Centre Street’s new Italian diva

AT THE HEART of the restaurant infused intersection of Centre Street and Disera Drive beats Di Manno, Richmond Hill’s newest upmarket Italian hot spot. Those who want to see and be seen pack the sidewalk patio, giving privacy to diners inside who prefer a calmer, more romantic ambiance.

The room is striking with its black-and-white colour scheme, highlighted in places with a splash of vibrancy: here a pink bouquet of flowers, there a coloured glass bottle. The open bar acts as a sort of focal point, with its unique glass overhanging and bright lighting and its bustling bartender who turns out crafty cocktails to the Blackberry burdened.

Tea lights twinkle at immaculately set tables, reflected in both the doors of stainless steel and glass and in matching wine storage panels. Beautiful crystal water glasses and wine goblets and heavy silver cutlery complete the chic look.

The fancy-pantsy black bound menu divides into antipasto and salads, pasta and risotto, and meats and fish — with seafood, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes making frequent appearances throughout. Prices are steep from start to finish: Caesar salad appetizer ranks as the cheapest at $12 while New York Angus strip loin entree rings in at $48.

11 Disera Dr.
Dinner for two excluding tax,
tip and alcohol:

Raw meats and fish comprise a third of the appetizer list. Beef carpaccio ($17) brings a mound of peppery arugula topped with overlapping layers of thinly sliced USDA beef tenderloin under a blanket of Parmesan shavings. Although the assembly’s truffle oil seems amiss and the splash of lemon slightly understated, the marbled meat is plenty flavourful and the cheese incredibly rich and sharp. This meaty, bountiful starter, coupled with a few slices of marvellous still steaming house-made loaf from the breadbasket (crusty on the outside, airy on the inside), could easily sate as a main.

A lighter opener comes in the form of buffalo caprese ($18). The fresh heirloom tomato remains almost intact, with slabs of excellent buffalo mozzarella resting between the partially sliced fruit. A sprig of basil contributes colour and welcome pungency while drizzles of olive oil and droplets of balsamic vinegar add complexity.

Many dishes tempt from the list of nine homemade pastas and risottos (whole wheat or spelt pasta available). Crab ravioli ($26) sees plenty of half-moon pasta sandwiching intensely flavoured filling. Some of the ravioli noodles are cooked just so, others not quite enough. The robust crabmeat stands up to the tang of the generous helping of rosé and basil sauce while stewed halved cherry tomatoes add texture and sweetness.

Chicken supreme is the cheapest item on the meats and fish list at $29. Other offerings include Cornish hen; rack of lamb; sushi-grade tuna with mango, red pepper and pine nut salsa; and blackened sea bass.

Exceptional paddy pan squash, grilled zucchini and roasted yellow and red pepper quarters all cooked to perfection; hearty but not too buttery mash; and moist, tender chicken are artfully combined in the chicken supreme. Regrettably, the stuffing doesn’t deliver: not enough goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and brandy cream sauce leaves the assembly bland, and undercooked oyster mushrooms make mouthfuls chewy.

Service, like the dishes sampled, succeeds in some areas and not in others. Intentions are good, with general friendliness and affability dominating. But execution leaves something to be desired, with unfilled water glasses and an unpolished approach to ceremony.

Ratings are on a scale of one to five stars

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