Zucca Trattoria makes a pasta that few others can compare to. I recently returned to Zucca for their Italian Seasons Menu ($55). I had been on a previous occasion for their special $25 prix fixe menu available Sundays through Tuesdays. Thanks to KitchenVoodoo and Googs for their reviews and recommendations which actually prompted me to pay another visit to this gem. I remember being very impressed during my first visit, both with the quality of the dishes, as well as the service. When the Italian Seasons Menu was brought to my attention, it sounded like a great opportunity to sample more of their creations.
The meal started with a rosemary polenta, just as Googs described. An excellent start to what turned out to be an excellent meal. The amuse really did make my mouth happy and I could not wait to taste the rest of my meal. The host was very knowledgeable of the floor and on top of everything. Our server was very friendly and he informed us that there was indeed a typo on the menu and that the price was $55, rather than the $60 posted. I guess this is what caused so much confusion on CH earlier.
Grilled polenta: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
SO started off their meal with the Berkshire pork and red wine sausage and I had the Savoy cabbage soup. The Berkshire pork sausage was exceptionally juicy and the flavours were well-balanced. Typically, I tend to avoid pork products because they are a bit one-dimensional and salty like nothing else. In this case, the wine offset the ‘porky’ flavour nicely by introducing a touch of sweetness/sourness. The accompaniment of polenta paired beautifully with the sausage and absorbed much of its rich greasiness. The soup, however, was the real winner. The sweetness of the cabbage was contrasted so well with its accompaniment of gorgonzola toast. The rich blue-veined cheese against the grilled bread it was presented with punctuated the silky sweet soup after every bite and really brought out the best in both. An amazing synergy was therefore created by the pairing of these two components.
Now onto what separates Zucca from the rest - their pastas. I ordered the truffle pasta, and SO ordered the squash ravioli. Even though KitchenVoodoo recommended against the truffle pasta, I just had to have it because I cannot turn down anything related to that beautiful fungus. I was so happy that I tried it and was blown away. The texture was what really made it special. The firmness of the pasta filaments held such bite and were perfectly prepared. The scents hit me as soon as the plate was set down before me, and the sauce was a perfect accompaniment to the noodles, which were the highlight. What goes better with fungus, than more fungus? The wild mushroom sauce was earthy, and above all else, not overly salted – Excellent and even mildly sweet. The few morsels of wild mushrooms draped atop the pasta were of an excellent texture as well. Their flavours were not at all lost in the sauce and held up quite well on their own. The sweet squash ravioli was indeed a wonderful antithesis to the more savoury truffle pasta, as Googs had pointed out. I had always been a fan of the flavour combinations and had even tried to make my own version (failed miserably, unfortunately as I did not have the proper tools to hand create my pasta). The squash was exceptionally sweet and tasted almost like a dessert course, especially with the sprinkling of crushed amaretti that sat atop the ravioli. Eating it alongside the saltier truffle pasta, it was a well balanced course. One without the other may have fell a bit flat, but together, it was harmony.
Next, we were introduced to the main courses. I had never had the mains at Zucca, and had stuck only with their pastas and apps. I was pleasantly surprised by the main courses, however, it fell quite short of the bar they set with their earlier courses. To be honest, I am not a fan of such traditional cuisine as I found out during my visit to Italy. I love their pastas and pizzas, however, when it came to regional meat-based dishes, I found them a bit heavy for my palate. I tried very hard to fall in love with osso bucco and steak Florentine, however, they just didn’t do it for me like Parisian food did. So that’s my disclaimer. I found the flavours a bit muddled and single-noted, but I guess simplicity is what is treasured in this type of cuisine. I would liken it to “bistro” food in Paris, or I guess Trattoria food: Simple, comfort food. But there were missteps. The guinea hen was also noted to be quite dry and overdone (at least for my tastes). The stuffing was nice and sweet, as was the accompaniment of apple puree. The sauce with the dottings of pomegranate were also playful bursts of flavour that added much needed moisture to the otherwise dry bird. The osso bucco was nice, though did not approach the superb level of their pastas. The risotto was excellent and I had a great time eating that with a smattering of sauce.
The polenta pudding was a nice conclusion to the meal. The ice cream side was a great foil to the pudding due to textures and temperatures. The pear was my personal favourite. The spicings used to braise the pear in permeated very nicely and elevated the sweetness of the fruit. I especially enjoyed the masala spicing, which made it taste a bit more exotic and unique. I should also point out that our server was very capable, and friendly, without being overly intrusive. They really do try to make you feel comfortable and relaxed. After each course we were always asked how we liked it and if dishes were slow in coming out, they apologized for any delay.
Overall, I would highly recommend Zucca Trattoria. I think it gives you great value for your money. Their pastas are amazingly prepared. Presentation is sometimes a bit lacking, but what they provide in terms of powerful tastes easily offsets that minor fault. Though I would be hesitant to try their mains in the future, I would surely return for their pastas. Perhaps the fish would be something to sample on my next visit, as I noted a lady at the table next door to us receiving a beautiful and moist piece of fish (the daily special) and hearing her oohs and ahhhs while eating it. Seems like the Sunday to Tuesday special ($25) would be a great opportunity for me to return and focus on their pastas! Great atmosphere, friendly service and excellent food, all for such a great price – where else can you find such value? Thanks to KitchenVoodoo, Googs and others for the reminder about this gem.
Cheers and Happy Eating!
2150 Yonge Street