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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ascari Enoteca - first dinner out of 2012




We eat out a lot. In fact, we probably eat out far too much but I am going to try to share some of our favourite restaurants this year to try to justify it so here you have it - this is my first restaurant meal of 2012.

We live in The Beaches in Toronto (or The Beach which is what The Beaches has decided to change it's name to after a billion years of being called The Beaches - whatever). I live in The Beaches. I love it here. I love being by the water, I love walking the boardwalk, I love all the stinky wet dogs, I love all the kids and the chaos, I don't even hate the tourists who flood my neighbourhood all summer and I love feeling like I live in a little beach town tucked away inside the biggest city in the country. What I don't like is the lack of restaurant choices that don't involve chicken wings, chicken wings, sushi and more chicken wings. This means if we want to stay close to home but eat real, tasty food we have to venture to either The Danforth or Leslieville.



Some of our favourite spots are in Leslieville and now there is a new kid on the block in Toronto's east end and we are very happy about this one. It's by the same team that gave us one of our other favourite restaurants, Table 17 and we have been anxiously awaiting it's opening.  Ascari Enoteca is an intimate little place with a small but delicious menu and a great place to go for some wine, a couple of shared appetizers and perfect  bowl of freshly made pasta.

It was getting late and we were all starving. I will be honest and admit our first thought was to try out the new Pizza Libretto on the Danforth but when I called it was a 45 minute wait for a table or a seat at the bar and that would have meant not eating for at least an hour and a half. I was about to just give in and go to the pub and have WINGS AGAIN when I remembered Ascari Enoteca was now opened and so I gave them a call and they said that they could have a table for us. We hopped in the car and drove right over and sure enough, there was a nice little table set up for the three of us as promised.

The place was almost full and the music was not too loud which is perfect for Shack, who is half deaf and can't deal with really loud music mixed with chatter and other ambient noise.  Shack's musical tastes run very old man and his playlist basically ends with music made before 1964 so he was pleased as punch to hear some Sam Cook. If you are under the age of 58, you may not know who Sam Cook is so don't feel bad about that but I do suggest you go listen to him anyway. Okay, Shack is only 40 but he has the musical tastes of a man twice his age and thinks that Roy Orbison and The Platters have been robbed every year that they are NOT nominated for a Grammy. When he isn't eating pasta, he is shaking sticks at children and threatening to not give them back their balls.

Not only was our server lovely and helpful but when we asked about where they had found the really cool tables, the manager sent a text to the owner immediately to try to find out  for us and took our information so that she could let us know as soon as she heard back. Yes we are weirdos who get exited about things like interesting table tops and flooring.  Oh, and when Shack, a formula one fan, expressed his appreciation of their coasters, the waitress gave him the set of four to take home. That kind of thing goes a long way, no?

We didn't want to go crazy so we just ordered one app, the pitta de patate which is a nice little slice of a potato gratin with a crispy crust that comes from a generous coating of grano padano. We had a bit of a fork war over the last bits of that with The Kid coming out on top, as usual but since he had already peeled off the entire crispy crust to eat, there was no point in fighting any further.

We skipped the other apps and salads but I look forward to trying more stuff and lingering longer the next time but it was late and we were all a bit tired and hungry. We also had to be home in time for a rousing game of euchre with The Neighbours last night - we are both sounding more and more like old farts as we go along, aren't we?

"Let's push the twin beds together after we finish our game of cards mother, I'm feeling frisky. Wait , I just have to take my cholesterol pills and trim my bunions first. Put on some Sam Cook!"

Cassarecce

I ordered the cassarecce, Shack had the cavatelli and Little Shack ordered the spaghetti a la chittara. Mine was full of really flavourful little bits of homemade sausage, peppers and lots of caramelized roasted fennel , Shack's pasta was equally delicious with enough duck confit to satisfy but not so much as to overwhelm the dish and The Kid's pasta was simple and perfectly delicious. All of the pasta's had the chewy bite of fresh, homemade pasta and none of the sauces took away from that - the star of all three bowls was still the noodles with their respective sauces there to complement them. I was also pleased to see that the portions were big enough to make me feel satisfied but not so big that I left feeling like I had overeaten. Those are my two pet peeves with pasta - either I feel like I have just paid $20 for a tiny bowl of pasta that leaves me wanting another bowl OR I get served a mixing bowl full of pasta that I will tend to finish because it's delicious but then I feel disgusting afterward. I know it's not a restaurant's job to manage my portion control and deal with my complete lack of self control and I sound stupid complaining about food being TOO generous and TOO delicious, but I really do have little self control when I am served tasty food and I appreciate a reasonable portion size is all I am saying.

This is the type of place that I would go to every week for a glass of wine and a bowl of pasta if it were a bit closer to me but I am learning to live with the fact that if I want to eat anything other than sushi or wings, I have to venture out of The Beach and make my way to Leslieville and we look forward to our next visit to Ascari. Next time, we will take a nap first so we can stay out later than 9:30pm.

yeah, we didn't enjoy it all
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