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Apr 11, 2006 09:53 AM

The Big Ragu

  • m

We were in the Corso Italia neighbourhood on Friday night and, based on the recs of other hounds, decided to try out the Big Ragu at the corner of Lansdowne & St Clair. What a great place! Very small & homey - the owner & chef both did tours to chat with patrons.

It is a small regular menu with quite a few daily specials. We had the beef carpaccio, calamari and mushroom & arugula salad appetizers, which were all very good and on the regular menu. For mains, we had a stuffed veal chop, sausage & fagioli stew and gnocchi in cream sauce with "naked" ravioli (balls of the ricotta, spinach & herbs that would normally be inside the pasta pockets) - all daily specials. Everything was good - but the gnocchi was divine: very light & fluffy, they apparently make it every Friday, like they do in Rome. My only complaint was the "naked" raviloi was a bit strong tasting for me (too much sage, I think). Dinner for 3 (3 apps, 3 mains, 1 litre of wine and a couple of soft drinks) was $175 plus tip. We didn't try the desserts b/c we went to La Paloma 2 doors down for gelati (yum!).

We will definitely go back, but would make reservations next time. We were lucky to get a table in the small space with all the regulars.

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  1. I went with a few friends on Saturday night and because of my typical "don't make reservations" behaviour, we were seated in the downstairs grotto (which, looking back I preferred to the noisier and bustling upstairs). We too had the carpaccio and calamari as appetizersand made me wonder why I didn't order grilled calamari more often. The carpaccio was good too, but I don't particularly care for the raw mushrooms. A friend and I both ordered the fagioli and sausage, which we both thought was a good comfort dish while the other two ordered a pizza margherita and the pasta special (the spinach dumplings mentioned above and a fig ravioli). The spinach gnocchi met rave reviews and while the ravioli tasted pretty good, I thought the pasta seemed dried up in the edges and my friend thought the fig seeds were unpleasant in the mouth. For dessert we had the hazelnut cake (so rich and such a large slice) and the panna cotta (I thought it was excellent).

    1. I sent my parents there based on forum recommendations, and they came home pretty dissapointed. They recommended only ordering appetizers and pastas. The "seared" AHI tuna main came stiff as a board, while the stuffing in the veal chop main was cold and lacked flavour.

      Personally, when I have a problem with my main at a restaurant, I usually do something about it. I think Toronto restaurant goers really need to push the demand for consistent quality plates. If it is not done right the first time, please try again.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ondadl

        I agree with your parents recommending the apps and the pastas.... I've had little luck with their secondi... Also, their pizzas are excellent! Stick to antipastos, pastas and pizza!! A great convivial atmosphere, with friendly, boisterous service makes for a place that's hard not to enjoy - it's too bad they can't seem to improve on their mains....

      2. We're now regulars. Great food, great atmosphere, great fun, great people. This is not the place to go if you want a quiet evening to yourself and your dinner companion. You will get jostled, the room is noisy, the joint is jumpin'. But it's hearty, delicious and a great value. We recently had roast suckling pig and whole grilled salmon (one of their "Big Nights" - both were superb. The pork was pretty close the best I've ever had.

        1. the owners and staff are great, and... they make a wicked potato gnocci.
          other dishes are hit and miss.
          You feel like "family"

          1 Reply
          1. re: erly

            on their menu, I dont see any mention of gnocci?

          2. It is a regular weekly special.
            Thursday or Friday.
            You could call them.