As a resident of Little Italy in Toronto, I’ve been long overdue for a visit to Trattoria Giancarlo (41 Clinton Street), a culinary landmark for traditional upscale Italian fare. We made phone reservations just 30 minutes in advance on a Friday evening with no issues at all. They aren’t on OpenTable.
Upon arrival, we were initially apprehensive about the tiny (and empty) front dining area. So when the host walked us through the front room, into a corridor, and then turned us to the right, we were relieved to find ourselves in a large and lively dining room – clearly the heart of the trattoria. I felt a little like Alice in Wonderland.
We settled in at our table. Patrons seemed comfortable and happy. This is definitely not a hipster hangout. The focus is on delivering a fine dining experience in an old school 1980s way. The decor is a fusion of new and old. Cozy exposed brick walls are accented by a collection of variously shaped coffee kettles, reminiscent of the mid-century modern style. A huge mirror leans forward on the North wall, allowing diners to watch the kitchen counter. There are numerous expensive wines on offer on the chalk board.
The menu features Italian classics like carpaccio, ravioli and linguine, and veal. The male server is prompt, cordial and efficient – not quite warm and friendly. My partner and I each enjoyed a glass of Merlot. Unfortunately I have forgotten which bottle (!).
A friend of mine had told me about the amazing meat dishes there, but neither of us was in the mood for meat. I also can’t go to an Italian restaurant without having pasta! So we opted for:
- Funghi, baked mushrooms, balsamic vinaigrette, grilled polenta with Parmigiano ($16)
- Ragù, spaghettini in a house made veal ragu ($25)
- Pag, linguine, roasted tomato & shrimp in a Pinot Grigio roasted garlic sauce ($24)
- Cioccolato, warm , soft centre chocolate cake, sea salt caramel ($12)
Funghi were giant baked mushrooms. This was delicious and really garlicky. The mushrooms were so tasty and cooked to perfection. I woke up the next day still smelling like garlic. So do get this if you love garlic, but be warned!
Ragu was a traditional Italian veal tomato sauce pasta. This was done very nicely. You know when you get that sweet tomato umami flavour after hours of simmering a sauce? They nailed it. The pasta was cooked medium. I assume all Giancarlo pasta is housemade, but I didn’t ask to confirm. Too busy enjoying the food!
Pag was a nice shrimp linguine. The sauce was a tiny bit too sweet, in my opinion, but still totally scrumptious. There was a generous amount of nicely cooked tail-on jumbo shrimp.
At this point, we were stuffed but … there’s almost a tiny bit of room for dessert, right? After hearing a server recommending Cioccolato to our neighbouring table, we decided to try this soft-centred chocolate cake. It was to die for, with a deep chocolate flavour throughout, and super soft middle. One of the best lava cakes I’ve had. I only wished I didn’t have to share! So good!
My partner and I enjoyed our “fine dining experience” at Giancarlo. Food and atmosphere were lovely. I’d recommend this as a nice spot for special occasions. I didn’t see any children so not sure how kid-friendly. Next time, I’ll be trying the carpaccio as well as the much-raved-about meat dishes!
LettuceMeat rating: 4 out of 5
41 Clinton Street
Chef: Eugenia Barato