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May 7, 2013 06:18 PM

Picea997 on a coupon

$25 for $54

Corner Dovercourt and Dupont
A nice room
Essentially a pasta -pizza menu

Pea and mint soup, caesar salad, beans and greens, olives, "Bourbon" pizza for me, spaghetti and clams for my friend. Plus a beer. $75 including tax.
My supper friend is Italian, grew up in the neighbourhood and loves his food but has gout now and limited himself to sharing the olives and salad, and had the pasta on his own.

I liked a lot the soup and bean and greens. The salad was wimpy and needed more character even though I asked for anchovies.The olives my friend said were good although the green ones were underripe; I am more familiar with Arabic preparations and prefer this style. The pizza I would not have again. The tomato "sauce' was crushed tomato. The
crust was supposed to be Neapolitan. I didn't understand it as such. I thought Neopolitan meant that it had three colours, like the two tone black and white rye bread, but it had only one. In any event I wasn't impressed by the wood fired business for the pizza. The taste of the crust reminded me of bad matzoh.`
The sum of the toppings was too much goop and the toppings did not sing. The toppings didn't go with the crust and overwhelmed it.
My friend said that he would not have the pasta dish again. Ditto for me on the pizza.

It is not that prices were too high but rather that portions were too small for the money.

With inconsistency and small portions I would have been aggrieved for what it cost without the coupon.


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  1. Are you executing some kind of 'coupon' experiment?

    1. Neapolitan pizza just means it is in the style of Naples. The most famous being the Pizza Margherita. Crushed tomato is normal. They are baked in a wood fired oven at very high temp for 90 seconds.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Smokinator

        justxpete. No. I like to try new restaurants but I know that in Toronto I usually will be disappointed regardless of best efforts. (Indeed, only in Toronto are my instincts generally not reliable.) So I use a coupon to temper the disappointment. I head the post with "on a coupon" so that other CHers can get a coupon if they wish if it is available.

        Smokinator. Is crushed canned (vs fresh) tomato typical on a Neapolitan pizza?

        Following the song by Dean Martin, I thought that whatever the pizza pie crust was like, the top would be white, like the moon, that is to say it would be a white pizza with no tomato sauce at all.

        1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

          Yes VVM it is very typical. Italians in general would rather use a product that is picked at the height of ripeness and canned then use a substandard product. Tomatoes right now are not in season here so good quality canned would be the norm. ie San Marzano canned. They typically use uncooked crushed tomato as the sauce and rarely use a cooked sauce for pizza. A pizza napoletana done properly is a simple thing of beauty.

          1. re: Smokinator

            One of my gastro nightmares is the memory of tsunami of sweet red mud used in mock Italian Niagara Falls N.Y. restaurants. Going up the ladder of displeasure, I don't like plum tomatoes, San Marazano tomatoes, canned tomatoes, canned Marazano tomatoes. The tomatoes in every step increasingly emphasize the characteristics of the sauce that I don't like. The sauce for me increasingly either smothers flavours or requires an escalating combat striving to create a balance. I do like a loose tomato sauce made with fresh tomatoes that are not plum tomatoes.

            Sorry, that 's just me. I shouldn't open an "Italian" restaurant . I do note with pleasure that you write that in Italy uncooked crushed fresh tomatoes are used on pizza: there won't be that big push of sweet mud taste.

            I agree with you about the Margherita pizza. This is what I choose to test a place. I recently passed on a "Margherita" at a place on the right part of St. Clair because it used dried oregano rather than basil as the herb. I should have passed on the restaurant even though I when I saw oregano, but I was already seated.

          2. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

            going to a coupon-restaurant is like guaranteeing yourself a poor meal IMO. When the craze started, I tried out a few, never again. I event went to a couple where I had decent experiences in the past, but on the coupon....horrible.

            Plus, speaking from experience, the restaurant hates you when you come in with a coupon. Its like a lose-lose situation for everyone.

            1. re: szw

              szw: The place where I start is that selecting a restaurant in Toronto on any basis- including or perhaps especially reviews by Toronto's leading food writers- is more likely than not to get you a bad or indifferent meal. At great expense. Indeed, I went through a period in which the more fashionable and expensive the restaurant, the more exalted the chef, the worse the meal. Then I gave up with the "talk of the town" places. So why not a coupon?

              My recipe for better luck on a coupon. I look on the coupon offerings as if they are a buffet. First. You can't demand things that are not on the buffet. Second. Some things on the buffet offer a greater probability of success than others. So you can't just get a coupon because you like the restaurant's hype and demand a meal to your desires or to your liking. For any measure of success you must follow your instincts about the meal that you will get and then purchase the coupon. If you have good instincts your success rate with the coupon will be no different than without. (I have been in places on a coupon where they were turning tables and the meal nevertheless was crap.) When you are wrong, the reduced cost makes the meal more acceptable and in any event reduces the aggravation. And you have some pleasure from having tried someplace new.

