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Dec 5, 2008 09:51 AM

Osteria Ciceri e Tria (Victoria St)

The former Terroni's space on Victoria has opened as Osteria Ciceri e Tria. I _think_ the telephone number is the same as the old Terroni's (416-955-0258), so maybe it's a spinoff. I haven't been there yet, but when I peeked in I saw that they have a long communal table down the middle of the room, surrounded by tables for two and four along the perimeter.

I picked up a menu (dated Nov. 26, and temporary--it changes every day, apparently). Prices on that menu are $23 (antipasto and primo), $28 (antipasto and secondo), and $35 (antipasto, primo, and secondo). Desserts are $7. On Nov. 26, you could have chosen from the following:

Five antipasti (octopus in a spicy sauce, baked mussels, grilled veg bruschetta, baked bocconcini wrapped in speck, or spelt salad with veg and beans).

Three primi (maltagliati with clams and zucchini; rigatoni with tomatores, arugula, and anchovies; or tria partly boiled and fried with chickpeas--thus the name of the restaurant, I guess).

Two secondi (baked pork cappacolla with herbs and potatoes, or grilled sea bream with green beans).

Finally, two dolci (almond tart with chocolate or chestnut cake with persimmon sauce).

I haven't had a chance to try this place out, and probably won't until after the holidays. Has anyone eaten there yet? I want to love this restaurant because it's so close to my home and my office, and because I miss the old Terroni on Victoria very much. (After many attempts, the new Adelaide location is finally off my go-to list forever for all the reasons that so many others have outlined in their reviews.) The communal table isn't my favourite dining arrangement, but if the food and service are excellent I could easily be persuaded.

No Web site yet, as far as I can tell.

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  1. Is it finally open... cool! I have really been interested to try it.

    Assuming that it hasn't changed since then, it is indeed a Terroni spinoff restau.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Otonabee

      I ate there yesterday. The way the food works is that you don't choose your anitpasto, you get a sample of each antipasti that is available. Then you choose a pasta, or a secondi+contorni, or both (depending how much you pay). Not cheap, but if you are going with just say two people, it is nice that you get to sample five different antipasti (otherwise you would only really order two appetizers max).

      The antipasti and mains we had were all very nice, simple items. Portions are small, so don't expect to come out stuffed. Right now they take reservations, and it's still not too busy as it just opened. Probably it will become a madhouse again shortly so go while you can!

      1. re: echeng25

        Thanks for the report, echeng25--I like the idea of having a sample of each of the antipasti. Good point about going now, before the crowds come. It's also good to know that they take reservations. We'll give it a try and report back.

        1. re: echeng25

          Can you order a la carte? I'm not big on force feeding.

          1. re: Googs

            No you can't. The quantity is not all that much though if you go with the antipasti + pasta option at $23. Antipasti + secondi (which includes one contorni) was $28, and I think antipasti + pasta + secondi was $32.

            1. re: echeng25

              $23 - Five Antipasti, Primo
              $28 - Five Antipasti, Secondo
              $35 - Five Antipasti, Primo, Secondo.
              $7 dessert

              I've attached some pics of the place and food from tonight's experience.

              Venue, etc.


              Calamari, Shrimp, Mussel fritters
              Crostino with fresh ricotta and homemade salami

              Baked eggplant stuffed with pecorino, eggs, bread crumbs
              mushroom and zuchini terrine

              Grilled stiped sea bas fillet

              Tagliolini with green beans, tomato, aged ricotta

              eggplant, zucchini, red pepper caponate

              Grilled pork chop with thyme sauce

              Bread cake with raisins, pinenuts, pistachios

                1. re: peppermint pate

                  Though I can't comment on Suresh's opinion, I thought the food was all right. Nothing mind-blowing. Simple, rustic, home style dishes. Portions aren't enormous, but I thought it was enough food (I'm not a big eater though). The antipasti were pretty well done overall.

                  It's not a "bad deal," and if this works, maybe it will mean more restaurants will take up this style of dining (which I am both familiar with, and like). I don't mind being "force fed," and I'm not too concerned about limited menu options, as long as I have a choice in the establishment I'm going to!

                  That being said, our tagliolini was not al dente; it was a bit overcooked. The fish we had was not moist and succulent, it was dry. The pork chop was disappointing. These are also things that could be easily made at home for $5 or less a plate with very little effort.

                  I welcome the concept behind the restaurant, but the food itself didn't excite me.

