Quick Bites: Red Lobster, Tuck Shop Kitchen, Lola’s Gelato

Lobster-topped stuffed tilapia from Red Lobster
Lobster-topped stuffed tilapia from Red Lobster

I used to love Red Lobster as a kid.  It was my birthday restaurant for pretty much the entirety of my childhood, so I still have very warm, fuzzy memories of the place.  Every several years I feel the need to go back to indulge my nostalgia and remind myself that no, it’s not very good.  The lobster-topped stuffed tilapia was actually surprisingly terrible; the flavour was one-note salty and it was absolutely doused in an unpleasant cream sauce.  The rice tasted like one of those Uncle Ben’s packets from Dollarama that’s been reheated about a dozen times.  The whole thing was just a straight-up bummer.  I do still enjoy the biscuits, however, so there’s that.

Smoked Butternut Squash and Egg sandwich from Tuck Shop Kitchen
Smoked Butternut Squash and Egg sandwich from Tuck Shop Kitchen

Though they had more traditional breakfast sandwiches on their menu (which they serve only on Sundays), I was intrigued by this one, which comes topped with “Applewood smoked butternut squash ‘Bacon’, Canadian cheddar, egg and roasted garlic aioli on a toasted sesame bun.”  It’s a tasty sandwich, though like with most items labeled as vegetarian bacon, the squash did not resemble anything even vaguely related to bacon.  It was just a smoky slice of squash.  Still, it works quite well in the sandwich — my only complaint would be that it’s a very rich sandwich, and needs something acidic to cut that down a bit.  The menu lists pickled jalapenos as an optional one dollar addon, and I think that would be the thing this sandwich is missing.

Candy Cane Bark gelato from Lola's Gelato
Candy Cane Bark gelato from Lola’s Gelato

I feel like everyone (myself included!) sleeps on Lola’s because it’s so far out of the downtown core, but every time I go there I’m impressed by how great the gelato is.  This visit was no different; I was particularly struck with the quality of the gelato itself, which is incredibly rich and creamy.  And the flavour was great, with a nice balance of mintiness and chocolate.  Their assortment of flavours tends to be a bit more basic than places like Nani’s or Mizzica, but when the gelato itself is this great, who cares?

Weird (and Delicious!) Gelato at Mizzica Gelateria & Cafe

Mizzica Gelateria & Cafe
Location
: 307 Queen Street West, Toronto
Website: https://www.instagram.com/mizzicagelato/

Mizzica recently opened a second location at Queen and John, and clearly they haven’t missed a step because the gelato I just tried was absolutely fantastic.

Actually, I think this flavour perfectly encapsulates Mizzica’s greatness.  It’s a bit of an odd one, and almost certainly wouldn’t have been much more than an interesting novelty at any other gelato shop.  Here, on the other hand, it was surprisingly delicious.

Mizzica Gelateria & Cafe

That flavour?  Gorgonzola, mascarpone, and pistachio.  Yes, that gorgonzola, the famous Italian blue cheese.

It’s honestly shocking how delicious it is.  The gorgonzola flavour is actually quite pronounced, and yet it totally works as part of this sweet scoop of gelato.  I couldn’t even tell you why or how.  It shouldn’t.  But it does.

Mizzica Gelateria & Cafe

The sweet pistachio paste that they top it with complements it perfectly, and the whole thing is luxuriously creamy and so much better than you’d imagine.  With a lot of weird flavours like this, even when I like them, I think, well, I never need to have that again.  But this was legitimately delicious.  I could eat it a million scoops of it.

Quick Bites: Pizzeria Via Napoli, Ikkoi Japanese Family Cuisine, Nani’s Gelato

Pizzeria Via Napoli
Margherita pizza from Pizzeria Via Napoli

I suppose you could order something from a Neapolitan pizza joint that isn’t a margherita pizza, but why would you?  As I’ve mentioned before, it’s the perfect food.  It’s also a great test of a restaurant’s chops, because it’s so simple that if your technique isn’t on point, and if the ingredients you’re working with aren’t great, it’s going to show.  Pizzeria Via Napoli’s version absolutely hits it out of the park; the crust is flavourful, perfectly chewy, and has a good amount of char on its exterior (including the bottom of the slice).  And the other ingredients are just right.  Margherita test: passed!

