Toronto: North Pole bakery--explain the appeal please.
I go there quite often. Partly it is because I've been going since I was very young and I have nostalgia about the place. But, also because some things are good.
I do not order any of the bread goods (not my preferred style for bread), or very many of the pastries (although I admit to quite liking their rum balls once or twice a year). I do sometimes buy raw pizza dough or some other items from their fridges. But, almost exclusively I'm there for the hot table items.
Quick Ratings of the hot table Items from a long time patron. I am omitting a few things that are either not regular items or that I have not had often.
1. Rice-Balls (arancini di risa): At best, OK. They are overly soft, overly greasy and blandly flavoured.
2. Pizza: Awful, chewy, stale, bland flavours, not even nice peperoni. Avoid.
3. Mini Focaccia: Not very good. On par with grocery store bakery versions.
4. Veal on a Bun: Good or very good. This is for what I come.
Most of the time the veal is nice. But, I admit to the occasional very chewy piece. The tomato sauce is nice and round. A bit salty but one of the nicest simple, straight forward marinaras.
The optional peppers range from very, very hot to totally mild without any trace of heat what-so-ever. This happens totally at random from day to day. They also seem poor at predicting to you what they are like that day if you ask. Although they do generally manage to tell you (if you ask!) if they are very hot on a given day. I like them hot, my mother does not.
I like the sandwich best on their soft buns instead of the crusty (which seems to be the default). But, that is probably a personal thing.
1. Lasagna: Lots of pasta, lots of mozzarella, too little ricotta, too little ragu with meat. The pasta is totally over-cooked and soft. Filling, homey, warm. But, bland and uninteresting.
2. Eggplant Parm.: Overcooked, and very one-note. Similar experience to the lasagna.
3. Ravioli (Wednesday). Nice enough.
For the ones with meat filing, the meat filing is very dense, sometimes dry and they tend to clump together and even the dough can dry out. Nice enough if you have a soft spot for dumplings and like a bit of soft, thicker past dough (I do).
For the cheese ones, the ricotta mixture is a little crumbly but very nicely seasoned and the large size help keep them from sticking. These are worth a try.
4. Other Daily Pastas: Each day has a pasta special. The pasta is precooked and lightly coated with sauce (usually red) to keep it from sticking too badly and then (if red sauce) extra sauce is added when purchased.
As I said above, the marinara is nicely salty and fairly good (if plain). The pasta tends to overcook given the holding time. Not something for which to come specifically. But, nice enough.
The Thursday pasta with rapini (summer) or broccoli (winter) is nicest. If you do not say so, they are libel to assume you will want it with tomato sauce and add some. It is best left white. It does get too oily (to prevent sticking together while in the steam tray). But, it is still nice.
They use (poor quality) romano cheese (for all pastas) instead of parm. and it fits the rapini especially nicely.
The Friday gnocchi should be avoided. Being overcooked hurts them more than other stuff and the pesto is too strong.
I would never recommend a trip to visit here. But, if you live in the area and want a quick bite at lunch time, you could do a lot worse.
zepoles of 4 types available this weekend. fried, baked, filled and not filled.
they weren't very good though. i found them to taste a little of old grease (i got the fried), kind of like the french cruellers at tim's and the ricotta filling to be nothing special. i hear the best are at st philips bakery in the woodbridge area but i never make it up there. will be trying riviera on college soon!
also wanted to add that the ricotta filling was actually chalky which was kinda grating on the tongue.
a shipment from st phillips just arrived and while not fresh... miles and miles better. the filling is absolutely stuffed and while the jam is a bit sweet to my tastes it has a good balance with the ricotta cream that is closer to a pastry cream but delicious. the donut itself isn't really the star but it's not greasy, is airy and tastes like a good choux.
I haven't been blown away by their bread, but to be fair I'm not a fan of the style (fluffy-soft interior).
In the winter I got a slice of pizza that I took two bites of and threw out because it was so stale. Same for a rumball I got two weeks ago, but the scary thing is that it didn't even taste like food. Finally, last week, I had a rice ball (as suggested by JamieK) and it was alright, but didn't blow me away (too-soft rice, underseasoned, came from "hot table" but was more like room temperature).
Well, I tried, but just don't think this is a place for me, but glad other people enjoy it.
(Sorry to reply so late, haven't been on CH in a bit.)