FRESH AND FABULOUS is the formula here, with a hopping room and a star-studded menu of Italian classics that sate young and old, famished and fickle. Tables are packed in tight, lit by domed rectangular candles, and conversation seems communal. This is not a place for provocative powwows.
The menu divides into appetizers, salads, pizzas, pastas and mains, keeping on the straight and narrow with traditional offerings.
The fresh calamari griglia appetizer knocks our socks off ($12). Each morsel of grilled squid meat is perfectly tender without a hint of rubberyness. Its natural sweetness is enhanced with garlic and fresh herbs. Fruity, meaty kalamata olives and oven-roasted tomatoes contribute welcome complexity, and a mound of blonde frisee rounds out the ensemble. A squiggle of balsamic-honey reduction swims in a puddle of olive oil alongside. A perfectly balanced plate.
Balsamic also plays a role in insalata di spinaci con funghi ($10), this time as a just-bold- enough vinaigrette lightly drizzled onto fresh, crisp baby spinach leaves and a stir of sautéd diced earthy mushrooms. A substantial sprinkling of grated pecorino romano cheese, made from sheep’s milk, gives the toss a sharp edge. Toasted almond slivers add crunch.
Only a pizza pro would be able to tell that the pies popping from the cookhouse here, delivered on wooden slats, were not prepared in a traditional pizza oven.
Crisp house-made crusts are almost rectangular in shape, playing pedestal to 11 meaty, mushroomy or cheesy options. Control freaks create their own ($19) from a list of ingredients that includes all the standards but also the likes of clams, eggplant, fennel, smoked salmon, brie, tuna, truffle oil and pesto.
STRATTO WINE & GRILL
1977 Avenue Rd.
Dinner for two excluding tax, tip and alcohol:
The Carlotta sees slices of kicky Italian sausage, beautifully bitter rapini (not mushy!) and roasted garlic jostling for space under a blanket of mozz ($15) while the Stratto Select compiles potato, rosemary, chicken and Gorgonzola with roasted garlic-infused olive oil ($17).
Stratto hand rolls their own gnocchi, as evidenced by the soft, pillowy dumplings tossed with sautéd chicken bites, sweet and salty Gorgonzola dolce and big chunks of walnuts ($16). We are grateful for the restrained portion, as it would be easy to overindulge in this favourite.
Other pastas on offer run the gamut: from spaghetti Bolognese to linguine with mussels, clams, shrimps, calamari and scallops.
Veal, chicken and seafood dominate the list of mains.
A trio of treats in the house- made dessert sampler ($6) both sates sweet tooths and pleases palates. Finely diced strawberries in balsamic tumble down around a cube of mild vanilla mousse; fresh mint leaf decorates airy tiramisù; and popping blueberries and sweet raspberries swim in a chocolate- drizzled citrusy pudding that tastes almost like lemon sorbet in cream form. Ideal portions for a first-class finish.