By: Natalia Dziubaniwsky
Italian is one of my absolute favourite cuisines. I visited Italy for the first time a couple of years ago and was blown away by the cuisine and overall philosophy of food. I was amazed at how meals made from scratch using a few simple ingredients could be so mind-blowing and memorable. Ever since then I have been chasing that same experience, and jumping at the chance to try out new Italian fare at Ovest Cucina e Vineria in Toronto.
I dropped by Ovest to give their newly expanded modern Italian menu a try. A large, open-concept restaurant, Ovest reminds me of a wine cellar without the chilly temperatures. Decorated with wine bottles and wooden barrels, it feels quite intimate despite its size and is very warm and inviting with a soft yellow and orange glow as if warmed by a calming fire.
Their menu is divided into the following categories: appetizers, cured and raw plates, cured meats and cheese plates, extras, pasta, Roman style pizza, mains with meat and fish and side plates. There are very many options to choose from depending on your appetite and the reason for your visit. Whether you’re looking to share appetizers amongst friends, sit down for a full meal or just popping in for a snack and glass of wine, you will find something for everyone.
Here’s a look at what’s cooking in Ovest’s kitchen:
Carpacci e Crudi (Cured and Raw plates)
Carpaccio di Pesce Spada ($19) – Smoked swordfish carpaccio with fennel and orange wedges. A light way to start the meal, this was truly delicious. The fish was delicate with a buttery texture. I especially loved the addition of citrus to this dish; it adds a nice light contrast of flavour and a subtle sweetness. The smoking process takes two days to complete and it’s smoked on ice so that it stays raw. This is a pricey dish and I only wished there was more of it to savour and devour.
Gnocchi con Pesto di Pistacchi ($19) – A simple yet delicious dish of hand rolled potato gnocchi in a creamy pistachio pesto with a topping of crispy pancetta. All gnocchi should taste this good – plump and soft as pillows, the gnocchi melted in my mouth. The pistachio pesto was a nice change from the usual pesto I am accustomed to. This dish is deceivingly filling and on the heavy side so you’ll want to plan your meal around it accordingly.
Il Polentone ($33) – A rich and meaty braised rib dish with pork sausage served on a bed of polenta and a tomato porcini mushroom sauce. The polenta was firm on top with a soft centre, while the rib was very tender and pulled right off the bone. The sausage had a nice spice to it and was equally enjoyable.
Fritella con Ricotta e Miele ($6) – Lightly fried bread with a pinch of salt served with fresh ricotta and Ontario honey. This is a nice little snack if you’re just looking for something to nibble on.
Sicilian Cannoli ($8) – This was the biggest surprise of the evening. Cannoli are not something I would typically purchase and truthfully I never really appreciated the hype. Turns out I just hadn’t experienced a good quality cannoli and had no idea what I was missing. I didn’t feel like I would have any more room after my filling meal, but I had no problem consuming these. The shell was so light and crispy, unlike the thick pastry and waxy ones I’ve had in the past. The ricotta filling was so airy and velvety with a hint of sweetness. The plate was finished off with a dusting of pistachio, dried and candied fruit.
The service and hospitality at Ovest was exceptional. The level of knowledge behind the production of the dishes, wine pairings and general passion of our server was evident making for a more memorable experience. I would like to return in the future to try a new pasta dish and dessert and perhaps another main.
Ovest is located in Toronto’s West-end at 788 King Street West and is open for lunch on weekdays, dinner daily and late night snacks Thursday through Saturday.
— Natalia Dziubaniwsky
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