Del Dente

I’ve eaten out at a lot of restaurants in my soon-to-be 25 years. And when it comes to judging restaurants, this is what I’ve realized: it’s the added touches that can totally sway my opinion on a restaurant.

This is what happened with Del Dente. JZ and I made reservations there for our 6 month anniversary, and based on the website it looked like a moderately upscale but not too frilly Italian restaurant. My impression slightly changed when I walked inside – it had more casual decor than I expected and was filled with families and kids. My first thought was “Oh no, I’ve walked into East Side Mario’s”. But my perception was once again changed by the food.

To start they brought us out bread. But not just any bread. This bread was freshly baked in house and served warm with two types of butters: herb and apple cinnamon. I expected a mediocre pre-baked and reheated bread, so this really impressed me.

del dente flower pot bread

For my appetizer I had the Villagio salad with mixed greens, olives, cucumber, grape tomatoes, pickled fennel, balsamic port vinaigrette, and Woolwich goat cheese. I liked that this wasn’t just your average Mediterranean salad – the pickled fennel made it really unique and added a great bite to the dish. Also the use of local ingredients was nice to see!

del dente salad

After much deliberation (as usual), I decided on the pizza with San Marzano tomato sauce, local prosciutto, Ontario fior de latte, and lemon truffle arugula – an ordinary pizza made extraordinary by the thick, flavourful prosciutto and soft local cheese. It was so good that I was full after half, but ended up eating all but once piece!

del dente pizza

JZ had the chicken parmigiana on top of in-house handmade pasta. Even upscale Italian restaurants I’ve visited don’t make their pasta in house, so this gives Del Dente major points in my eyes.

We were in the middle of deciding whether dessert would be worth the food coma, when our server brought us out a complimentary dessert to celebrate our anniversary. It was such a nice added touch! Unfortunately the dessert was covered in hazelnuts, so the table beside us got the dessert and we got to select another option. While we don’t always like the same entrees, JZ and I definitely see eye to eye when it comes to desserts: we both immediately pinpointed the house made ricotta cheesecake with orange and lemon marmalade and salted caramel brittle. I loved this twist on cheesecake – the ricotta added such a nice texture and richness.

del dente cheesecake

The overarching theme of our dinner here was all the added touches – the homemade dishes and ingredients, the unexpected flavours, the local ingredients, and the complimentary dessert – all of which transform this restaurant into a place worth writing about!

Do you find that the added touches can change your experience at a restaurant?

Del Dente on Urbanspoon

31 Comments

Filed under Italian, restaurant

31 Responses to Del Dente

  1. Happy 6 month Anniversary Chelsea and JZ. I really do hope you call him JZ in person now :) That dinner looks divine and I am glad you didn’t let your first impression turn you away. I always forget that little kids are sometimes over pasta with butter and do enjoy upscale food/ restaurants as well. For me, the make or break (apart from the food) of a restaurant is definitely the staff and how friendly/ helpful they are. I do appreciate a fresh atmosphere in terms of decor but it comes second.

    • Chelsea

      Thanks Molly! Definitely agree about having friendly staff – a rude server can totally ruin a restaurant experience.

  2. At first I thought the first part said about your son being 25 years, i was like WHOOOOAAA! NO WAY!!! Then I re-read it, and realized how stupid that sounded haha!

    I LOVE it when restaurants do that, it makes the experience so special, and definitely makes you share it with others, so it helps them in the long run too! When i went to Fogo De Chao last year with my mum and aunt, they asked why we were there, and we told them I was a finalist for NCAA Woman of the Year, they brought out a Congratulations decorated dessert, it was beautiful, and yes, such a nice touch :)

  3. 6 months already? It seems like it was just yesterday that I was pressing you for details.

    Don’t you just love restaurants that actually put in effort to make it special? I pretty much refuse to eat at chain restaurants because there’ no love in the food.

  4. aww, happy anniversary! It’s always so nice when restaurants really seem to go the extra mile with all the little touches. And of course, free dessert is always a bonus ;-)

  5. YUM! I love when a restaurant totally surprises you- I’m all about the food! Service is really important but the food will keep me coming back! Congrats on the anniversary :)

  6. I always love your restaurant reviews and know your opinions are coming from a well experienced diner because of how many You have done. Any restaurant that brings me fresh bread is good in my books. Your pizza looks so gourmet!

  7. absolutely! that looks fantastic!

  8. Oh my goodness this place sounds fabulous! I love the sound of all the food and the personal touch of the complimentary dessert at the end! So sweet :) congrats on six months, too! Joe and I were pleasantly surprised by an Italian restaurant we found in Hershey on Saturday. We weren’t sure when walked in, but the food tasted great!

  9. Aw, Happy Anniversary! And this restaurant sounds fantastic! The food looks SO amazing!

  10. oh that pizza!! i actually just said that out loud!

  11. Happy anniversary! This is so cliche but you can’t always judge a book by it’s cover! Some of my fav restaurants look like crap from the outside but if the food is good then that’s all that matters!

  12. 6 months already? Awwr! Happy anniversary to you and JZ :) I don’t go out to eat a tonne, but I do love when restaurants make an effort to make things more personal and special. No matter how good the food is, if the atmosphere and service is crappy, I probably won’t go back.

    • Chelsea

      I definitely think a good atmosphere can make a difference. I love it when the decor really fits with the food – it makes for a more holistic restaurant experience, if you know what I mean!

  13. Chels, wise wise pick on that pizza. And this is why you’re joining Davs and I in NYC- The most mehhh looking restaurants are the best. BEST.

  14. I love it when a restaurant adds some personal, extra touch to their services!

  15. I’m glad this place proved your first impression wrong, it looks great! Happy Anniversary again!

  16. I’m glad this place was much better than your first impression, it looks great! Happy Anniversary again!

  17. P

    Hmm, a ricotta cheesecake? Ricotta and cheesecake are not exactly my most favorite foods, but perhaps putting them together makes it taste good? Haha, it certainly looks pretty =).

  18. I am totally in agreement girl! Kailey and I went out to this amazing restaurant last week that brought out fresh bread, a sample appetizer and dessert and a free glass of dessert wine. WOW! I am also so glad to see you enjoying your time with JZ- You 2 really seem to be clicking :)

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