Ikkoi Japanese Family Cuisine
Ramen from Ikkoi Japanese Family Cuisine

Speaking of food that’s perfect: ramen.  It’s the best.  I ordered the tonkotsu ramen from Ikkoi (they serve several other styles of ramen, along with sushi and other Japanese standbys), and it’s pretty decent.  Is it the best bowl of ramen that I’ve ever had?  No; their menu is so broad that they’re probably spreading themselves a bit thin.  But there’s also absolutely nothing wrong with it.  I wouldn’t go out of my way for it, but if you’re in the area and you’re craving a bowl of ramen, it’s worth a shot.

Nani's Gelato
Dark Chocolate Oreo at Nani’s Gelato

Nani’s continues to be great.  I don’t particularly feel the need to write about Nani’s every time I eat there, because I think it’s fairly clear by this point that I think Nani’s serves some truly stellar gelato.  But I would like to note that, even though it’s not technically on the menu, Nani’s does have a kids size cup that’s pretty much the perfect amount if you’re not super hungry.  It’s the same size cup as the small, but the gelato pretty much only goes to the brim instead of being mounded way up.  I’m not sure why they don’t advertise this size, but I’m definitely glad I know it exists.  And now you do too!

Amazing Gelato at Mizzica Gelateria & Cafe

Mizzica Gelateria & Cafe
Location
: 29 McCaul Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.instagram.com/mizzicagelato/

The first thing you see before you enter the door at Mizzica is a big banner with the various awards they won at the Gelato Festival World Masters, which certainly seems like a promising sign.

Mizzica Gelateria & Cafe

And then you try the actual gelato, and it’s pretty clear why they won those awards — holy moly it’s good, please give them all the awards.

Mizzica Gelateria & Cafe

They have a bunch of delicious looking flavours, but I went with the Cassata Siciliana, which is based on an Italian dessert of the same name (which is basically a boozy cake filled with candied fruit and creamy ricotta).

Mizzica Gelateria & Cafe

It’s so good.  It’s filled with chunks of cake, dark chocolate, candied fruit, and sweet ricotta, and everything about it is crazy delicious.  The balance of all the ingredients is just right, and the gelato itself is super smooth, rich, and creamy.  I was wondering if they could keep up that stratospheric level of quality; I’ve been back a few times since this particular visit, and yeah, this place is the real deal.  It’s some of the best gelato in the city.

Quick Bites: Pho Tien Thanh, Ice Creamonology, Nani’s Gelato

Pho Tien Thanh
BBQ Pork on Vermicelli at Pho Tien Thanh

Not a ton to say about this one — aside from the pork being a bit dry, this was a tasty version of a classic dish.  Most of the herbs and veggies are under the noodles, so you’ll just have to take my word for it, but there was a really good proportion of meat, noodles, herbs, and vegetables.  The meat was a little bit sweet and nicely savoury, and the whole thing was thoroughly enjoyable, if nothing too mind-blowing.

Ice Creamonology
Blueberry White Chocolate Cheesecake at Ice Creamonology

I wasn’t crazy about Ice Creamonology on my first visit, but I’ve been back a couple of times and it’s definitely getting better (or maybe it’s just growing on me?).  The ice cream is nice and creamy, and while it’s still a bit stretchier than your average scoop, it’s not as gummy as it was the first time I tried it.  I will say, however, that I haven’t been back since they’ve moved to Queens Quay, so I have no idea how it holds up now.

Nani's Gelato
Pumpkin Pie soft serve at Nani’s Gelato

I recently mentioned that the Pumpkin Pie Blizzard from Dairy Queen is the king of Blizzards, and this is basically just that, but a billion times better.  I tried this last October (I’m still working my way through my backlog since the blog came back from hiatus);  if you like pumpkin pie, the next time Nani’s brings this back (hopefully sooner than next October), you need to try it.  It’s so good.