We have been hearing others sing the praises of Ascari Enoteca for a while, the Italian restaurant from the same people behind a favourite of ours, Table 17. The stakes were high as every dish we received carried a risk of being too much – too salty, too sweet, too jarring – and yet, none of the flavours veered into those traps.
We started with the appetizer specials of the day. The first was asparagus with speck, Parmesan Zabaglione, and preserved lemon vinaigrette. The second was Quaglia: pan roasted quail with Agrodolce grapefruit reduction, farro, chiogga beets, and baby mustard greens. Both the asparagus and quail were perfectly cooked, and the citrus aspects of both were subtle enough to simply make the dishes refreshing.
Ascari Enoteca’s pasta are made fresh in house, daily. So, of course, we had to have the pasta. We have come to expect pasta to be covered in some sort of sauce so it was a surprising to receive dishes that appeared to be sauce free. The flavour was still there, and complemented by a range of textures.
My significant other ordered the Orrechiette con Salsiccia, which featured small ear-shaped pasta mixed with housemade sausage, rapini, chili, garlic, lemon, and oregano pangrattato. The wheat pasta itself did not make much of an impact in terms of flavour, but it was al dente. It served as support for the scattered sausage, the freshness of the vegetable, and the crunchy bread crumbs.
I ordered the Tagliatelle all’Anatra, which was made up of what tasted like wide and flat egg noodles with duck confit and Tuscan kale in porcini stock, and some sunchoke puree and pistachio pesto. The stock soaked in well into the pasta, which remained firm. The duck was very tender, and the pistachios were wonderful little nuggets of nuttiness that were neither too hard nor too soft.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Ascari Enoteca, 1111 Queen Street East, Toronto, Ontario
Dined June 2014 – Junggugeo Kaenada