              The quality of the "coupon buffet" depends on the season. Winter is the slow season for restaurants. This winter the coupon buffet offerings have been good. (For eg., you can't knock a three course steak dinner for two at The Windsor Arms for $69, which is less than half price. The flow of good coupons seems to have dried up now. Let's see what happens after Mother's Day.
              In any event you can, like a good ant rather than a profligate grasshopper, store the coupons for the dry spell. Generally they have a pretty good long expiry date.

              I don't present the coupon until its time to do up the bill. I have not had resentment directed to me even though my bill stays small because I drink like a Mormon.


              1. re: szw

                Couldn't agree more. With few exceptions, the fact that they're offering coupons is a bad sign in the first place. You're setting yourself up for a bad meal - and while you may have the patience, I wouldn't waste the time. You're setting yourself up for bad meals over and over again - so one shouldn't be surprised when it turns out as such. You should be surprised when you miraculously find a good meal, at these places.

                1. re: szw

                  I would generally agree with your statement szw, however, I had an amazing meal with a coupon at scarpetta last fall. Still can't wait to go back there. Hoping for another coupon! I have definitely experienced the opposite though. You have to go in with hope, and hopefully you have a good experience!

                  1. re: TeacherFoodie

                    From Groupon
                    Il Mulino, Bocaccio, The Windsor Arms, Brunchworks and Sabbatino have come and gone.

                    I would investigate and select from
                    Artisano Sandwich $10/20
                    Govindas $10/20, $19/40
                    Tappo $55/130
                    Dyne $59/147
                    Fat Cat (oysters) $29/70
                    Off the Hook $10/20
                    Tita La Guanaca $15/30
                    Columbus Bakery $5/15
                    Portobello $49/113
                    The Beaconsfield $59/147
                    Paganello $25/56
                    Quinn's Steakhouse (Sheraton Downtown) $25/50

                    Check out CH to see if the majority of posts are not unfavourable. Bad posts are more indicative than good posts.
                    Many of these places offer two for one three course prixe meals . In any event, check their menus online to see if you can put together a decent meal more or less within the price range of the coupon.
                    The coupon places are better for taking the wife, not the girlfriend. You can oblige the Mrs to thrift- keeping close to the coupon.amount.
                    If you really like go back and spend more, even overpriced wine.

                    Like I said previously. Its like at a buffet. You gotta pick out what has the potential to be a good meal from what is available- rather than what might suit your fancy- and not set yourself up for failure and complaint.

                    What sort of luck do you have selecting a restaurant without a coupon? So for example Amaya (not recommended, see previous post ) was turning tables when I was there and I doubt that there were many coupons.

                    As for finding a foodie experience, its up to you and no one is going to tell you different. Many CHers- hundreds - posted rave reviews of Caplansky's, Dr. Laffa and Goodys. Nothing further on this trio.

                    With a coupon you get a trip to a place to which you have not been and a fighting chance of at least saying that it was worth the money.

                    P.S. -to aser- I also have focussed on Summer and Winterlicious in the past.

            2. Just curious about what restaurants you like and frequent w/o a coupon. I'd be hard press to recall you being pleased w/ any of the places you write about on here, 99% of them coupon related.

              1 Reply
              1. re: aser

                On the contrary, this round of coupon eating has been quite successful. Brunchworks, Bocaccio, Govinda's. If I like a place I get more than one coupon.
                My recommendations in Toronto can be found by punching in "Chowfind" into the CH search box. My interest in Toronto restaurants the last number of years has been limited to places that are capable of such an appellation. In part my bitter reaction of laughter, tears and resentment of being exploited all combined.
                For eating higher off the hog I am now much better for places in Israel and New Zealand where I spend more time- and where going to a nice place is much more likely to be a pleasure than an irritation.

              2. The May issue of Saveur(#156)has some good stuff on the art and science of pizza+recipes.

                1. Picea revisited- on my second coupon.

                  A very different night and a good and satisfying meal. Everything was good and portion size was larger.

                  Beans and greens- not as refined, but still very worthwhile
                  Baby arugala salad - a tasty salt, lemon juice and olive oil dressing
                  Five cheeses pizza- The crust was better baked and tasty. The cheeses topping worked, alone and with the crust.
                  Hazlenut chocolate gelato- tasty and refreshing.

                  I have used "tasy" three times. The meal was.

                  Recommended; I hope that the first time was unusual.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                    Alas, Picea is now closed. I had enjoyed it while it lasted; they'd done a nice job with the space, among other things.