I am often sentimental and very driven in that sentimental respect by taste memory. I recently met a guy in a store and found out that his dad owned a restaurant where I had adored the gateau basque 30 years ago. On the spot, the guy could have sold me anything. And so it was with Giulietta, the new resto from two guys who have all my attention — and my taste buds on high alert. They are Rob Rossi and David Minicucci.
Rossi closed my beloved Bestellen a year ago. That restaurant produced my fave red meat in town, a sexy steak with oozing marrow studded with coarse salt and parsley. Minicucci and Rossi also own my equally adored L’Unità, a superb pizza ’n’ pasta bistro at Ave and Dav.
They revamped the old Bestellen space, using very cool tones of grey, fabric on the walls to absorb sound and clever tubular lights. The aesthetic is turbo-charged, thanks to touches like old silver flatware: Minicucci bought 3,000 pieces of silver and spent a week polishing them.
And we love the servers. Minicucci runs the front of the house like a tuned Maserati, all grace and efficiency. You want wine? A knowledgeable wine waiter explains, offers tastes, oozes warmth. As do the food servers, and they too exude professionalism.
Maybe my #1 dish is the octopus, which chef Rossi poaches for three hours to tenderize it. Then he grills and finishes it in the blistering hot wood oven to add a crispy char. Heaven! Sitting this divine creature on splendidly creamy borlotti beans with dots of fabulous puckery salmorglio, sauce made from lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano and parsley, is inspired. We’re also blown away by the funghi trifolati—hen of the woods and other fungal exotica in lemon-scented brown butter with gilded garlic cloves.
We are not, however, so in love with olives wrapped in sausage meat and deep-fried. This reads more sophisticated than it eats. Same for tubular pasta in white wine tomato sauce with seafood. Nicely cooked seafood in bland tomato sauce. Better mains are classic char-blistered pizzas from the wood oven. By far the most interesting is La Giulietta, a classic white Sicilian pizza with smoked scamorza and cream under melting pig fat and pistachios.
But one has a slight feeling of gastro-boredom. The bland tomato sauce, the weird olives and then the slightly unfortunate gianduja cake for dessert. Gianduja, in my world, is next to godliness. What could be better than a compendium of dark chocolate and toasted pulverized hazelnuts? But this gianduja cake schmecks of corn syrup and resembles a not-quite-moist-enough flourless chocolate cake. Not even close to as good as the sweet wet boozy baba au rhum topped with mascarpone cream and candied orange.
Consistency is the name of the game here. Or at least it should be. This is a serious kitchen with all best intentions, and some great chops. They just need to get it all under control and up to the same high standard.
Giulietta, 972 College St West, (416) 964 – 0606.