                  1. re: peppermint pate

                    the food was good, really good, except for a few minor mishaps. the pasta was way beyond al dente, and the porkchop albeit cleanly cooked and presented, quite bland.

                    It didn't feel like force-feeding, because i have been to those 'tourist' restaurants where this stye of dining is used.

        2. It is indeed part of the Terroni family.

          8 Replies
          1. re: peppermint pate

            Oooooh that explains the forced choice. Thanks peppermint pate. Their inability to move beyond corporation to corporate citizen continues to dismay me. The premise to their premises shouldn't strictly be inventory based no matter how financially sound that is. They need to give a little back. As Gene Simmons says, "I just work here." This means the fans are the boss.

            1. re: Googs

              If the premise of this restaurant is what I heard about originally, essentially they are hitting the market in the morning and then working their menu around what they find that looks fresh and interesting that day.

              1. re: Googs

                Yeah and I don't think this is some corporate force-feed move. This is a style of dining in rustic osterias in Italy, you go and eat what they have that day. For sure it's not for everyone, but I think it's an interesting new twist for the dining scene here. Hopefully the food is of my best meals in Italy was at an osteria in Rome.

                1. re: childofthestorm

                  Unless you have a seafood or shellfish allergy (which half the anti-pasti seems to be) then it is a place to avoid as you have no choice what is served to you..

                  1. re: OnDaGo

                    Otonabee, if that's true then why are they serving green beans in December?

                    childofthestorm, with all due respect and I mean that sincerely, as far as my research and travels throughout Italy goes including Rome, the places where you sit down and they just start serving what's coming out of the kitchen are for tourists. That doesn't, by definition, make them bad. It does make me skeptical about them though.

                    OnDaGo, my situation is that my two BF's both have different food allergies. I, myself, can eat anything and love variety but have watched my quantities since I was a kid. As a result, I am not a fan of the Terroni no substitutions, no deletions, no choice mandate. It's really too bad because I was hoping the revitalization of the Victoria St location would offer some respite from the uniformly bad food of the Eaton Centre. I would love to love it, but the concept should be about serving people what they want.

                    1. re: Googs

                      With all due respect, Googs, you are mistaken, the place I am talking about in Rome was populated by local construction workers, and we ate at communal tables. They had lots of laughs that we were even there in the first place, obvious tourists with our broken Italian - it was off the beaten path (I think I found it through Chowhound!). There are plenty of these spots all over Italy. Mark Bittman in the NYT has written about these experiences as well.

                      I have no idea if Ciceri e Tria is any good, but even if you don't like Terroni - which I guess you don't - one has to admit that they do try to present an authentic Italian experience. The osteria experience is similarly authentic, although of course has been turned into a bastardized version in more touristy areas of Italy. I've spent a lot of time in Italy, and definitely stay away from that stuff as much as possible.

                      1. re: childofthestorm

                        Oh if I didn't like Terroni, childofthestorm, I would have said it once and moved on with my day. Fact is my friends and I would gather at the Victoria Terroni before/after shopping for a glass of wine and a hearty salad. I've taken calming breaks from visiting friends and relatives at St Mike's there. In fact about a week before this post came out I was exchanging e-mails with a friend musing over when it would open. Unfortunately for my friends and I, this concept practically says 'geeeeeet oooouuuuut'.

                        1. re: Googs

                          I definitely agree, it's not for everyone. The communal table craze that is sweeping the city (Oddfellows is another spot, and it's hipster central), I for one could do without. Maybe I'm just not that social. When I'm traveling it's fun, but here at home, give me my privacy.

            2. Tried the Osteria last night. I am a Terroni fan so I was looking forward to it.

              My overall verdict is that it is NOT good value. I will stick with the standard Terroni format in future.

              Antipasti portions sizes were ridiculously small. Small meaning 4 tiny baked mussels for 2 adult males, a caprese-type salad with roughly 3 cherry tomatoes and 4 pieces of fresh mozzarella, and 2 crostini rounds with a navy bean puree and medallions of a dry salami on top. The other 2 antipasti were also miniscule. It felt like the other half of our course was never delivered!

              Pastas were of reasonable size as primi and were properly cooked, but I am tiring of Terroni's over-reliance on watery & flavourless cherry tomatoes (they show up everywhere on the menu).

              Secondi was the highlight- seared tuna with a relish-like topping of onion, oil & herbs.
              I do not recall what the other option was.

