Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Named one of the top Italian restaurants in Toronto, I've had my eye on this restaurant for quite a while. Did not fail to impress :) Although I recommend reserving ahead of time because it gets busy quickly.

Where: 1288 Dundas Street West
(Ossington and Dundas)
Toronto, ON
M6J 1X7
416 534 1200
Price: $$$ ($100 for 2 people, no wine, tip/tax included)

'Enoteca' (Italian for "wine library") began as simple tasting rooms for local wines. They were usually sponsored by the state so visitors to the region could taste wines from local producers without having to travel to wineries. Over time, Enoteche (Enoteca plural) grew into full-service restaurants.

A 'sociale' on the other hand is a wine-making facility that is shared by a community - it's sole purpose is to produce wine for the community - which brings us to Enoteca Sociale. Enoteca Sociale collaborates both elements to create a special social neighbourhood wine bar that include wines from all over Italy as well as Ontario.

Unfortunately neither J or I have much experience with wine and have not learnt the art of appreciating wine so we decided to skip out on it. We did, however, sample a variety of food.

Enoteca Sociale - View into Kitchen
J and I got there at 4:30 for the 5:00 opening (they let us in at 4:45). Enoteca has sectioned off a communal table and bar table for walk-ins and a more intimate and private table section for reservations. Seeing as we needed a 24 hour notice, J and I had to opt for the bar - perfectly fine because we ended up chatting to the bar tender who was wonderfully informative and definitely knew the drinks and food very well. 

Smaller tables for reservations
Executive chef (former Black Hoof-er) Grant Van Gameren has created a menu that features shareable plates and daily house-made pasta - all of which is inspired by classic Roman cuisine that incorporates local Ontario ingredients.

Simple and small menu
The menu is small and concise and very Italian (think, lots of ONOs, ANOs, ICCIs and ELLAs). Thank goodness J and I did some research beforehand or we would have looked majorly confused..  

Bread and Olive Oil
(can you see all the wine in the background?
This was only ~a third of their selection!)
As most Italian restaurants do, they started us off with house-made bread and a plate of olive oil. They were kind enough to leave the entire bottle with us so we could drench our bread even more so if we wanted to :).. The bread was warm (good indication that it is fresh!!) and oh-so soft.. I could have easily eaten the entire bowl had it not been for a gentle reminder from J..

Arancini con Mozzarella di Bufala & Soppressata ($14)
Despite the painfully Italian name, this dish was basically risotto, rolled in bufala mozzarella cheese and then deep fried and served with house made marinara sauce. Crispy exterior with a creamy cheesey gooey goodness in the center. Eaten alone is on the bland side and Enoteca took note of this by accompanying it with a delicious, fresh and very well seasoned sauce. We use up every bit of the sauce with the bread we were given : )

Grilled Octopus
Pepper Tuffo & Potato ($19)
The octopus is not the chewy slippery consistency that I'm used it - instead it's slightly charred on the outside but extremely tender. Too bad octopus isn't always done this well :( 
Salt Cod & Potato Raviolo,
 Taleggio, Capers & Mint ($16)
Yes, that is ravioli - it's actually 2 LARGE raviolis (think the size of your hand). While you might not think this is filling - this was actually the staple of our meal . The raviolo is perfectly al dente and the filling is generously filled with salt cod and potato. The real winner was the sauce they drizzled expertly on top. Slightly acidic so as not to be overwhelmed by the heaviness of potato and salt cod, which was what really made this dish a pleasure to eat. 

PappardelleOntario Lamb Ragu,
House-Smoked Guanciale & Pecorino ($18)
Sadly, the most popular dish was our least favourite dish of the night. There was very little lamb..and very little lamb flavour for that matter. J and I really like the game-flavour of lamb so when we found very little of it.. ultimately we were disappointed. While the flavour did disappoint, the technique was impressive - the pasta cooked al dente, and the lamb meat pieces were not at all dry.

Panna Cotta
with pear mostarda, pine nut
and rye flake crumble ($9)
One of the big winners for me was the panna cotta. Added to the menu by GVG himself, this was by far the best I have ever had. The rye flake crumble added a crispy and crunchy crumble to the already smooth and silken panna cotta. Truly, we could have asked for a better finish to our dinner

With it's homey, cozy interior, Enoteca Sociale truly resembles a sociale. It offers an extensive wine list and serves amazing food. While it IS recommended that you reserve ahead of time, at least half the restaurant is available for walk in - just remember to get there early!

Enoteca Sociale on Urbanspoon

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