Sunday, March 18, 2012

Swooning Over Campagnolo

416 364 4785
832 Dundas St. West

For months now I have been eagerly awaiting a special occasion to check out Campagnolo, one of Toronto's hot spots, located on trendy Dundas West. Specializing in rustic mostly Italian fare, Campagnolo is known for its "good honest come cooked food", with many comparing much of the menu to the type of food your "nonna" would make. Turning out a new menu each day based on what's fresh and in season, Chef Craig Harding certainly has his work cut out for him. With rave reviews left, right, and centre, it came as no surprise that in order to get a reasonably-timed reservation, we had to book our table about three weeks in advance. Although if you're looking for an get early or late dinner, you may get lucky with a walk-in. The special occasion I had been waiting for to finally check out Campagnolo was my moms birthday. With my mom, aunt, and sister in tow, we walked into Campagnolo with high expectations, and walked out with smiles on our faces, full bellies, and a wonderful experience.

Unpretentious, casual elegance.

Crisp on the outside, and warm and tender on the inside, succulent slow roasted short rib shredded and breaded in homemade breadcrumbs, with horseradish mustard adding moisture and giving the bitterballen a great little zip. This composed little dish is like your grandmothers beef roast reimagined.

Burrata is a treat that I don't get to indulge in very often due to this decadent cheese's high price tag. So when I am able to splurge a bit on one of my favourite cheeses, I want to make sure it's done right! For months now I've been hearing people rave about Campagnolo's sinfully delicious Fresh Burrata Cheese with Roasted Grapes and Toasted Bread, and this dish sure didn't disappoint. A warm, soft, and buttery pillow of fresh burrata cheese sits atop crisp toasted bread, drizzled with fruity olive oil, with the roasted red and green grapes adding a touch of sweetness. But it was the hint of saltiness that really brought this dish together, allowing the subtle flavours of the burrata to really sing.

Unfortunately, the only disappointment of the night. I loved the fennel in the tomato-based sauce, but with the fishy taste and slightly mushy texture, it wasn't my favourite. I was glad to have saved my final bite of "bitterballen" for last.

Walking into Campagnolo, I already knew that I wanted to order some sort of pasta, because, quite frankly, I just can't say no to house made pasta at a great Italian restaurant. This dish caught my attention firstly because pappardelle is my favourite of all fresh pastas, and because I wanted to go a little bit outside of my comfort zone. I have actually had a pappardelle and rabbit dish before at another restaurant, and as much as I loved the flavour, there was something about the texture of the big pieces of rabbit in the dish that made me a little squeamish. I decided to take a chance on a pappardelle and rabbit again at Campagnolo and boy am I ever glad I did! This was one of the best pasta dishes I think I have ever eaten, with the silky ribbons of fresh pappardelle enveloped in a salty broth, and delicious pieces of savory shredded rabbit and meaty black trumpet mushrooms making its way into each and every bite, all topped off with freshly grated parmesan cheese and chives. As full as I was after all those appetizers and a big plate of pasta, there was no way I could leave so much as one noodle behind. I savored every single bite, swooning over the delicious flavours and textures. I can imagine that from afar, it must have looked as though I was having a love affair with my plate of pasta.

Thoroughly satisfied and stuffed to the brim, it would have been easy for us to turn down dessert...that is, until we heard the dessert specials. My face lit up at the sound of Campagnolo's Tahitian vanilla ice cream coated with toasted shredded coconut, resting in a pool of coconut fluff, with sous vide pineapple, hot chillies, and fresh mint. With such a fantastic meal already, we were curious to see if the dessert would hold up to the rest of the meal. Once again, we found ourselves blown away by the unique flavours in this dish. My favourite part of this dessert was the hot chillies, which added an explosion of flavour to each bite, balancing out the sweet coconut fluff. Right on point with both flavours and textures, cross your fingers that this will be on the menu on your visit to Campagnolo.

Despite the disappointing mussels, my meal at Campagnolo was still one that I would consider extraordinary. The food was simple, unique, and absolutely delicious, the atmosphere welcoming, and the service exceptional. I would highly, highly recommend checking out Campagnolo for your next special dinner out, in fact, I'm pretty sure I've recommended it to every single person I've spoken to in the two days since dining there!

Listening To:
Jesus and Mary Chain - Just Like Honey

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1 comment:

Callie Grayson said...

Sounds absolutely amazing! I love rustic Italian, and the flavors you described are making my mouth water.