When you find the perfect noodle in a cozy-casual space that serves up a smart-but-unfussy wine list: that's amore. Inspired by our Restaurant Awards judges' picks, we're sharing some of the best Italian restaurants in the city for your next Italissimo love affair.
The place screams focus, but it never feels studied: there’s chef/owner Greg Dilabio, dialled in at the front of the open kitchen and steadfastly hand-making the sublime pastas that form the bulk of the small chalkboard menu. There’s FOH maestro, Antoine Dumont, making every-one in the small room forget about the wait (this is no-reservation territory) and transporting you to what feels like that perfect trattoria you happened upon during your trip to Italy years ago. The entire effect is that of comforting brilliance at a shockingly low price point.
There may be a new fresh pasta spot opening every week, but our Restaurant Awards judges flock back to the classic and fastidious preparations that come out of chef Pino’s kitchen (a kitchen, we might add, that he helms nearly every night of the year).
Chef Adam Pegg wows us year after year with his near-perfect encapsulation of regional Italian dining. In this cozy, cheap-and-cheerful, neighbourhood spot, find some of the best pasta dishes in the city—the agnolotti di Bruno is unforgettable.
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The fluid menu changes frequently, but already there are some stalwart dishes that have become sought-after signatures: a bagna cauda of such warmth and depth that it grounds the entire dining experience as a joint venture between diner and chef, an old-school garlic bread that shows a kitchen confident enough to put delicious before stylish, a take on rosemary-lemon grilled chicken that sets the city’s standard with its balance of rusticity and class—all backed by old country-inspired cocktails and a hyper-focused all-Italian wine list that’s only slightly more dense than Dante’s Inferno (but far more rewarding). Read our first review of Savio here.
With cacio e pepe there’s zero room for error—either you can make just cheese, butter and black pepper work with pasta or you can’t. Chef Montaner can, and his version with bucatini (the advertised lumache shells were out that night) was all you could ask for with just the right amount of give to the noodles, just the right amount of cling to the sauce. And it’s $18. The garganelli comes with properly crumbled fennel sausage and is covered in shavings of pecorino and, with the peas, plays three chords as well as the Ramones ever did. See the full Autostrada review here.
In true Italian tradition the casual venue suggests starting your meal with a Spritz apertivo and finishing it off with a smooth coffee. The rest is up to you, and with an assortment of antipasti and fresh hand made pasta prepared by co-owner and chef J.C. Poirier—formerly of Campagnolo and Lumière—you really can’t go wrong.
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