Location: 118 John Street, Toronto
I know that this is an odd complaint that most people probably won’t agree with, but I’ll admit that restaurants that offer a million different combinations kind of bug me. If you’re going to do this, at least give me a few suggestions so I have an idea of what works well together. How am I supposed to know which sauces compliment which pasta varieties? And which toppings work best with those? I’m not a chef. Why are you getting me to do your job for you? Do you want me to come into the kitchen and cook my meal as well?
Which is to say that at The SOS they have 11 types of pasta, 10 sauces, 11 toppings, and absolutely no guidance on what goes best with what (at least not without asking the cashier and holding up the line like a jerk, which I didn’t particularly care to do).
Thankfully they have a daily special; on this particular day it was panko-crusted mac and cheese, which I obviously ordered.
It’s quite tasty. The pasta is perfectly al dente, and the sauce is incredibly rich and creamy, with a mild cheesy flavour. The crispy panko offers a nice bit of texture. It’s slightly underseasoned, and nothing about it rocked my world, but it’s a solid bowl of mac and cheese.
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.