F’AMELIA: Outstanding meal in Cabbagetown

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416 323 0666   |   $12-$15 Pizza and Pasta  

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I’d read a little bit about F’Amelia late in 2011, but admittedly forgot about it until this spring. I tried recruiting them for Dish Duel at that time because I’d read positive reviews, but again things didn’t work out. My most recent exposure was Toronto Life putting them into 2011’s top new restaurants, so I finally caved and decided to head over. Such a good decision.

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Food

Another concise menu foreshadowed a quality meal. There are really only six antipasti choices and eight mains outside of the pizza menu, so you know everything is there for a reason.

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We started with the best charcuterie plate I’ve had in a long time (the large version pictured above). I should have filmed a video of our server describing it, but here’s what I remember as highlights. The duck prosciutto on the top left is out of this world. The thinly sliced pancetta crusted in juniper and black pepper on the bottom left blew my mind. The apple mostarda in the little dish was full of sharp flavour, with the cheeses to its right creamy and subtle in their own way. Just a fantastic spread.

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Somehow, this might have been even better. Maybe the most tender calamari I’ve put in my mouth. Really fresh roasted tomato, fragrant fennel fronds and tasty bits of sausage all married to form perfect bites. Such a winner of a dish.

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The green asparagus risotto while prepared masterfully, was missing the stand-out flavours of the previous dishes. The lardo gave it richness and ramps were definitely there, but despite spears of asparagus cut up inside, you would have been tough-pressed to pick out the taste of asparagus.

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This super clean tagliatelle with braised rabbit (killer), brussel sprouts and wild mushrooms was very refined. The noodles were delicate and eggy, but I felt like it could have used just a bit more something (acid? sprouts?). Something.

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After the previous two ‘good’, but not great courses, this pizza recovered. For those who like a mild crispiness, while preserving the thin/chewy quality that makes great pizza great, this is a home run crust. We ordered the ‘Norcina’ version, topped with more of that great sausage, prosciutto cotto, mushrooms, and nutmeg. The nutmeg was really subtle, but made you appreciate the pizza a bit more every time to caught a hint of it.

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We finished with the selection of gelato - the only thing not made in house. That said, the chocolate was so smooth and filled with cocoa-flavour and the pistachio was subtle, but dead-on. The straciatella (just means vanilla and chocolate shavings) was meh.

Service and Ambience

I really liked the homey quality of F’Amelia. It did the name justice with its rustic charm. The natural light hitting the white-tiled floor just brightens up what would otherwise be a pretty dark space. It”s a good vibe on a nice day.

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Our servers were excellent throughout the night. Chumming with us, bringing everything out correctly at a pleasant pace, and making us feel at home. I’ve read reviews of poor service, but they clearly didn’t have any of our four servers. Kudos.

The Reco?

I know Toronto needs another Italian restaurant like a hole in the head, but every city could always use an authentic one that gets the cuisine right. This is one of those places. Many of our dishes were very near perfect, the service was welcoming, and we enjoyed our meal so very much. You should go.

Other reviews:
image Toronto Life  |   image Food Junkie Chronicles

image Posted by: Jacob, Visited May 5, 2012

F'Amelia on Urbanspoon

GUSTO101: Decent Italian 101

416 504 9669   |   $12-$15 Pizza and Pasta  

 

I’ll be the first one to admit I’m wary of ‘trendy’ new Italian restaurants in King West. As the area gets more and more saturated with restaurants, I get increasingly skeptical. A friend of mine said she’d enjoyed her last visit, so I brought of bunch of friends to check it out on a Friday night.


Photo Credit: Toronto Life

Food

The menu features everything you expect to see: fritti, insalate, antipasti, pasta, pizza, a few mains, and contorni. The variety is solid and the prices are surprisingly reasonable across the board which is refreshing given the area. 

We started with smoked eggplant and prosciutto on three large crostini (above). I don’t know if it was the campfire scent coming from the nearby pizza oven, but there was smokiness here and the simplicity of it was appealing and delicious.

Next was the calamari (above), which is always a good test. Definite pass with really tender, lightly battered rings. The roasted garlic aioli on the right tasted great too.

What I really didn’t understand was the pickled cucumber and jalapeno salad in the middle along with the balsamic reduction. The presentation was confusing since I was eating the calamari ‘chips-and-dip’ style, so I had to cut up the salad and use a fork to combine it all…at which point the flavours just didn’t make sense to me.

Another ‘gotta try’ item was the arancini (above). I order them every time I see them because I’m always in search of perfection. Even when they come up short, it’s hard to make them taste bad. To me, it’s gotta be thin and crispy on the outside filled with a 1/3 melted cheese, 2/3 risotto mix.  

