Thursday, February 7, 2008

Mangia&Bevi: I thought the pizza was good; the antipasto, pasta, and dessert are to die

Firstly, thank you to Ayngelina for posting about Picnic Restaurant at Yonge and Eglinton. Sorry to hear the food wasn't the best, but the pictures are gorgeous. I have to learn how to take better photos from you. My pictures of decor always came out so badly that I stopped doing it. And, Ayngelina, you've inspired me to write again.

Italian Week
I have so much to catch you up on, so I thought I'd attack it by cuisine. So, let's say that this week is Italian Week and I'll write posts that may include these places that I visited semi-recently: 7 Numbers on Eglinton, Terroni on St.Clair, Mercatto, Solferino Gelato Cafe, and Stellina in Boston. I'll start Italian Week with Mangia&Bevi because I've been there twice since I wrote about it and there's so much more to it than pizza.

Prelude to the Theatre
Last week, I went to Mangia&Bevi before attending an amazing play at Soulpepper called Salt-Water Moon. Soulpepper has been located, since January 2006, in a beautiful new theatre complex called the Young Centre for the Performing Arts at the east end of the Distillery District. Soulpepper plays start at 7:30PM and Mangia&Bevi is open all day, so it's the perfect place for an early pre-theatre meal. It's also just steps away from Canstage's Berkeley Theatre.

On both visits, we ordered the Antipasto Di Affettati Misti, which is a beautiful platter of proscuitto, several salamis, olives, and pickled vegetables. On both occasions the contents and presentation were slightly different but both times all ingredients were high quality and delicious. I especially loved the proscuitto, pickled onions, and preserved tomatoes.

With 19 pizzas on the menu and only four pastas, you might not think they are good but they so are. When I went with a big group, we shared a bunch of pizzas and one order of the Ragu pasta and it easily stole the show. The noodles were homemade and eggy and the sauce was a perfect combination of sausage, carrots, onions, and garlic with a lacy covering of freshly grated parmesan on top. Get it. You won't be disappointed.

On a subsequent visit, I got the Amatriciana pasta which was penne with pancetta, red onions, chillies, and a dusting of vibrant parsley and grated pecorino. The pancetta was smokey and satisfying without overpowering the dish with salt and the tomato sauce was fresh and simple. You'll like this too, but I must admit my heart is with the Ragu.

My friend Jenny had the Pasta al Forno. It was penne tossed with tomato sauce, layered with boccocini, and baked to an oozy goodness. We were both so into our dished that we forgot to share, so I didn't taste it but Jenny couldn't say enough about it.

More Pizza
The great part of going to M&B with a big group is trying lots of different pizzas. We sat at a great high, table at the back (great for large groups up to 8) and ordered a 4 Formaggi (mozzarella, gorgonzola, goat cheese, provolone, oregano), Peperina (mozzarella, roasted red peppers, goat cheese, basil), Bufalina (buffalo mozzarella, basil), and Burina (tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, basil).

All the pizzas have an amazing, thin crust that is so light that you can easily eat a whole pizza yourself. The tomato sauce is also simple and natural-tasting making a nice base for the star ingredients. All of them were great, but I think the best is the Burina that has big chunks of rustic, homemade sausage. The pizzas take literally 5 minutes to make, so if you're rushing to the theatre, this is your best bet.

The dainty desserts at M&B mean that you always have room for something sweet. We shared a tiramisu that was airy and dreamy with a generous dusting of bittersweet cocoa powder on top. It looked like it was prepared in a large, square pan, which gave it a really homey feel. Since it was so light, we also had some Bacetti, which are basically ice cream-filled chocolates. Each one had a different flavour in them. I don't remember what they all were, but mine was limoncello. Yum.

I can't say enough good things about this place. And it's still very quiet on weekday nights, so go before the word gets out too much and it turns into Terroni.

260 King Street East (entrance is on the west side of Ontario Street)
Toronto, ON
M-F: 8:30AM-10PM
Sat: 11AM-5PM
Sun: Closed

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