Italian Kitchen just like Momma made it

By Jordan Fritz

So we walked in the door — on the left, a happenin’ looking pub called Spur and on the right a sleek, elegant dining room. We’re greeted with a glass of wine — Valipocella — and told we can walk around and check the place out. The decor is a mix between cozy and sophisticated — the western wall is composed of a beautiful, dark mahogany-hued brick — without distracting from what we’re there for: food.

We started off with a traditional antipasto spread including Italian salamis, capicola, fresh ricotta and more, along with fresh bread. This was the first sign that executive chef Miles Assoun refuses to use inferior quality ingredients. The next course was white truffle and wild mushroom risotto, prepared in front of us by chef Bruce. Italian arborio rice, a mixture of fresh wild mushrooms, white truffle oil and chicken stock finished off with grana padano cheese, marscapone, chiffonade parsley and thyme. Dense, rich and beautifully flavourful. Let’s be serious, though. Anything involving white truffle oil is going to be delicious.

We then moved back to our table, scotch in hand, teased by the preceding courses. Given the more-than-generous portion sizes our charismatic waiter Thomas suggested we share our selections.

Our ricotta gnocchi came out first. Hand-made gnocchi with broken sausage and wild mushrooms, topped off with veal stock and more of that delicious grana padano. The gnocchi was perfectly prepared with a soft, even texture throughout. The dense flavours of the sausage and mushrooms were balanced out by the veal stock and grana padano like an accountant’s chequebook — very rich and very filling.

Thomas told us an old adage about the quality of gnocchi being a barometer for the quality of an Italian restaurant: lousy gnocchi, lousy kitchen; great gnocchi, great kitchen. This was the best gnocchi we had ever eaten, so our expectations for the final course were very high.

And out it came. AAA beef tenderloin steak served on top of buttery, organic mashed potatoes and baby zucchini, surrounded by a salty-sweet Chianti reduction and topped with a herbed-marscapone stuffed roasted red pepper. Everything melded exceptionally well. The slight acidity of the baby zucchini was kept in check by the subtle sweetness of the reduction. The stuffed red pepper accentuated the beef’s natural flavours without stealing the show. They even properly cooked the steak to blue-rare — a feat in this city.

Italian Kitchen offers top quality Italian-American cuisine without most of the pretentiousness associated with fine dining. The staff is friendly and relaxed — wearing simple white button-down shirts and jeans on opening night — while maintaining an air of knowledge and professionalism. With huge portions, incredible quality and prices lower than any other restaurant in the same league, Italian Kitchen will please any diner seeking something hearty, filling and maybe a little adventurous.

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