Tag Archives: Italian

Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria Review

I’m going to tell you something and it’s going to make me sound like a giant dork.

I created an Excel chart for my restaurant bucket list, organized by city and type of food. This way I can easily pick out just a few restaurants to suggest when I’m making plans with someone. It’s kind of neat!

A few Fridays ago I crossed one Stratford restaurant off my bucket list – Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria! JZ was able to get off work early, so we headed there mid-afternoon and planned to explore the city a bit before dinner.

Highway 7

It was chillier than we expected out, so we wanted to grab some hot drinks to warm ourselves up. I suggested Balzac’s, a local chain with great coffee, but as we were walking we stumbled upon a small independent cafe called Slave to the Grind that we decided to check out.

Slave to the Grind

I liked it immediately! Exposed brick walls always create a really cool atmosphere. This place had several other great features too, like lattes made with various brewed teas and a selection of vegan milk options. I got a masala chai latte made with almond milk with a dusting of fresh cinnamon on top. It was delicious while not being a sugar bomb like most chai lattes.

Slave to the Grind

We sipped our drinks while walking around Stratford. I found at least 3 other restaurants there that I had to add to my bucket list when I got home! We also wandered through Shakespeare Gardens, which was exactly what I pictured the gardens looking like when I read Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. As a side note, if you haven’t read that Shakespeare play yet, add it to your reading list. It’s my favourite one!

Shakespeare Gardens Stratford

When our reservation time came, we headed over to Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria, one of Stratford’s best known restaurants that is both a Taverna in the upper level and a Pizzeria in the lower level. Our reservations were for the pizzeria.

Restaurant review of Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria in Stratford, Ontario

Because it’s below street level with stone walls, you almost feel like you’re in a wine cellar! It gives it a really cool atmosphere, although I wish our table wasn’t so close to our neighbours’ table. It’s hard to have a nice conversation when you can almost join in the conversation of the people next to you.

I had a glass of their wine special for the night, which our waitress recommended and I really enjoyed. I wish I had written down what kind it was! JZ really liked his Tawse Riesling as well.

Restaurant review of Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria in Stratford, Ontario

I had the Soiled Reputation (a local farm) green salad to start, which had slow roasted tomatoes and fennel in it. It was a bit overdressed but I otherwise really enjoyed it. I like that they stuck to only a few flavours to let them really stand out. Unfortunately JZ didn’t love his Caesar salad, and I had to agree with him. It had a strong punch of garlic, but was somehow bland at the same time.

Restaurant review of Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria in Stratford, Ontario

We both really enjoyed our pizzas though.

I took a while to decide on my order (like always – decision making is not my strong point!) but eventually decided on the Don Corleone pizza on the whole wheat crust, which came topped with pepperoni, Italian bacon, roasted red peppers, and fresh basil. It had the perfect thickness of crust (thin, but not too thin) and such great flavours on it! JZ loved his Italian Stallion pizza too, topped with prosciutto, Italian sausage, Italian bacon, spicy calabrese, bocconcini, roasted garlic, and fresh herbs.

Restaurant review of Pazzo Taverna and Pizzeria in Stratford, Ontario

They were pretty big servings though and we both left with half our pizzas in to-go boxes. Two meals from a $16-20 pizza ain’t bad! But my forgetful self ended up leaving my box in JZ’s fridge, so I didn’t get to enjoy my leftovers. Guess we’ll just have to go back some time!

Pazzo Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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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

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Road trip ’13: Day 4

Saturday was the day we did our loooong drive from Halifax to Quebec City – we spent over 10.5 hours in the car!!! But first we checked out the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. We planned our trip specifically so that we would be in Halifax on Saturday because Hayley said I just had to see this market.

Halifax Seaport Farmers Market

And of course she was right – I was in heaven! There were local fruits and vegetables, freshly caught fish, handmade soaps, vegan truffles and energy bars, fresh artisan breads, ethnic food stands, arts and crafts, and more. It was amazing!

Halifax Seaport Farmers Market

We browsed for an hour and left by 9:30 am to begin our road trip. Our first stop was in Moncton, New Brunswick for lunch because we wanted to go to the Tide and Boar – a gastropub that was featured on You Gotta Eat Here.

The Tide and Boar Moncton

They are famous for their boar poutine, so my sister got an order and we all helped her eat it. It was so good – the boar was super tender and there were huge chunks of cheese curds in it!

The Tide and Boar - Boar poutine

For my main meal I got their black bean and date veggie burger with spicy mayo, as per the recommendation of our waitress. It was pretty good, but it didn’t really blow me away. The side salad was awesome though – it had roasted root vegetables, Parmesan cheese and a shallot dressing. It was also supposed to have granola in it, but they had to leave it off because of my allergies.

The Tide and Boar - black bean burger

Tide & Boar Gastropub on Urbanspoon

After lunch we got back on the road and drove. And drove. And drove some more. I spent a good chunk of the time catching up with good ol’ Alton Brown. His books are like a food geek’s dream – I love how they explain some of the science behind cooking.

Good Eats by Alton Brown

8 hours and 760 km later (that’s not including the 250 km we drove in the morning!), we finally arrived in Quebec City. We checked into the Loews Hotel Le Concorde and then headed out on foot in Old Quebec in search of food. It’s been almost 10 years since I was last in Quebec and I forgot how much I love it there – it has such a European feel to it.

Quebec City street

We finally decided to stop at Bello Ristorante. Even though we just had Italian the night before, this place looked really good! Also we were just happy to find a restaurant that could get us a table since it was almost 9 pm and the rest of the restaurants nearby were full.

This place was packed to though – and it had a great atmosphere! The servers were all bustling about, and were obviously very attentive and friendly to their tables. All the customers seemed to be really enjoying themselves too, which added to its good vibes.

Before the meal we were brought out bread with olive oil and balsamic, which was really good.

Bello Ristorante Quebec City

For my appetizer I had an arugula salad with fresh market vegetables, Parmesan cheese, and a white balsamic vinaigrette. It was simple, but tasted good.

Bello Ristorante Quebec City - arugula salad

My entree was gemelli pasta with mushrooms, truffles, arugula, white wine and pecorino cheese. I’m not sure if the pasta was made in house, but it tasted like it!

Bello Ristorante Quebec City - gemelli pasta with mushrooms, truffles, arugula, and pecorino

Bello Ristorante on Urbanspoon

By the time we were done our meal it was past 10 so we just headed back to the hotel room and crashed – we were exhausted after such a long day in the car!

What is the furthest you’ve ever driven in one day?

Have you ever been to Quebec?

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