Fried Chicken and Spaghetti at Jollibee

JollibeeLocation: 800 Boyer Boulevard, Mississauga (inside Seafood City Supermarket)
Website: http://jollibeecanada.com/

Jollibee opened locations in Scarborough and Mississauga in the last couple of years, and they were both immediately swamped.  People love Jollibee with a passion that’s unusual in the world of fast food.

I tried visiting the Mississauga location a couple of times when it first opened, and both times the line was way too intense.  But I figured it was safe enough to give it another shot, and yeah, the extreme crowds have died down.  I showed up at around 11:20 AM on a Friday and was able to order immediately, though by the time I left a line had already formed.

Jollibee

I ordered the Crispy Chicken Perfect Pair, which comes with a piece of fried chicken, Jolly Spaghetti, and a drink.

I assumed I’d like the fried chicken (and I did), but the spaghetti was a bit more of a question mark.  It’s topped with meat sauce with chunks of hot dog mixed in, and it’s notorious for being quite sweet.  I was expecting something in line with Chef Boyardee.

It’s interesting; the sauce is, as advertised, quite sweet.  But it’s also tangy, and kind of reminded me of a cross between a traditional tomato sauce and barbecue sauce.  It feels like it shouldn’t work, but it kinda does.  The salty hot dog slices help to round out the sweetness, as does the cheese on top.

Jollibee

The spaghetti itself isn’t exactly al dente, but it’s not mushy, either.  The whole thing is oddly compelling.  I liked it.

The fried chicken is more straightforward.  It basically tastes like KFC original recipe, but with a slightly more subtle flavour.  The chicken was nicely crispy on its exterior and very juicy inside.  It’s a quality piece of fried chicken.

Jollibee

Even the gravy is a bit more unique than you might think; it’s definitely not the typical brown gravy you’ll find at a fast food joint.  It’s a little bit sweet, and there’s a spice in there I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  It works really well with the fried chicken.

I ordered the peach mango pie for dessert, which is crispy and fried, as it should be.  The filling is basically a fruit-flavoured goo (there were maybe like two or three tiny bits of fruit in there), but it’s still quite tasty.  It’s basically impossible to go wrong with a deep fried pie.

Jollibee

Okay: I get it.  I get the lines.  It’s certainly not the best thing ever, but I can see why people who grew up with Jollibee have a deep fondness for the place.  It’s pretty unique.

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.