              For those concerned about the communal dining style- there are as many seats around the perimeter of the restaurant as there are at the centre table.

              Service was good, but there is an obvious emphasis on turning tables quickly so do not expect to be able to linger. Noise levels are typical Terroni- quite loud.

              I will stick to the standard Terroni restaurants as I like the wider choices available and more typical portion sizes. Osteria for a lighter, snack-type meal only.

              1. So at least for lunch, it seems the formula has changed. My 3 dining companions and I were given free reign on what and how much to order -- the menu is fully a la carte.

                Primi at lunch are $15, as are Secondi, and it is $15 to try all 5 antipasti.

                I should say that I am not a fan of Terroni. I understand why people like it, but it's not my cup of tea -- I've never been blown away by the food (most importantly), I dislike the inevitable 30 minute wait, and the service is always lacklustre.

                Surprisingly, though, I'm a fan of Osteria, and the experience pleased our entire group.

                On to the food:

                We sampled all 5 of the antipasti and I think the value was excellent. For $15, we tried a small slice of eggplant lasagna (delish), a lovely white cheese with fresh tomato and fruity olive oil, foccacia, super hot and cheesy 'croquete' (arancini), and fried bread (my least favourite).

                For my main, I ordered the "orzo" which was in fact bulgar, in a light fish broth with seafood. The portion was small but satisfying and the dish overall was surprisingly healthy and tasty. The seafood, surprisingly, was not overcooked, and included a large prawn, half in shell, several succulent chucks of squid, and a few clams/mussels (which seemed more like afterthoughts and didn't add much except for a bit of extra protein).

                And now for the dessert: oh the dessert! We tried a delicious almond tart (scrumptious!! super sweet and lovely texture) and of course, the molten cake -- better than the version at Terroni, IMHO. Rich, chocolatey, and totally worth the 12 minute wait. Washed down with a delicious cappucino, I'd give this place a big thumbs up.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Yum2MyTum

                  Thanks for the great review of the lunch. The antipasti & dessert sound amazing. I've been looking for a place close to the subway or streetcar lines that serve arancini/suppli since Il Sorriso changed their menu and stopped offering suppli.

                  Are you sure the orzo wasn't barley? Orzo means barley in Italian (orzo pasta is named orzo because it's barley-shaped)

                  1. re: phoenikia

                    And by 'bulgar' I meant barley. Whoops. Thanks for catching that phoenikia! Glad you enjoyed the review.

                    The arancini was delicious. Crunchy and creamy. Mm.

                    The place wasn't very busy at all today. Oh! And they accept reservations. I guess Terroni has had to adjust its attitude now that its getting harder to earn a buck out there...

                    1. re: Yum2MyTum

                      Good to know- will have to try this place for lunch sometime soon;)

                      1. re: Yum2MyTum

                        That's because "orzo," in Italian, means barley. The pasta kind -- what we call "orzo" -- is usually called "rosamarina," because it's shaped like rosemary.

                        Edit: And I just saw that someone else clarified. Oops!

                  2. We just came back from Osteria Ciceri e Tria and I have to write about my experience. We used to come here when it was Terronis and my partner and I were waiting to see what changes would be made.
                    We arrived at around 7 and the place was very busy. They told us we could have a table provided we could clear out by 9. That suited us fine since we were with my daughter and wanted a quick meal anyway. They briefed us on the menu and how to order. We went ahead and got the antipasti and a pasta dish. We also ordered a salad. They brought us bread, olives and olive oil right away along with drinks. I have to say that the service was better than good. The staff were smiling, helpful and organised. I am a vegetarian but my partner and daughter are omnivores so we split the antipasti among us so that I had the veggie stuff and they had the meat. It worked out just fine. There was so much food that I was worried I wouldn't be able to eat the main course. In the meantime the head chef explained what a number of dishes were to my partner. We found out he was from Bologna and a bit homesick. When the pasta arrived I realised that mine had small amounts of some kind of ham in it and I realised that I should have doublechecked before I ordered. We asked the chef what kind of meat was in the pasta and he immediately realised what the problem was. They were so incredibly gracious about the whole thing and they quickly gave me the same dish sans the meat in pretty good time. Now this was clearly my fault but they were brilliant about it. I found the food to be the best I have had in long while - fresh, innovative Italian food served up without pretension or fuss. It is my kind of place. I will go back and next time I will ask. I cannot recommend this place highly enough but judging by the crowd standing outside waiting to get in at 9 pm the place hardly needs my recommendation.