Location: 162 Ossington Avenue, Toronto
I was pretty much completely blown away by the carbonara at Bobbie Sue’s Mac + Cheese. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all, but in all the best ways.
I sort of figured it was going to be some kind of bizarre mash-up of mac and cheese and carbonara, but it definitely wasn’t that. It was actually a legit bowl of carbonara, and it was delightful.
The menu describes the carbonara as “pancetta + Grana Padano + egg yolk.” I really enjoyed it.
The diced pancetta (and yes, it was pancetta, as it should be — not bacon) was abundant and nicely crisped up — it was crispy, salty, and porky. The sauce was rich and creamy from the egg yolks, with a nice cheesy kick from the Grana Padano (an Italian cheese that’s very similar to Parmesan). And the pasta was perfectly al dente.
It was maybe slightly too dry, but aside from that it was shockingly good. You’re barely expecting a bowl of carbonara from an actual Italian restaurant to be that delicious, let alone a mac and cheese take-out window that doesn’t have a seating area. It’s a really delightful surprise.
Location: 122 Geary Avenue, Toronto
Famiglia Baldassare is a busy place. I knew this before I even went there, and yet I was still surprised at how busy it was.
It doesn’t help that the place is absolutely tiny, with maybe four or five small tables. It gets packed immediately, so your odds of snagging a table are slim.
My dining companion and I wound up eating on one of the handful of tables outside (that may or may not have belonged to the neighbouring coffee shop). It was cold and drizzly, and yet as soon as I started eating that amazing hand-made pasta, it all clicked into place. Totally worth it.
The “restaurant” is actually a side business for Famiglia Baldassare; mostly, they supply freshly-made pasta to various restaurants around the GTA. But if you come at lunch during the week (and are willing to brave the aforementioned crowds), you can choose between two delicious pasta dishes.
On this particular visit, it was cacio e pepe and carbonara. I went with the carbonara, which was indulgently rich without feeling overly heavy. It was cheesy and silky and amazing, with satisfying pops of meatiness from the guanciale. It was maybe a touch too salty, and I wish the guanciale had been crisped up a bit more (it wasn’t really crispy at all), but it was otherwise a superb bowl of carbonara.
And then of course there’s the pasta itself, which is the real star of the show. A really good fresh pasta is radically different from the dried stuff you can buy at the supermarket. It’s got that dense, chewy texture that’s fairly irresistible. It’s so good.
Also: don’t pass on the bread they have off to the side. It’s some of the best bread I’ve had in a while, so clearly, everything here is pretty great.