These had a thin outer layer, but no crispiness. The inside wasn’t cheesy enough, although the mushroom and fontina risotto had good flavour to compensate.

For the mains, the table had two pizzas. The first was their classic prosciutto (above). For those of you who like crispier/floury crusts, this will be to your liking. I was also fond of the tomato sauce.

The other pizza was the Da Dee with thin slices of sweet potato topped with spanish onions, lots of crispy kale, and some cow milk mozzarella. It was pretty tasty, but I felt like the bitterness of all the kale wasn’t quite balanced with enough salt or cheese. 

We finished off with two pastas: a mushroom fettuccine and rigatoni with lamb shank. I thought the fettuccine was passed al dente, but what it didn’t lack was earthiness. It’s packed with portobello, oyster mushrooms, porcini AND truffle paste. That plate needed a green or something because that was intense.

The rigatoni was well-received around the table and the lamb was tender and not particularly gamy. 

One last thing, the dessert menu is pretty limited and there’s no beer on tap (only a few bottles available). The wine menu is quite extensive though and there’s even wine on tap. I had a cabernet sauvignon-malbec blend that was simple and fruity; it’s pretty good value too at only $1/oz.

Service and Ambience

From an interior design perspective, I really liked the grunge/loft feel. My guess is it used be a garage (there’s a big garage door at the front). Much of that ‘bricks and mortar’ style remains, and all the sunlight that seeps through from the front really lights up the place on a nice day. There’s a patio out front too, but it doesn’t yet have a liquor license if a drink in the sun is what you’re in the mood for.

On a busy Friday night, the staff managed to hold a table for six of us by turning two tables sideways. The improv was smart and worked for us. Our server was also knowledgeable about the menu and called all the women at the table ‘senorita’ (most of them enjoyed this). 

The Reco?

Toronto has yet another casual but authentic Italian restaurant that you’ll probably enjoy. Nothing on the menu wowed, but it all tasted reasonably good and the service along with the ambience charmed me. Couple all that with the fact the prices are reasonable and the location is central, and it’s a decent choice downtown.

Other reviews:
 blogTO  |    Foodies Inc.

 Posted by: Jacob, Visited May 4, 2012

Gusto 101 on Urbanspoon

FISHBAR: Happy hour, try the calamari!

647-340-0227    |    $8-14 sharing plates

 

Checked out Fishbar before heading over to Pizza Libretto, which is literally two doors down. Didn’t have the dinner menu, so don’t take this review as a be all, end all. Will most certainly be coming back for a taste of the full menu.

Food

The happy hour menu is relatively small featuring $1 oysters, fresh seafood choices, some deep fried options and salads. The beer menu features about five beers (shock top and sapporo both make an appearance) and a reasonably large wine menu as you’d expect from a seafood spot. I’ll do a quick breakdown of the four things we tried in order of preference:


Source: blogTO

- Deep Fried Calamari: very impressed by the tenderness of the relatively thick rings inside the breading. Would like to learn the secret. The crispy breading reminded me of the onion ring batter at burger king I remember as a kid (this is a good thing). The sriracha aioli was solid too. I’d re-eat this dish now…for dessert. Some of the best fried calamari I’ve had in a while.

- Smoked Mackerel Salad with apple slivers and a creamy anchovies dressing: like a Caesar salad but with some pronounced fish taste and a bit of apple acidity to cut through it. Despite the fact I found the salad a little overdressed, I liked the flavour and the thin crisp on the side helped add some texture.

- Oysters: we had some New Brunswick oysters served with various dipping sauces: variation on cocktails sauce, ponzu, and an apple jalapeño sauce (apple sauce consistency). The oysters in and of themselves weren’t as good as those I had at Starfish a few days ago, but keep in mind these were the $1 ones. The apple sauce was our favourite.

- Fried Smelt: it tastes like fried smelt is all I can say. Cheap option for snacking on with a beer.

Service and Ambience

Friendly helpful service, but there were a couple instances of ‘do we have that?’ or ‘we’re out of this’ that happened one too many times, especially with a small menu. Doesn’t necessarily mean the service was bad, just wish it’d been there or I’d known before I ordered.


Source: National Post

I really liked the look of the place. Long, skinny room with lots of exposed brick, and a nice size bar; high tables near the window out onto Ossington on a warm day is also a good addition. 

The Reco?

I was wowed by some of the dishes and OK with others, but I can see the potential from this limited sampling. I’d go back again for happy hour and would definitely give this place a shot for dinner. Look for a follow-up sometime in November.

Other reviews:
National Post    |    blogTO    |    PostCity

 Posted by: Jacob, Visited Oct 23, 2011

Fishbar on Urbanspoon