It all started when Restaurant Makeover showed their "Massimo's" episode. I'm always interested in Italian cuisine, and especially well-priced good Italian cuisine. So Food Network Canada pushed me to go to College near Spadina and check it out. Because the show looked so good and they wouldn't have changed that much, surely. Experts were involved.
First thing I notice is that the space is somewhat dark. So I grabbed a window seat. Wasn't in the mood for pizza, so I went for an "Italian salad" and "Penne Arribiata". Of course, the "Salad Milanese" from RM was not offered. Have to try and make it myself at home sometime, it looked pretty tasty on the show.
Italian salad was your basic lettuce, tomato, cucumber mix with some kind of vinaigrette. Might have been red wine vinegar, could have been balsamic. Nothing remarkable, nothing awful, nothing that I couldn't have made at home better.
Then the penne. Goodness gracious, the penne. It wasn't crunchy, but it certainly was chewy. And the sauce had a bit more depth than canned tomatoes mixed with hot sauce, but not much. Covered in some kind of grated white cheese, looked better than parmesan nuggets and tasted better than parmesan "cheese product". But overall I wound up buying some Altoids original later to get the lingering taste of the sauce out of my mouth.
And it did come with a very nice bun with some garlicy butter and some green stuff I will say was parsley. Also, RM should have spent some quality design time in the bathroom. Although I'm sure they had three bottles of dishwashing liquid down there for a reason. There should be a prize offered by the management to the customer who can give them the most creative explanation.
Well, tonight I went to King Slice on Bloor West deciding I might as well try another lower budget place. I knew their pizza was top notch so I decided to go for pasta again. Got the spaghetti al tonno, spaghetti with tuna. And a beer. Didn't want to face another salad I could make better myself.
What a difference. A sauce loaded with tuna without being too salty, actual ingredients in the sauce besides tomato chunks and hot sauce, like herbs and capers. Capers. I looked at them for a second, not believing my eyes. There were also some nice touches, like some black olives and two grape tomatoes that were heated all the way through as opposed to being added on as "garnish" at the last minute. The way the grape tomatoes exploded warm sweetness into your mouth to counter the slight saltiness of the tuna and the slightly less sweet tone of the rest of the sauce was really nice.
There was some sliced up green onion sprinkled on top as well which I didn't hate and didn't love. And the spaghetti wasn't crunchy. Or chewy. It was very well cooked indeed, maybe not al dente enough, but really I am being very fussy with this observation. I would happily eat spaghetti with sauce like this every day. The bread wasn't as nice (it was one of those break-apart garlic-like loaves where every piece you break off is shaped like a biscotti), but it wasn't awful.
So, quest for cheap Italian food. Neither one measures up to my beloved Quattro Regazze, but King Slice did pretty good and I will definitely be going back. I might try a slice at Massimo's to see how they measure up, but I won't be going out of my way to do it.
302 College St, Toronto, ON M5T1R9, CA
1598 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6P1A7, CA