Interesting meal at Osteria Ciceria e Tria
Although we were meant to be eating at Black Hoof last night, a quick call to the restaurant last week confirmed that they were not open on Wednesdays, so a reservation was placed at Osteria Ciceria e Tria. A week later, I arrived at Osteria Ciceria e Tria to find my father simmering over his lost reservation and being ignored by staff. It takes quick a bit to make my father "simmer" but I hoped that it was just a hiccup in an otherwise soon-to-be-pleasant evening.
However, it was the beginning of one of the strangest / most "interesting" meal experiences I've had in Toronto. The restaurant was heaving, with a large communal table down the middle of the restaurant that was full, and many 2 and 4 tops dotted around the place, also full. Once our reservation was "found" (or we were accommodated, one or the other) we were ushered to a very tight squeeze table which necessitated my poor Dad trying to figure out what part of his anatomy to offend the diners next to us with. It was CLOSE. We were left with the menus, no explanation of concept, offer of water etc. That would normally be fine, but the menu proved to prompt some questions (i.e. the antipasti had no prices) so it would have been helpful.
The menu was paper and labelled with date, and we arrived at 6.30pm, so I assumed that the short (very short) menu would be accurate. Not so.
After our lovely yet new server opened our bottle of wine ("I'm learning how to open wine" she explained as she struggled) I asked about the antipasti. She explained that you order the whole thing and you get some of each of the five antipasti listed on the menu. Fine, we ordered for two people.
I have a mussel intolerance and was a little disappointed to see three (and I believe actually on recall, four) dishes on the VERY short menu had mussels...two of the dishes in the antipasti had mussels included. Never mind I thought, I'll have some of the remaining three dishes. Unfortunately, we were only brought three dishes total...eggplant and beef meatballs in tomato sauce (pleasant, strange texture, acidic tomato, lukewarm which may be the way it is served so I'm not complaining), mussels in a broth (can't comment personally on the preparation), and some salami, some focaccia, and "something else" that was bready and cheesy. The mussels and the meatballs were on the menu, the third dish had half of it's ingredients on the menu, and the other two dishes (a potato and vegetable something or other, and a mussel and tiger shrimp dish) never appeared. Ttwo of the five mussels were eaten by my Dad before he pushed them away. I asked him to please continue as I wouldn't be indulging, but he said they were undercooked for his liking.
Now, at this point we should definitely have asked some questions, I know that. At the time, the whole thing was just so...strange...that we didn't question. It was very much a "eat what they give you" type of place.
The primi had four (or five...memory doesn't serve) offerings, and I chose the Baked Risotto with parmesan and mushrooms. It came out beautifully, and was absolutely delicious. Never one to complain about cheese, I indulged in the rich dish. My father mentioned that it was too rich for his taste but no-matter...it was superb.
Dad went straight to Secondi, with three offerings, fried cod, steak, and another mussel based dish. Dad had the steak which came in five smallish slices, jewel-red rare and appearing seared. I would have mistaken it for Ahi Tuna if I hadn't known better. As he wasn't asked how he wanted it cooked (something we realized as soon as the dish arrived) it was a shade too rare for his normal order, but he proclaimed it delicious..."if only it was three times the size" he smiled wistfully.
His steak came with a side and he ordered the dandelion salad, which was very "meh".
Cappuccinos excellent. Dessert (flourless chocolate cake) lacked something, maybe sweetness? Otherwise standard fare.
$120 before tax with bottle of wine. Hungry afterwards and should have ordered more food.
It doesn't sound that bad in this review and honestly it wasn't bad...it was just so odd. There seemed to be a complete disconnect between the kitchen and the diners about what was being presented and how, as well as big shortfalls in front-of-house (reservations, seating, menu explanation, and water) and very new staff. I look forward to returning in a year or so for another go because I think it may improve with age.
This review is rather confusing. You say it "wasn't that bad" yet the overall summary appears to be that it was hit-and-miss, you paid $120 for a dinner for two and left hungry (may I ask what the wine cost?), and there were some very obvious service shortfalls. Not to be overly cynical, but the whole thing sounds very typically Terroni, the owners of which I understand are running this place as well.
Three of us went to Osteria about a month ago. Our experience was better -- all three of us plan to return -- but definitely there are some service issues and not all the food was equally great. While you can order everything a-la-carte (recall there was a fixed price for all antipasti) the most cost effective way is to get the packages of 5 antipasti with either a primo course, a secondi course, or both. The price then varies from about $23 to $35 per person. Some of the antipasti plates are tiny, but some are more hefty. I'm pretty sure all three of us were pretty full by the time we left.
Surprisingly, one of the blandest and least impressive dishes was the signature "Ciceri e Tria" which as I understand is pasta made with deep fried chickpeas. Sounded pretty intriguing and my wife was not in the mood for too much meat, so she ordered it. However it turned out to be not very interesting at all. I tried some and agreed: there was just no flavour, especially for something that was supposed to be partially fried. Odd. And to name the restaurant after it, too...
It's been a while, but I recall enjoying my secondi... I believe it was beef tenderloin medallions, which were very nicely cooked. The antipasti were interesting, though I can't remember what they all were (gee I should have wrote this a month ago). I recall the only one I really didn't like was a deep fried cheese, which was very heavy and greasy. The best was a simple mixture of marinated white beans, surprisingly. Oh, and there was some very nice duck prosciutto with bread, and a tuna dish that was good if a little too salty.
But in the end, I think whether you like or hate this place depends on how you feel about being "surprised" by the antipastis. If you have many food allergies or like to modify and micro-manage every dish you order this place is probably not for you. But since all three of us eat pretty much anything once, we saw it as a bit of an adventure and enjoyed trying all the different dishes. The menu does rotate frequently... nothing in Suburban Gourmand's review sounds familiar to me. We received no mussels at all.
I really liked renovation and what they had done with the space. In fact, I found it to be a bit less packed than when it was Terroni, and the spaces between the tables seemed bigger. That said, it is still a small space and it got a bit noisy. Service was friendly but a little sporadic. We received our plates from multiple people, and then there was a drought-like period where we received no service for over 15 minutes, which cost them a second round of drinks. Their loss, our livers' gains, I guess. Desserts and coffees were excellent. The final bill seemed pretty reasonable, not a steal but not a rip-off either.