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Mar 15, 2009 01:24 PM

Terroni in the Toronto Star (split from Ontario)

So anyone see the Toronto Star article on Terroni? Makes me think the TS is reading Chow Hound since a number of the issues (even specific ones like olive oil/balsamic vinegar) were mentioned.

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  1. I just read the article, and I say to Cosimo Mammoliti: if you really want to adhere to Italian tradition, then you should take your "pure" dishes back to Italy, and serve them al fresco in a little piazza in your parents' home town of San Giorgio Morgeto, where you might find somebody who gives a s#%t. You're serving Italian food in TORONTO, buddy. Get over yourself.

    4 Replies
    1. re: redearth

      I'm with you redearth. I thought the restaurant business was all about catering to the needs of your clientele, customer service, giving people what they want...
      I thought exactly the same thing, get over yourself!!! For me, I never understood the fuss around Terroni's. I've never been a fan - food was just so so at best. This article pretty much seals the deal for me - thanks but no thanks. I much prefer spending my $$ elsewhere. The guy sounds like a nutbar, with all his dumb ass rules!!!! Pass the cheese and balsamic.

      1. re: millygirl

        What an odd case: the owner's commitment to quality and specificity is admirable (as long as it works to put seats in the seats) but even I bristled reading their website. He just tries so damn hard, and you'd think in a world class city place like Toronto, with BTW more Calabrese than anywhere else outside Calabria, he would need to be be so, well, pedantic and boorish. And what's the big deal about using "san marzanos"? Or importing his own mineral waters? We visit my cousins every year in a town not 5km from the owner's, and you can get all the diet coke you want--and no one would serve the mismash menu he's got. If he really wanted to be authentic, he'd serve stocco e baccala (dried and salt cod) a dozen ways. I'd love it, but who else? And naming the place "Terroni", after a very derogatory name for Southern Italians, is pretty childish too, like opening a retro red sauce place in NY called "Wops".

        1. re: bob96

          Well said and good observations. I wonder if kids raised here really have experienced the modern version of the "old country" or have inherited their parents' memories and experiences of how thinks were done 30 years ago? As for authentic, I recall my diet in the mountains of Calabria last summer consisted primarily of great bread, Calabrese salami, a wide variety of cheeses, nduja sauasage, and pastas of a particular shape that were regional (I forget the name) and always doused with chilis. The red wines were suprisingly (to me) also yummy.

        2. re: millygirl

          have you been to mercatto...way better!

        1. re: jayt90

          I truly appreciate Cosimo's passion and reasoning for his rigid rules regarding ingredients. If his intent is to teach appreciation of southern Italian cuisine, then perhaps classes to that effect (Grano has done well in promoting Italian culture and cuisine) or better PR is a nicer way to spread his gospel. Maybe doing a better job of training your staff on how to spread your message using good people skills? Instead, customers are treated with attitude bordering on hostility - which really puzzles me because Toronto diners clearly put up with this as evidenced by those line-ups out the door. No matter how good the food, I will not put up with servers who have no clue about "authentic" cuisine treating me with disdain. Too many great Italian eateries in all price ranges in T.O. to put up with this. Making substitutions can affect efficiencies in the kitchen, I agree, but let's be clear that this no substitutions rule has nothing to with food appreciation. Just don't use this as an excuse to treat your patrons like ignorant diners or adversaries. Using the best ingredients will take care of the food quality. But cudos to Cosimo who is making this gimick work for him. And for the record, I just about fell out of my chair when last summer I was offered cheese for my seafood pasta at a high end restaurant in Campania Italy AND the worst pizza I ever had was in Naples...this just shows that "rules" about food pairings depends upon who is making up the rules.

        2. And for good measure, I'll throw in the website link and place links.

          I must be a rarity on the Ontario board because I've never been to a Terroni and not planning to go any time soon either. Must admit, for a guy with a Grade 11 education, he's done pretty well for himself.

          720 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J1E8, CA

          1 Balmoral Ave, Toronto, ON M4V3B9, CA

          57 Adelaide St E, Toronto, ON M5C1K6, CA

          1 Reply
          1. re: JamieK

            I've been to Terroni twice without issue but the more I read about it the angrier I get. The no substitution thing? Really? I can see advising a customer against substitutions but then going ahead with it if they insist - not just denying the request. How much are you going to enjoy your "authentic" meal without substitution if you're spending your whole meal fuming over the issue?

            On the other hand whenever I pass by Terroni there is always a wait to be seated so clearly this works for them.

            I'm going to Pizzeria Libretto for my next pizza fix.


          2. I really hesitate to weigh in on this topic as Terroni's no substitutions policy seems to be one of the most divisive issues on the Ontario board. Hopefully I won't get blasted for offering a slightly different view...

            I've been to Terroni's many times, and actually didn't know until recently that they had such a strict no-sub policy. I've always looked through the menu, and if an ingredient in a dish or on a pizza hasn't appealed, I simply haven't ordered it. That to me seems logical, I think because each menu item contains so few ingredients - I've just figured that leaving even one ingredient out or switching it with another would throw things off balance. For me it's just seemed somewhat obvious that the pizzas at Terroni's are not the 'build your own' type.

