A Simple (but Delicious) Sandwich at Mattachioni

MattachioniLocation: 1617 Dupont Street, Toronto
Website: http://www.mattachioni.com/

If it weren’t for Toronto Life’s list of the best sandwiches in the city, there’s no way I would have ordered the mortadella sandwich at Mattachioni.  Aside from the fact that the pizzas looked very, very good, the mortadella sandwich is quite bare bones — it’s just mortadella and fresh mozzarella on tomato focaccia bread.

Mattachioni

But of course, sometimes the simplest things are the best.  If you’re dealing with really good quality ingredients, less is more.

The contrast between the tender, salty mortadella and the creamy mozzarella works really well (fresh mozzarella has a radically different texture than the rubbery shrink-wrapped balls at the supermarket — it’s soft, creamy, and luxurious).

Mattachioni

The fluffy, slightly chewy focaccia is quite good too, though I wish it had a bit more texture (it was soft throughout).  It was also soaked through with olive oil; it gives the sandwich a nice greasy heft, though it might have been a little bit too much of a good thing.

Still, it’s a very tasty sandwich.  I don’t think I’d put it on my list of the best in the city, but I don’t begrudge anyone for putting it on theirs.

Mattachioni

I also got to try a little bit of the Margherita pizza, which was absolutely outstanding (I didn’t take a picture of that one, sadly, so you’ll just have to take my word that it looked and tasted amazing).

Mattachioni

They have both custard and dulce de leche bomboloni for dessert (a.k.a. Italian doughnuts).  I tried both, and while they were tasty, they definitely weren’t on the level of the sandwich or the pizza.  They were a little bit too dense, with a slightly oily flavour.

Tasty Fried Veal at San Francesco

San FrancescoLocation: 5101 Dixie Road, Mississauga
Website: http://sanfrancescos.com/

There’s nothing quite like a veal sandwich.  It’s just a whole bunch of fried veal and rich tomato sauce in a hearty bun.  It’s probably not something you want to be eating on a regular basis (unless you’re keen on getting a massive heart attack), but every now and then it has to happen.  It’s pure, unadulterated comfort food.

My go-to is California Sandwiches, but a location of San Francesco recently opened near me, so I figured I’d give them a shot.

San Francesco

You can choose from all kinds of toppings for an additional fee, but I went with the basic sandwich and ordered it spicy, which meant it came with a generous amount of blazing-hot jalapenos.

The thing that stands out the most about the sandwich is how incredibly tender the veal is; it might just be the most tender veal I’ve ever had in a sandwich like this.  Your teeth glide right through it like butter.  It’s amazing.

San Francesco

The exterior is moderately crispy, but not quite enough to hold up to the sauce — it sogs up almost instantly.  It’s not quite as good as California Sandwiches in that regard.

Speaking of California Sandwiches, I think their sauce is marginally better; the sauce here is quite tasty, but it feels like the flavour could (and should) be amped up by a notch or two.

San Francesco

I think California has the overall superior sandwich, but it’s very, very close.

The sizes are a bit funny.  They have two sizes: baby and regular.  I ordered the regular, and my dining companion ordered the baby.  As it turns out, I (and anyone with a normal-sized appetite) would be perfectly happy with the baby.  Regular is enormous.  Baby should really be called regular, and regular should be called jumbo.

Quality Pasta (and Even Better Dessert) at Terroni

TerroniLocation: 1095 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.terroni.com/

I didn’t think it was possible to be offended by a bread plate, but Terroni proved me wrong.

The bread plate at Terroni costs six dollars.  And fine — I understand that restaurant margins are dangerously thin, and that charging for bread is increasingly becoming a thing.

Terroni

The issue is that the plate comes with three tiny, dried-out slices of over-toasted white bread with a few drops of olive oil sprinkled on, four pieces of taralli (which is essentially an Italian breadstick), a small handful of olives, and… that’s it.  No butter, no olive oil, just mediocre bread and a few olives.  For six bucks.  Get the hell out of here with that.

Terroni

Thankfully, the rest of the meal was much better.

I had the Garganelli Geppetto, which is a pasta dish that comes with “dandelions, homemade spicy italian sausage, fontina, parmigiano, extra-virgin olive oil.”

Terroni

A dish like this is a bit of a tightrope walk — the “sauce” is essentially oil, so it’s going to be somewhat greasy by default.  But this one goes a bit too far, and feels oilier than it should be.

Still, it’s a tasty dish — the sausage is above average and has a mild spicy bite; the cheese adds a good amount of saltiness and a mild funk, not to mention some gooey meltiness; and the pasta itself is perfectly cooked and satisfying.  It’s good stuff.

Terroni

I can’t remember the name of the dessert and I can’t find it on the menu online, but it was essentially a croissant filled with Nutella, hazelnut gelato, and whipped cream.  It was easily the highlight of the meal.  It was shockingly delicious; the Nutella and the creamy gelato (which adds even more hazelnut flavour) go amazingly well together, and the tasty croissant is a perfect vehicle.

Ice cream cones are officially dead to me — I want all my ice cream in a croissant from now on.

Tasty Pizza at Goodfellas Wood Oven Pizza

Goodfellas Wood Oven PizzaLocation: 209 Queen Street South, Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.goodfellaspizza.ca/

I mentioned, in my review of Pi Co., that I think a Margherita pizza is one of the world’s few perfect foods.  I’m at the point now where if I see a Margherita pizza on a menu, I pretty much have to order it.

Aside from the fact that it’s great (don’t even argue about that unless you want me to challenge you to a old-fashioned duel), it’s the easiest way to gauge the quality of a pizza joint.

Goodfellas Wood Oven Pizza

There’s no hiding behind fancy toppings or sauces; it’s just crust, plain tomato sauce, mozzarella, olive oil, and basil.  You have to know your way around a pizza (and a pizza oven), or you’re probably going to mess it up.

And Goodfellas definitely passes the Margherita test, though I will admit that I got very concerned when I saw the waiter bringing a neighbouring table a pizza with a crust that looked flat, colourless, and horrible.  I was ready to dive out the nearest window and then run until my legs gave out from under me — but then I heard a reference to gluten-free, and all was right again.

Goodfellas Wood Oven Pizza

If you can’t (or won’t) eat gluten, maybe don’t eat pizza?  Don’t ruin something great for yourself by eating whatever the hell that was.  It looked truly dire.

Thankfully, the actual, non-gluten-free pizza is pretty great.  The proportion of cheese and sauce is just right, and the crust is top notch (ah, sweet sweet gluten).  It was slightly over-charred in spots and maybe a touch too dense, but it was still very tasty.

It had just the right amount of crispiness without being too crunchy, and a satisfying chewiness that contrasts very nicely with the sauce and the cheese.  Like all Margherita pizzas, it’s simple, but hard to resist.

Amazing Fresh Pasta at Famiglia Baldassare

Famiglia BaldassarreLocation: 122 Geary Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://famigliabaldassarre.com/

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.

Famiglia Baldassarre

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.

Famiglia Baldassarre

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.