It appears that Mark McEwan reads Chowhound.
Fabbrica launched a new menu Saturday night and the much-criticized $3 charge for bread has been dropped. The menu has been tweaked as well with some of the more exotic items gone (no more sweetbreads) and prices lowered a bit as well.
We had made reservations weeks ago and decided to go ahead despite the tepid reviews the place has received on this board and in the Toronto press. I’m glad we did.
The food was very good and after a bit of a rough start, the staff went out of their way to make the evening enjoyable. When we first arrived they wanted to seat us in the bar area. We politely but firmly requested a table in the main part of the restaurant. After initially being told it would mean a wait of at least 30-40 minutes they found us a nice table within 10 minutes while we sipped on cocktails at the bar.
After that the service couldn’t have been better. Our engaging waitress kept a keen eye on us reporting on progress of dishes and making sure my wine glass was never empty for more than 30 seconds.
We started with fried smelts and Berkshire prosciutto. The smelts were fantastically fresh (although a little too aggressively salted) however the prosciutto (while nicely presented) lacked any distinctive “Berkshire” flavour that would have made it stand out from a regular breed.
The wood-fired oven was evident in the perfectly cooked lamb sausage and fennel pizza we shared. The dish is marked on the menu as a “chef’s favourite” and justifiably so.
Although the menu was brand new, we were told the “bistecca for two” was unavailable. While my wife went ahead with an individual striploin, I opted for another “chef’s favourite” in the braised short-rib which turned out to be one of the best braised rib dishes I have ever enjoyed.
Portion sizes are quite generous so by this point we were too full for dessert and finished the evening with a couple of lemoncellos (which would have been better in chilled glasses.)
Fabbrica is still far from perfect. Mark McEwan still needs to figure out if the restaurant is to be a dining destination in Don Mills or a trendy hangout serving $20 pizzas to twenty-somethings. However, I can confidently report that the restaurant is back on track after its shaky opening.
49 Karl Fraser Road, Toronto, ON M3C0E5, CA
Five of us ate there last night for the first time.
Food - gorgeous. We really enjoyed everything we ate (more on this below).
Service - mostly friendly, but needs work with two exceptions:
1. the valet parking guys who were professional, friendly, and knew their business (as we were leaving, the car was aimed North, and the valet asked if we were going West, which can be complicated from that spot); and
2. one notable moment at the table: we ordered lardo, and the otherwise awkward waiter (nice, but he seemed new to the business) asked "do you know what that is?", obviously aware that lardo might freak us out [it did, in fact, freak some of us out]).
The hostesses were genuinely rude - they were in "...and you are...?" mode. They should understand that this is a restaurant, not a club. It's the sort of restaurant where five people will spend $600. We have a reservation. We are not interested in feeling lucky to get by the door.
We were parked at the bar for twenty minutes despite having a reservation (we were 15 minutes late but called 30 minutes in advance). I see from other posts that this is not unique.
The bartender was friendly and quick (the rest of our party got their drinks in good time), but she had some trouble with my drink - 2 oz this brand name, 1/2 oz that brand name, rocks glass stuffed with ice, quarter lime. First try (bar was not busy ): wrong liquor poured; second try: right drink, plus bar mix. Third try - perfect, and a generous pour. She was a good sport despite the fact I was being high maintenance.
Our server was a good kid. The order was right, the food came timed nicely, and he was patient, and knew what was on the menu. He just needs some training in showing the love. Example: we changed our dessert order; my wife and I decided just to share two things rather than three. He said (sounding skeptical) "uh, OK", as if we were letting him down. In fairness to him, changing our minds is a hassle.
Starters were awesome - the stuffed pepper alla noona was delicious, octopus with salami and chickpeas genuinely a great dish - as good as anything I've ever eaten; lardo beautiful (not a unanimous view, but hey, it's lardo - people of goodwill can differ), salads delicious.
Sea bream perfectly cooked, crab linguine gorgeous with beautifully poached egg on top (yay! there are identifiable pieces of crab in it).
Note to Mark McEwan: Fire the hostesses who were working last night, ask the valet parking guys to help you train the floor staff in how to show the love, buy the bartender a cup of coffee, make sure you keep everyone in the kitchen around for a good long time, and this could be a much-loved restaurant.
I'm a young professional that has experienced my share of fine dining restaurants in Toronto, and around the world. I find nothing more pleasurable than entertaining at a fine dining establishment, enjoying the great cuisine and kicking back with friends among a nice atmosphere. The one thing I absolutely cannot tolerate is an establishment that caters to upscale diners but feel that because they are serving at the elite level, they feel they have the right to treat their customers with disrespect and get away with it.
