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Da Gianni & Maria Trattoria - what a mistake

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Looking for something new we decided to try this place based on recommendations from this board. I read descriptions of wonderful gnocci, great service, and a charming atmosphere. So looking for a reasonably priced meal and something casual we thought this trattoria would be worth a shot.

We arrived and were lead to a table. A woman I assume, Maria, smiled and said hello. Sitting down, gives us a chance to check out the decor. I believe it was decorated in the late 80's, and hasn't been changed since. Dusty rose abounds with yellowish brick walls. A few family pics sit above a fire place, and I'm thinking, ok nice, family run business, I'll give them a chance despite the decor. The menu claims "Slow Food Cuisine, Chef Gianni prepares the majority of his dishes fresh to order". So, slow food I get, but fresh to order? Any decent restaurant of course cooks your meal when you order it using fresh ingredients. Didn't quite get that, but I push on not letting these quirks get in my way of enjoying good trattoria food.

Upon browsing the menu, I'm confused and baffled by the layout. The order of the menu had apps, pasta, secondi, then apps, pasta, pasta with meat, pasta with no meat, mains, meat, fish and then sides. After browsing for 20 minutes, I realize the first page is specials. Ok so, still bearing with it, I'm trying not to give them a hard time despite not getting a graphic designer on board for the menu.

The prices hit me next. The much talked about gnocci is about $19.00. The cheapest pasta is about $18.00 I believe. Caprese salad, was around $19.00. I don't mind spending big cash on food, but I'm a little confused as this is supposed to be a trattoria. Trattoria's by definition are inexpensive and casual. However the menu tries to be formal with its descriptions, the decor at one time was meant to be formal, and the prices are in the fine dining league. This by no means is a trattoria, its a ristorante. However, this is all minor and we push forward, because I assume the food must be great to justify the price.

So we ordered: (these are descriptions from their menu)
Appetizer was Antipasto Italiano -Prosciutto crudo, rolled pancetta, salame, cacciatorino (spicy sausage), capicollo, soppresata, bocconcino cheese, olives and marinated mushrooms.
I had Fettuccine Di Porcini Con Ragu Di Cinghiale e Tartufo -Fresh homemade porcini mushroom egg fettuccine served with Wild Boar, simmered in a savory Barbera wine sauce, made with onions, carrots and celery, seasoned with truffle, garlic and a touch of red chili pepper.
My wife had Ravioli Alla Piemontese -Fresh homemade egg pasta stuffed with minced pork, turkey, beef, swiss chard, spinach and parmesan cheese, served with a hearty meat sauce flavoured with minced celery, carrots, onions, potatoes, garlic, red wine & aromatic spices.
***now imagine reading an entire menu with descriptions like that.

Upon review of the small wine list, most wines were not available, and nothing special and regional to the North where the food comes from jumped out, so we passed. The prices for wine seemed fair.

The appetizer arrives (approx $18.00), looks a little uninspired, but full of various cuts of meat. A very large portion, so I immediately dive towards the prosciutto being one of my favourites. Sadly upon my first bite I realize this is not Proscuitto Di Parma, and I suspect by its lack of salt and sweetness not an Italian import but rather the poorer quality Canadian brands. The remaining meats were average, same stuff you can by at any local grocery store, most of it not imported. For the price we were expecting the highest quality of meats and cheeses. The bocconcino was flavorless and firm, again a sign of being local mozzarella rather than an import.

The mains arrive ( Fettuccine $26.95!, ravioli $21.00 I think), and the portions are fine. Not large, not small, decent sizes for pasta. Sadly the taste in both is lacking. My dish claims to be seasoned with truffle. And for the price I expected to see the thin and tasty truffle shavings. No truffles were seen however the distinctive taste of truffle oil was there. Both dishes seemed to not flow, as in no harmony between the flavors. Almost like the weren't cooked long enough, although the menu claims slow cooking. The wild boar was much to gamy, and from past experience I have not found this to be so. Could have been the cut used. The ravioli was ok, not great. It has an extensive ingredients list, most of which are not discernible and I wonder what they bring to the dish.

Dessert was Profiteroles ($9.75), not very regional but craving a bit of chocolate and feeling unsatisfied we decided to give it a try. Four little puffs arrived smothered in chocolate to the extent you couldn't see the puffs. Around that lay a ring of store bought whip cream, far too much of it. It lacked some sweetness and life. Didn't feel like a $10 dessert. On a good note the espresso macchiato I had was perfectly drawn.

The service was fine, good not great. It was the minimum I expect from anywhere. One thing that was very tacky was they have a serving tray on wheels. They roll this thing around which makes a racket on the tiles. Not to mention the tray is dirty. Kind of tacky.

It came to approx. $92.00 before tip, for simple trattoria food. All in all I have to say I was seriously disappointed. For the prices, we could have had some fine dining. Or we could have gone across the street to Ferro or Marcello's and had superior food for half the cost.

Regarding the price, for a comparison. Mario Battali's Babbo which is his his high end ristorante in NYC has cheaper prices generally than this. At Babbo I had Beef Cheek Ravioli with Crushed Squab Liver and Black Truffles $23 (USD) About the same price, and that dish will make you fall of your chair. How can Da Gianni & Maria Trattoria justify the prices? Its almost an insult to pay this much.

Yes, its a family business and its nice to have the owners say hello. Its meaningless however when the food and atmosphere is below average. At the end of the day if I paid about $40-$50 for that meal, I would be ok with the price but I still wouldn't go back.

just my 2 cents.
(sorry I know it was long)

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  1. Trattoria, ristorante, wine bar, bistro, casual dining, upscale dining, fine dining: these are all whimsical, meaningless phrases nowadays, with restaurants calling themselves whatever they want without regard to whether or not they fit into the category they place themselves in. I've known so-called wine bars that had only two wines by the glass. And bistros, which should be the French equivalents of modestly-priced trattorias, clocking in at $200 or so a couple (with wine). But I've yet to come across a joint, as you have, with an insalate caprese at $19. That's almost double what most Italian places, whether trattorias or ristorantes, dare to charge. Wow.

    2 Replies
    1. re: juno

      Yes, Im probably venting a bit about the naming, and agree its not that important. But the prices are as you say pretty much double what you may expect anywhere else. I dont expect most places to use the terms correctly, however when the restaurant claims its goal is to be the most authentic italian in the city, a great place to start is the name.

      1. re: juno

        Yeah, my alarm bells also went off when I saw insalate caprese for $19. Thanks, TdotFoodKing, for the review.

      2. O-oh! Thanks for update!

        I was going to try this place. I guess that I could now remove it from my list.

        1. I made the same mistake last year...just fair food....ricktey rolling cart....sombre atmosphere...never go back....we also have eaten at Babbo NYC...heaven on a plate in a slice of Tuscany Room...Marcello and Ferro are indeed much cheaper and tastier...we also like The Rushton....Miranda

          2 Replies
          1. re: miranda

            You know we debated on the way to St. Clair, The Rushton or Gianni? Hadn't had either, but felt like pasta. Oh well The Rushton is next on my list.

            1. re: TdotFoodKing

              BTW....The owner of The Ruston is the young brother of the owner of Ferro across the street...there is usually a pasta on their Menu...I think Mac and Cheese....Miranda

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