The Big Ragu
1338 Landsdowne Ave
Always found free parking on Landsdowne or in the bank across the street.
"Chowfind" status is an upgrade from "very worthwhile destination", see previous review. What has changed is that we have been there a few more times and there
is now not a new chef but a co-chef; prices remain unchanged and good.
With respect to me, perhaps I've gotten smarter. I have been eating a lot of fish recently. I certainly have had more experience.
The new co-chef has come from a couple of fancy Italian places downtown. But there is no frou-frou in his cooking. He seems to have melded perfectly into the existing cooking character. What he has done has been to take very good dishes and cook them as if exuding an aura. This is not to take away from the owner-chef who is really good, but the cooking has to be better now that there are two good cooks in the kitchen, rather than one who also has to manage the restaurant.
So on the last trip we had the assorted cold fish appetizer plate for two (or for one as a main), $20,
Calabrese lamb ragu on penne, $10.99, orechiette (the little ear shaped pasta) with rapini (Italian bitterish greens), sauteed in anchovy paste, garlic, grated cheese (strong flavours very well handled and balanced to make the dish reasonably light in taste) $11.99, each big enough for two if you move on. Indeed, we stopped here but for excellent cappucino and the complimentary shot of Italian alcoholic herbal digestive.
I cannot imagine how the dishes could have been better, but I have little on which to base my thoughts. I have never been to Italy and my experience with Italian cooking has been limited by choice- one can extrapolate to my opinion of Italian restuarants from the fact that there are 500-600,000 Italians in the Toronto area and for pizza (other than for the kiddies) I have to go Buzzy's in Niagara Falls NY (Big Ragu's is good for Toronto, but it ain't no Buzzy); forget about bread (minor exception, San Remo on Royal York and the bakery on Painted Post in Scarborough).
We had also been to one of The Big Ragu's once-a- month-more-or-less special prix fix nights, dedicated generally to the cooking of a region in Italy. We went to fish night. Lots of good food served family style (had three bowls of the broth from the mussels), lots of wine, live entertainment, lots of fun. The whole evening cost $120 a head all in. This is the cost of an emminently forgettable (except for my crankiness after) evening in a chi-chi yup-yup place downtown.
As for the wine, I should add that the chef-owner has a talent for finding wines which are reasonably priced but intrinsically good and go beautifully with the food.
If I can't get the link below to my previous post to work I will try again