My experience at Fabricca was one of the worst experiences of any fine dining restaurant I've tried in Toronto (or any other cosmopolitan city). Two of my girlfriends and myself decided to have a nice dinner at Fabricca one weekend and chose this restaurant due to the fact that we love Italian food and it was supposedly comparable to the rustic Southern Italian fare of restaurants like Terroni. We made reservations 2 weeks in advance. We ordered appetizers, main dishes, side dishes, two bottles of wine and dessert. Before we even finished the appetizers, the waiter(s) kept coming by and taking them away before they were even done. Our appetizer of olives was full and for some odd reason, they took it away. Due to the fact that we were so immersed in our conversation, I didn't say anything but it became apparent they were rushing us. Dinner was taken away before asking if we were done with that. Then, to add insult to injury, in the middle of dessert and finishing our wine, they took it away, and a hostess came to our table to tell us they wanted us to move to the bar so they could seat another guest. We had not finished our dessert, nor our wine - they told us they would "buy us a complimentary drink at the bar but we needed to go now." I was shocked and a little confused. We had only been at the table for 1.5 hours - we had ordered a full course meal - our bill was over $300 - we had made reservations in advance. Not sure how they think this is considered grade A service for what they consider a grade A restaurant. What I don't understand is that there are literally hundreds of upscale restaurants in Toronto. Why would McEwan expect that someone who is treated this way would ever return to a restaurant that like this?
My career involves booking a lot of venues for corporate events and dinners. I would never consider recommending or returning to a restaurant such as Fabricca that treats their customers like an assembly line. I wouldn’t have been treated this poorly at a mid-grade Boston Pizza, never mind dishing out a few hundred dollars to be pushed out of my table so they can get as much turnover on a weekend – how tacky.
If you want to have great rustic Italian fare with great service and atmosphere, just got to Terroni or Osteria – they are on the ball with service and price without any pretentious attitude. Take my word for it, this place puts Toronto fine dining to shame. I recently went to Chicago to try Table 52 (Oprah’s ex-chef who opened his own restaurant). Not only did they give you true Southern hospitality, the chef, Art Smith came by to every table to welcome them personally. The hostess even told us that the reason why it’s so hard to get a reservation is because they don’t book every single table each night so that everyone feels crammed in – they book every other table to give you a good ambiance without the stuffy crowd. Perhaps McEwan should check it out and learn a few things about how real chefs do it...and maybe he should train his staff on what “service” really means. This place was not worth my time and money – I won’t be raving about this place to my friends or my business associates in future.
106 Victoria St, Toronto, ON M5C, CA
49 Karl Fraser Road, Toronto, ON M3C0E5, CA
I agree that this should never have happened and something you should have pointed out while you where there. I have eaten at Fabricca 3x and have enjoyed it more and more every time. On our first visit I could see that the apps where coming fast and so would the main course - I asked them to slow the service down and we enjoyed a nice relaxing dinner.
The only thing I cant figure out is how you say the Terroni has great service....wow talk about people with an attitude and no ability to make a customer happy
I wasn't going to bother posting, until I saw DUHCAR post. At least there's one other person who doesn't hate on this place! I thought the pappardelle was quite good too.
Here's my post (photos/menu: http://bit.ly/eW07GW ) I made last week:
Stracciatella alla romana is a classic with chicken broth, egg, and reggiano. This is the first time I’ve had this dish, and though quite nice, it’s not as transcendent as others have made it to be. Or maybe I was expecting too much.
Cherry peppers, anchovy, olives, capers, and bocconcini. Peperoni della nonna was both tasty and beautiful.
The linguine. Clams, white wine, and garlic. Really quite good. I didn’t order this, but I would consider it for next time!
Pappardelle with crab, guanciale, cream, and soft-poached egg. Delicious, but expensive at $27. Also, to nit-pick, the egg white was a bit tasteless, especially in contrast with the delicious yolk mixed in with the pasta.
The bistecca was a small and anemic portion of skirt steak that tasted okay. The salad of wild arugula, smoked tomato, pickled onion, reggiano, and balsamic vinegar was good, if a tad over-dressed, but that’s down to personal taste.
The canolo is well-priced and decent. It’s no Mike’s Modern Pastry in Boston, but it’s also not 800+ kilometres away. I also enjoyed their sorbets. The pear was especially nice.
All in all, Fabbrica isn’t somewhere I would go often, but I would still return (preferably on someone else's dime). I found the pastas to be better than at Scarpetta, and to me, the prices are pretty equivalent. You just don’t get the same fancy wrapper as you do at Scarpetta, which is a blessing sometimes. If Fabbrica could tweak and lower their prices, it would certainly make it on to my roster of regular restaurants.
We ate there last Sat night. Table had two pizzas and four pasta dishes plus dessert. I tried the papadelle this time and loved it. Pizzas wee yummy as usual. Service was extremely attentive and knowledgable.
I know that people like to knock this place, so that is good as it will keep the crowds away. As it was, they were full.
In the Star review McEwan is quotes as saying ~ “The cooking’s too involved for the average person. It’s meant to be entertaining, another layer of your story in their home and another connection between you,” he says.
I am neither Italian or a Nonna, but Italian cooking is not that hard as McEwan suggests .... Being an "average person" I do all the Italian preserves ( eggplants, peppers, olives, etc.) and the involvement in making these or even a homemade pizza makes it all the more entertaining and exciting when you share it with friends and family (and the process of making it does not come close to $200) ....
It just takes time .... But in the dead of winter, I'm certainly not going to drive to Fabbrica to get my $20 pizza and $38 beer .... I'm going to crack open a jar of preserves and make my own darn pizza .....