Restaurants & Bars 15

Ascari Enoteca, new in Leslieville

KAYLO | Feb 6, 201211:35 AM

Sad to say, two visits, once as a couple, once as a quad, convince us that this new little-dish Italian wine-bar in Leslieville, from the folks who brought us Table 17, is not for us.

Good points:
1. pleasantly professional yet informal service, which is tricky to do and rare in Toronto
2. open kitchen
3. the food is good
4. solid fry chef
5. by-the-glass selection priced close to the bottle price, no rip off.

Bad points:
1. very limited menu, without a single hot protein dish. Potato tart, bacala fritters, cheeses, charcuterie, olives, beans as tapas, four salads, five pasta mains. That's it. Not a grilled fish. Not a bit of veal. Nothing.

2. laughable prices. $5 for beans. Just beans. 5 cents' worth of beans on a small tapas dish. Pasta mains $15 to $25 each, without a single expensive ingredient. Shredded duck meat (the fanciest) sprinkled on top is NOT a big deal, but big bucks for pureed parsnips or Jerusalem artichokes, brussels sprouts, etc.? "black truffle scented" pasta wasn't. That would actually cost money.

3. Incredibly rich sauces and salads. A cheap and comforting way to up the flavor and satisfaction is to load everything with butter and cream. Check. The brussels sprouts salad ( chosen for us by the waitress, and the best choice, I believe) was great for people who don't like sprouts. Oily in a good way and heartily flavored.

4. Incredibly starchy menu. pasta, beans, potatoes...

5. Starchy AND fatty menu. We had the salt cod fritters(the fish was almost tasteless, so it was just a perfect ball of fried starch) and the banana fritters, perfect ball of fried starch. One came with a savory dip, one with a sweet. Otherwise interchangeable.

6. Deuce tables in the front spaced 6" from neighbors. "Intimate" it was not, more like embarrassing, with eavesdropping unavoidable. Great self-control not to participate in the conversations on either side.

That being said, it was busy both weeknight visits with a child-free 35-50 year-old clientele, several all-female tables. I will be interested to see how it does after the novelty wears off.

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