            I don't know, perhaps I'm too polite. If I go to someone's house for a meal, and they offer bread and good olive oil for dipping, unless the hosts are people I'm very close with, I'm not going to ask for balsamic too (and even then I probably wouldn't). I'm happy to eat what is presented and I figure there's a reason some things are offered and others are not. I carry that ethos into my restaurant going experiences (hole in the wall take out places are another matter).

            That said though, I do agree that Mammoliti's attitude is over the top - he almost seems proud of the fact that he's constantly throwing irate customers out of his establishments. That to me indicates a serious problem. And it also explains the reports of the waitstaff having snotty attitudes (which I have personally never experienced) when asked to make substitutions or provide something that is not available (e.g. diet sodas). The staff obviously see how Mammoliti behaves and take their cues from him.

            Obviously Terroni's is not lacking in customers. But I think they should make the effort to explain their policies and deal with off-menu requests in a way that is not insulting, condescending and arrogant. That is unlikely to happen though, since it seems that the man at the top is setting the tone.

            8 Replies
            1. re: dxs

              I don't actually have a strong position on the olive oil/balsamic vinegar issue. If the olive oil is very good, then I'm OK with no bv. My biggest issue is, being someone who doesn't like meat on my pizza, there are so few pizzas that I can actually eat. And the one time I did eat the veg pizza with olives, sun dried tomatoes (which I don't like but accepted), unpitted (seriously, how is this a good idea?) olives and whatever else was on it, the middle of the pizza was so soggy, I had to almost scoop it to eat it. And while I get the whole tradition thing, I'd be more sympathetic if the traditional items were so well wrought that you could see why they were sacrosanct. Obviously these combo of ingredients and the way it was put together was not an impressive creation! And since I can't alter it at all, I'm stuck with its imperfect self if I want pizza. (And to give credit, the ingredients were very fresh and tasty, soggy not withstanding.) And since that's one of the main things they're known for... I've given up going to Terroni's and my only real regret is the salads are very good--but I can't live on salads alone so I have to pass.

              In any event, there are a lot of very good pizza places that I can go to who will do what I want so it's not an issue that's keeping me awake at night.

              1. re: Ediblethoughts

                Yes, you make a good point regarding the olives! Very difficult to find any justification for that. Sure, unpitted olives taste better - but why not just pit them all at the beginning of service. It makes no sense to have to either remove your olive from the pizza, pit it, then replace it - or to have to cleverly extract the pit whilst dealing with a mouthful of dough and cheese. Neither makes for a very elegant dining scenario :)

                1. re: dxs

                  I feel the same way about unpeeled shrimp in sauce or soup, and giant sheets of prosciutto on my pizza that I have to cut up before biting into lest my dining companion see me with a ham-beard.

                  For the record: every pizza with olives I ate in Italy, from Sicily to Genoa, featured unpitted olives. It was just as annoying there. I think there's something to be said for making some sensible progress from tradition now and then.

              2. re: dxs

                dxs, to your comment on dining at someone's home. I think most of us would do the same under the circumstances. When you are in someone's home, you pretty much eat what's provided. In fact I think it would be rather rude to ask for BV, or anything else for that matter. You go with the flow. But this is entirely a different situation - we are paying customers and they are their to serve you.

                1. re: millygirl

                  Also, you know that Terroni has balsamic in house.

                  While I respect the commitment to authenticity, if the owner wants to educate it would seem wiser to add a blurb to the menu explaining that they don't serve balsamic with bread or cheese with seafood, and why. This will prevent a large number of the requests. Beyond that, why bully and shame? That's not what we go to restaurants for...

                  I also can't abide Mammoliti's bias against diet pop; so, he's going to decide what's good for us??? What about diabetics? I bet an argument can be made that many of the ingredients he's using aren't "good for us". What about sugar, white flour, fatty meats and cheeses? Alcohol? Maybe he should put a few treadmills in, or check our blood pressure on arrival...

                  I suspect that he has to hire those with the right kind of attitude, those who can put the owner's rules ahead of customer service, or else he must brow-beat them into submission.

                  1. re: Full tummy

                    Diet cola is pure man made chemistry, and I applaud any restaurant owner who refuses it. Sugar, white flour, fatty meat, and cheeses are all foods from natural sources, and do not have the chemical taste of Nutra-Sweet, or Aspartame, nor do they have the plodding stodgy taste of whole grains or processed soy. Terroni is not a health food emporium.

                    1. re: Full tummy

                      I haven't been to Terroni, mainly because of the locations. But I like the idea, and I'll defend their right to provide old school cooking.

                      If they were in Little Italy or Woodbridge, or even close to me, like Fratelli, I'd be right there.

                      I don't think I'd put up with preaching waitpersons, or a supercilious attitude, and I suspect many restaurateurs, perhaps even Terroni, are watching this column as well as the Star.

                    2. re: Full tummy

                      maybe he hires wannabe parking control officers. They'd have the right kind of attitude!

                2. Sounds to me this guy wants to be to Italian food what certain New York and Los Angeles sushi chefs are to Japanese food. Take a look at this Wall Street Journal article from last October, and you'll find the similarities:


                  Sushi Bullies, meet Pizza Bully :-)