Ascari Enoteca (Toronto)

October26

I felt badly that I had missed their anniversary. When they married over thirty years ago, there was a very small gathering of parents and siblings but we were one of two couple of friends. I realized that the significance of my visiting on that weekend was not lost on them when R said sincerely “Thanks for being at our wedding” for I stood beside M as her maid of honour. The night of their anniversary, I was at another restaurant across town with my friends from FBC 2016. They were at a little spot in their neighbourhood. The next evening they cooked filet mignon’s with all the trimmings. So my opportunity to celebrate with them came on my last evening in town. They suggested Ascari Enoteca, not far from where they lived. They had visited there before. Ascari Enoteca is named for famous Italian race car driver Alberto Ascari. The Enoteca (wine depository) was celebrating half price wine night and the little spot was jammed with Monday night diners. In fact, I could hardly follow our conversation over the din. This did not embarrass me as friends R & M are half a year older than me and our conversations often centre on a part of our body which is no longer working. ascari1 M had told me about an item from the list “In Compagnia” (things to share) that they liked to order. Broccolini Fritti was lightly battered broccolini crowned with lemon zest and pecorino cheese. The batter was light and salty like a tempura batter and the citrus and cheese was so satisfying that I tipped the serving bowl onto my side plate and scooped it up with a spoon. R made me perfectly comfortable with my brazen table manners by saying that a friend of his had done exactly the same. ascari2 When we each ordered our pasta, R selected another sharable of Cavoletti di Bruxelles. The shaved Brussel sprouts were tossed with guanciale (an Italian style bacon made from pork jowls), garlic chips and toasted walnuts. They too were so satisfying that I plan on getting my mandolin out and shaving some Brussel sprouts sometime very soon. ascari3 M chose a salad of charred romaine hearts that she was happy to share with us. Dubbed Insalata Americana, the boats of blackened romaine were filled with oven-dried tomato, tiny slivers of radish and a creamy oregano dressing. Sunflower seeds and fried shallots added extra crunch. ascari5 I was eager to have a taste of M’s Linquine alla Puttanesca with the traditional ingredients of tomato, anchovy, caper and olives. She liked the unusual addition of smoked cod. My taste of the latter revealed an overwhelming salty and smoky taste. I was glad that I had not been tempted by her choice and tucked into the evening’s special of Tajarin Ai Fungi. ascari4 My favourite pastas are lightly tossed with a few simple ingredients reminiscent of our recent time in Tuscany. Fresh and delicate Tajarin noodles (like spaghettini but square not round) had been tossed with beurre fondue (melted butter), tarragon, chanterelles and “heavens be praised” truffle oil!  We have travelled through many regions of Italy but not yet Piedmont where Tajarin noodles are a specialty. Each spin of the pasta was concluded with a spearing of chanterelles. The fungi (mushrooms) complemented the musky dab of truffle oil. Simply divine. We washed everything down with a wine of R’s choosing-a light and slightly acidic Basadone from Casetto Di Verduno. The wine also hails from Piedmont, so it was a tremendous choice. Upon further research, this is what I discovered: “The Barbera d’Alba label has a drawing of poppies which are called Basadone in local dialect (papavero in Italian). Basadone in dialect also means a little kiss – local tradition has it that Pelaverga is an aphrodisiac!” ascari6 We concluded the evening with a lemon pudding and three spoons, remembering a time when they as a couple took me under their wings and provided companionship after a bumpy time in my life. Although my timing was a couple of days off for this dinner, it was a lovely celebration of their love, marriage and our long lasting friendship. Ascari Enoteca Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Kath’s quote: “You may have the universe if I may have Italy”.-Giuseppe Verdi img_0184 Love never fails.

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