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Jul 23, 2008 08:34 AM

Big Ragu - short review: good food, keen owner

One of the best attributes of this Toronto establishment, located one block E of Lansdowne just S of St Clair (being mangled by the City's foolish tramway project) and just around the corner from the celebrated gelateria Paloma is the great and friendly enthusiasm of the owner and his wife who served us with vivid descriptions of the specials, knowledge of the wines on offer and pride both in their restaurant and the cakes she makes for dessert. The casual space was abuzz with family groups last night, much hugging and a loud noise volume - but all in a friendly, spirited manner (which in fact allowed serious conversation not to be overheard !)

After sharing some excellent grilled slices of bread roll, and an unusual Italian white wine whose name escapes me - perfect on a warm evening - we began with Pasta Al Forno for my friend and Lasagne for me. They looked identical, except that the former, a special, contained proscuitto and peas - a sort of kitchen sink, we were told - whereas mine was the classic dish. Both were toothsome, mild flavoured, plenty of cheese, perfect pasta, nice gravy and a pleasant bechamel.

For mains, I enjoyed - and brought home for lunch today - a huge pork chop, stuffed with ham and cheese and breaded, accompanied by roast taters and veggies. My friend had an Italian fish special in a tomato-vegetable sauce - which was pronounced delicious, every scrap finished and sauce mopped up, too !

Dessert brought the wife's chocolate Nutella cake, rich and moist, with a wonderful cappucino for me and a glass of Prosecco for my friend - all of which was topped off with a gift of Limoncello shots, a pleasant generous conclusion to a most agreeable evening. The damage for it all, including two half litres of wine, was $160 - not cheap, but good value for what we consumed.

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  1. Isn't Big Ragu on Lansdowne just south of St Clair?

    4 Replies
    1. re: Dimbulb

      If it hasn't moved in the past few months - it's on the west side of Landsdowne a few feet south of St. Clair. The owner (I think it's Carmine), is usually there and is very friendly, explaining the dishes and often comping an apperetive at the end of your meal. I like the lamb bolognese style pasta dish and the mushroom salad.

      1. re: DDD

        The owners and staff are incredibly sweet, but the service is slow and dreadfully inattentive (mostly because they seem a tad understaffed, but still....not overly impressive). But they are really really nice and I like them a lot. For the most part the food is delish. I've had a few misses but overall the food is lovely.

        But I'll tell you, it's not the cheapest bill in the world. If you go there looking for casual prices that mirror the casual vibe, you won't find it. You won't go to the poorhouse because of a meal there but I can think of other spots that are more affordable. At least the food quality is good though. And they often do comp you an after-dinner libation, which is always yummy and appreciated and genuine.

        1. re: magic

          Interesting pov, Magic. THink my own experience would not support your assertion that the service is "slow and dreadfully inattentive." On the three occasions I've been there, two of which were busy evening, we were able to enjoy wine and grilled bread, then pasta/appetizers, then a main course, then dessert/coffee and the usually proffered Limoncelo in a 2-3 hr time frame without feeling either rushed or neglected.

          You are correct: the price reflects the food quality not the casual ambience. It is perhaps at the high end of what I would wish to pay considering all factors - but it is not outrageous.

          1. re: Bigtigger

            Glad you've enjoyed yourself there. Don't get me wrong, I have as well. I'd enjoy it more were it priced a little lower I think. But no, the prices don't fall into the outrageous category; maybe the "slightly steep" category. But as we agree, you're getting nicely done food of good quality at least.

    2. Yummers, that sounds so good! Thanks for the heads up!