm, tender chunks of octopus had a nice charred flavour to it. The fennel was a nice compliment to the orange slices and the tart sherry vinaigrette.
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L and I shared the chicken sausage pizza ($20) with bacon, garlic béchamel, mushroom and jalapeno. The pizza was good. The crust had a nice crunch to it. The flavours of all the ingredients worked well together.

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I like Bridgette Bar. It’s the sort of place you bring out-of-town guests or someone you’re trying to impress. I’ll have to return to try the pasta, fish, ribs and more of that octopus. The prices are reasonable. With four beers and all that food, our night out cost about $70.00. Without booze, our bill would have been forty bucks.

Bridgette 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Cabos San Lucas · Mexican

Los Cabo – Day One

My husband L and I usually go somewhere hot and cheap for a week in the winter. Since we can only travel in the high season, I try to save wherever I can. I have a Westjet credit card, which meant my husband’s airfare, using my companion pass, was only $299 plus taxes. I booked a room through Airbnb, a one bedroom in the heart of downtown Cabo for about $70 a night including taxes and the service fees. For transportation, I paid about $160 CAN roundtrip with Cabo Shuttle Service, which included a drop-off to a grocery store.

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We landed and ignored the timeshare people as instructed by Cabo Shuttle Company. We found our driver easily, as he was carrying the sign of his company. We guzzled down two cold Coronas each in our Suburban ride, making a pit stop at Walmart for limes and water, then to La Europa for tequila and beers. I saw online that La Europa sold my favourite champagne, Piper-Heidsieck for only 550 pesos, which is roughly $35 Canadian, a steal considering it costs me about $60 in Calgary. Unfortunately, there was no Piper-Heidsieck in stock. Instead I bought ice-cold Pacificos for about $1.10 Canadian and Don Julio Anejo for $33, which goes for about $68 at my local Highlander.

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After we settled into our new digs, we went searching for tacos. A popular place near our accommodations is Tacos Guss. Yelpers raved about the homemade tortillas and the large selection of fresh toppings.

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I could really taste the difference eating homemade corn tortillas, which were hot, crisper and thinner than the store-bought ones. We ordered two al pastor (pork) two arrachera (skirt steak) and one asada (beef). The skirt steak tacos were my favourite. Mouth-watering, the delicious tender meat was smoky and flavourful. I didn’t get to try the asada because L accidentally ate it.

Guss.jpgL didn’t care for Tacos Gus pastor (pork) tacos, as he found the meat dry. There was only one server and he forgot to bring us our beers (twice), as well as our tray of condiments and napkins. When I went to pay, I had to ask for the cashier to take our beers off our bill, as we never received them. I would come back for the steak skirt tacos. Tacos cost between $2.00 – 3.00 Canadian.

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We met my friend Naomi and her sister at Monkey Business. Monkey Business is a small open air bar, located next to a shopping centre full of kiosks. It’s not fancy but the quality in the booze here shines. Free wi-fi is available.

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I would estimate about two full shots of tequila are put in each margarita. Monkey Business uses fresh fruit juices and herbs for their drinks. You can watch and see how much time and care is put into each drink. My favourite drink was pineapple on the rocks, with a request of “less sweet, more booze than juice”. The margaritas are about $9.00 Canadian.

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Our bartender gave me some coloured felts and a pin. I didn’t understand why we were given these until L snickered and pointed up to the ceiling. L said, “He wants you to put your underwear on the ceiling”. I responded to our bartender, “But I’m not wearing any!” I could feel L cringe with embarrassment (for the record, I was wearing an undergarment).

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Naomi asked for a napkin and provided her contribution. I made a dirty joke (quietly of course) and her sister thought I said, “I wonder if the underwear will fall on your head.” Naomi shook her head and said, “I don’t know what HittingtheSauce said, but I know it wasn’t that. She would say something much more gross.” Naomi knows me well.

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At this time, we were all ready to eat. I asked our bartender Christian where we should go to eat. He drew L a map and wrote “Four free margaritas” on it. He said the prices were reasonable, locals ate there and there would be options for vegetarians.

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Misiones De Kino is a nice restaurant, with an open air patio. We got our free margaritas too, and there was plenty of tequila in it. Naomi and her sister shared the vegetarian fajitas and guacamole. The selection of vegetables for her fajitas looked limited.

meal.jpgL thought his fish tacos were fine. I thought it was interesting that the salsa and guacamole were served in empty avocado shells. The beans were placed in a potato shaped tin foil.

fish tacos.jpgI I ordered the Fettucine with Scallops (230 pesos) in Misiones de Kino’s special cream sauce. The scallops were plentiful, plump and perfectly cooked. I could not believe the number of fat scallops that were on my plate. The pasta itself could have been a bit more al dente.

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Day one in Los Cabo done. Highlights included finding  Don Julio tequila for cheap and seeing my buddy Naomi, and making a dirty joke in public.

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Italian · Pizza

Il Centro

On Friday, I planned and hosted my husband’s 40th birthday party so  I thought I deserved a night out by Saturday.  I picked Il Centro as my ex-neighbour highly recommended their pizza. I mistakenly thought Il Centro would have a quiet, romantic ambience like La Luna Rosso. Il Centro is more the sort of place you take that loud talking friend or that relative that can’t handle their wine. Il Centro is a casual, family friendly restaurant, popular with larger groups.

I have painfully good hearing. I don’t try to eavesdrop but what happens when you hear all the conversations around you? Anyway, when L and I were waiting for our table I overheard customers talking politics. One table was chatting about MLA Sandra Jansen’s floor crossing to the NDP party. Another table was talking about a city councillor (I’m pretty sure it was Evan Woolley) that was supporting Uber’s anticipated move to Calgary. However, I didn’t hear anyone talking about religion, so that was a good thing I guess.

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We had reservations, but we had to wait a bit for someone to set up our table. There were only three servers that night, working frantically to bring out food. I saw a server bringing out samples of wine to three female customers waiting for a table. He looked geniunely concerned that they had to wait (for about 15 -20 minutes).

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There were only two types of red wine served ($13.99). I read that the calamari (16.50) was good, so L and I started off with that as our appetizer. The ringlets were huge, but not as tender or clean tasting as La Luna Rosso’s version. La Luna’s calamari is smaller, but the squid has such a nice taste to it, almost like they soaked it in buttermilk before frying it up. The tomato sauce on Il Centro’s calamari was slightly sweet. The portion was enough for four people.

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We shared a small Stuzzicinia pizza ($18.50) and the Homemade Gnocchi ($26.50) with ham and mushrooms. If you have questions about the menu, don’t expect too much patience. When we were debating the size of the pizza, the server was abrupt, just short of rolling his eyes.

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L said Il Centro’s pizza was phenomenal. The crust was light, not thick or thin. All the ingredients tasted fresh. The raw tomatoes were cut thick, its juices made the pie a touch soggy. I ordered some jalapeno pepper and garlic oil ($4.50) on the side.

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The gnocchi was my favourite. The rose sauce was creamy and sweet. The gnocchi was fluffy and soft. Everything just melted on your tongue. I thought Il Centro’s version was even better than Mercato.

This little pizza joint was very busy and obviously popular with regular customers. It’s about the same price or a little more than La Luna Rosso. I’m still on the hunt to find my favourite Italian restaurant in #yyc. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

Il Centro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato