Celeb chef arrives with new casual Italian trattoria

THE MENU MAY stick to a classic Italian theme, with a dedicated page for bambinos, but the room itself boasts a modern, sophisticated feel.

Symmetry defines the space of black, white and red: eye-catching light fixtures hang in even rows from the ceiling, dark-wood chairs and tables plus slightly elevated banquettes sit positioned at precise angles, entranceway closets and couches mirror each other at the hostess table. A span of windows runs along one wall, a busy open kitchen the other.

Elegant, room-length dividers carve the room into three, which succeeds both in creating necessary intimacy in the high-ceilinged space and in making it difficult to catch our young but efficient and friendly server’s attention.

Antipasti, insalatas, zuppas, grilled plates, primi (pastas) and pizza make up the menu, with rosemary and salty indulgences abounding. Many tastes sampled impress, but this month-old endeavour has a few kinks to work out still. A separate section of “Fraticelli favourites” and graphic boxes around certain individual offerings on the pages denote consulting celebrity chef Massimo Capra’s and resident chef Mario Barone’s two tiers of recommendations.

Caprese ($12) is but one suggestion, and in many ways the salad succeeds: whole fresh basil leaves and generous slices of fiore di latte mozzarella sit snugly in a partially sliced hothouse tomato — juicy, firm and appropriately chilled. Just-pitted black olives ring the fruit. The bed of arugula underneath, however, drowns in goopy, over-reduced balsamic and extra virgin olive oil.

The kitchen also flourishes with a few elements of another appetizer: fritto misto ($12).

A light, greaseless batter envelops expertly timed fried calamari rings, fennel slice and zucchini fingers. Alas, where are the shrimp? And the basil in the accompanying aïoli?

A single sprig of decorative green rosemary stands tall on an otherwise brown-coloured plate of butter-basted, 28-day-aged New York strip loin, rosemary potatoes and a stir of balsamicy caramelized onions and figs ($29). Flavours abound, but textures could use some work — as in, oily potatoes and a few mouthfuls of gristle in the meat.

Peppery, bitter arugula leaves prove the perfect foil for this pizza’s excellent San Daniele prosciutto slices and shavings of salty parm-reg ($14). Stone baking at 750 degrees renders the thin crust crispy in just minutes, although the pie cools and softens quickly. Whole wheat dough is usually available.

A short selection of Italian desserts includes the likes of cannoli, gelato and ricotta cheesecake. Spumoni bomba ($7) comes recommended by the menu and by our server but not by me.

The massive wedge is too large a serving. While the multiple layers of ice cream, cake, pistachio and cubed candied cherry bits are as expected, too much drizzled orange essence and chocolate sauce plus grated orange rind make this brightly coloured indulgence over the top.


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