Sunday, 11 October 2009

Lured Back to Little Italy

The last time I ate in Winnipeg's Little Italy was the summer of 2008 when I tried a Vietnamese restaurant there. Before that, it was in the autumn of 2006 when my parents and I accidentally discovered the wonderful and aptly named Glutton's, which alas! became no more after Chef Makoto Ono left to set up a restaurant in Beijing in 2008. The building in which Glutton's stood is now home to Mise; Mise has apparently kept Glutton's grocery store which under the old name was small but featured some of the more unique, exotic and/or higher-end items that were typically harder to find in the rest of Winnipeg, such as Greaves Jams & Marmalades from Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON. In spite of the name, Little Italy is culturally diverse with restaurants featuring other ethnic or cultural foods other than Italian dotted here and there along Corydon Ave. One of the noticeable additions to that street in the 2009 dining guide year was Italian, though.

Fazzo features contemporary Italian cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere. Don't even bother thinking about pizzas when you enter this bistro, not even thin-crust ones; they're just not on the menu. Dinner main courses here are either pasta dishes or actual entree dishes with a featured meat and the customary veg and starch sides, while the lunch menu offers sandwiches, salads or, to my pleasant surprise, frittatas. Unlike other Italian dining joints where I've eaten to date, this place had a comparatively short menu, which was fine by me as I already had a tough time deciding between a few dishes, and I anticipated the chef would then be able to better focus on the quality of the dishes he/she created.

For my appetizer I was torn between the pan-seared scallops and arancini. In the end I went for the scallops partly since the server suggested it was good and partly because, though I was tempted to try those fried delights, I didn't want to feel stuffed before the main course arrived as the server noted there would've been three fairly large arancini to tackle (my sister will likely remember my experience with polenta at Bertoldi's in London, ON). I was slightly caught off guard by the saltiness of the seared sides of the scallops; it wasn't overpowering, but it was instantly noticeable. However, the subtle sweet and sour flavours of the tomato jam and the cool smoothness of the creamed leeks countered it nicely. Though only the white parts were used in the creamed leeks, the dark green parts still got to perform in this dish as a flavourful garnish in fried thin strands. The fried leek strands provided a hint of crispiness to contrast the soft and smooth textures of the scallops, creamed leeks and tomato jam.

I also had some difficulty picking a main course dish, but in the end, with my being in the mood for something relatively light and to go with the scallops I had for starters, I went for the sablefish (aka black cod or butterfish), which came served as a fillet with the skin made crispy. The meat of the fish was flaky yet moist, melted in my mouth and had a strong flavour thanks to its high oil content. Though I couldn't resist the crispy skin I found it to be just as salty as the seared sides of the scallops from the previous dish; at least the meat itself helped temper that saltiness. Fried bits of what I suspect was parma ham were sparkingly sprinkled amongst the cipollini onions and crushed new potatoes, and until that evening I'd never had, let alone seen, white beets.

Dessert selection here was limited and none of the items called upon me, so I skipped dessert this time around. I wouldn't suggest skipping this place, though. It's a cosy little place that exposes one to the joys of contemporary Italian cuisine. I was, however, a little bit surprised that I encountered two dishes where I felt there were some elements that were saltier than I anticipated and expected to be, though in fairness to the chef, I've grilled and eaten enough scallops to know they can taste saltier when seared compared to, say, simply stir-fried. Considering this was my first and as of yet my only visit to this place, I can't say for certain now if it was just a fluke or if this place is a bit more liberal with the use of salt on some of its food items.

Name: Fazzo
Address: 905 Corydon Ave., Winnipeg, MB
Cuisine: Contemporary Italian
Price Range: Lunch $10-$30; Dinner $20-$55
Accessible: Yes

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