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7 Numbers--Review

Burke and Wells | Jun 27, 2003 01:09 AM

Burke and I have been in Toronto nearly a week, with few notable food adventures. Money has been tight, so we’ve limited ourselves to low-priced excursions. The corned beef and tongue at Yitz’s (Eglinton Ave. West) are fine, but not outstanding--the potato pancakes were an outright failure. We enjoyed a surprisingly successful espresso at Café Demetré, on Eglinton Ave. East (skip the ice cream, it’s overpriced and under flavored). But further down the road, on Eglinton Ave. West, practically across from Yitz’s, there’s a better coffee and a real meal to go with it. We found 7 Numbers.

This small, bustling corner trattoria, only open evenings, is no secret. My Internet researches turned it up the moment I begin to explore Ontario food culture, especially on Chowhound. My first glance left me hoping for more atmosphere and perhaps a little more space, but the pleasure is in the people, the truly Italian welcome, the energy. Our table in the back was loud and public, linoleum and mismatched chairs, right by the pickup counter. It felt like someone’s kitchen--in other words, it was heaven.

As in Tuscany and Umbria, the courses were many but small. Our antipasta was prosciutto and figs in balsamic for Burke (heady, dense, salty-sweet) and feather-light fried calamari for me (tender, delicate, oily in the best possible sense). For primi, Burke enjoyed rigatoni with ricotta, while I dove into a veal and beef lasagna--properly cooked. Al dente is wonderful for some pasta, but not a baked dish like this. The style was different, more acidic and tart than the lasagna we had in Florence but just as comforting.

Mains were even more impressive. My veal shank was falling off the bone. This is not an expression: every time I touched it, another hunk fell off the bone. A few of the garnishing peas had been exposed to the oven overlong, drying out and hardening them, but it didn’t detract from the delicately seasoned meat. Burke’s “Sexy Duck” was crispy and not at all fatty, perfectly complimented by a side of grilled peppers.

The espresso and cappuccino had viscosity and deep flavor, but the real surprise was dessert. Burke’s lemon tart was powerful, authentic, brimming with fresh-cut zest. My chocolate torte had a stunning lightness for a flourless dessert. I don’t think I’ve encountered anything that light and cocoa-intense without the use of egg whites or nut meal as a base--how did they do it? I have to ask Vito.

Vito caught me on the way out. “I hear you were complaining.” I nodded. “Yeah, and we left half the food on our plates.” Laughter turned to compliments, then to discussion, then to recognition. Seems Vito follows Chowhound and noticed our arrival in Toronto. His mother does the cooking, and is a wizard to be reckoned with.

Perhaps Vito can tell us why it’s called “7 Numbers.” I know the seven numbers are 1447582, but what do they mean? It’s not a telephone number. Perhaps it’s the combination to a safe, wherein some great treasure is kept. Our meal, with two glasses of wine and tip, came to around $80, and we’d have paid much more and called it a bargain. A treasure indeed.

--Peter Wells

7 Numbers
343 Eglinton Ave. West
Toronto, Ontario M5N 1A1
416-322-5183

A Burke and Wells Review

Link: http://www.burkeandwells.com

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