F’Amelia opened almost two months ago on Amelia Street in Old Cabbagetown. Near the corner of Parliament Street, it’s a short trip by TTC from home (would be even shorter by bike, but it was chilly and windy today). I’ve been following the restaurant’s Twitter account since they opened, and they’ve been following mine, and we’ve chatted about food, ingredients, and local birds (they have a collection of bird feeders out back).
I was itching to get out today, and decided it was time for a trip over to Riverdale
Zoo Farm, and a good opportunity to go to F’Amelia — their menu certainly appealed to me.
I was an early bird at the restaurant, which opens at 5pm (eek, it’s almost dark out at 5 now). Great people. I regret not writing down the name of the manager, because she is adorable and efficient and knowledgeable. I was greeted, seated, and ordered a Negroni while trying to decide what to eat from the menu. And then Todd Vestby, one of the owners, came out and gave me a warm greeting. It’s always nice to meet the face behind the tweets and find out the story of a restaurant. You can find more info on their website. I was lucky — executive chef Maurizio Verga was working tonight, and I had the opportunity to meet him. Everyone was personable, and I felt they all really cared about the place.
I’m going to have to come back with friends to try the Antipasto Misto. I bet it’s a good plate.
Mains are very hard to choose from. Plus they have a special today of a stuffed pasta that includes lemon and raisins and meat, and a few other ingredients that make it sound like a lemony mincemeat (if you’ve ever had a true mincemeat, not one of the ones made solely of fruit). One thing I love about their menu is that they offer all the mains in two sizes. I can choose the smaller one, and maybe have room for other dishes!
Desserts look good. Will I have room?
While I’m sipping my drink, bread arrives. It’s all made in house, and is delicious. I failed miserably at making focaccia twice this year, and here it was, simple and perfect, with some salt and rosemary. Plus a chunk of a good sturdy bread that was tender and almost like a buttermilk biscuit. A drizzle of good olive oil on the plate to dip the bread.
Because I’m a fan of cold water oily sustainable fish, I wanted to try their warm mackerel salad. I’m glad I did, because it was delicious. The fish was firm and fresh, fried from the skin side, so nice crispy skin on top, with some frizzled lettuce greens. Underneath lay ingredients that complemented the fish beautifully. Grilled radicchio was superb, providing charry bitterness against the fish’s richness, and then potatoes and sunchokes to provide sweetness. Highly recommended!
Next came the surprise course! One perfectly seared sweet scallop surmounting a seafood risotto that included shrimp, clams, and impossibly tender squid. Really. I was wondering if I was mistaken, or if it was something else, like some stem of a mushroom that I wasn’t familiar with. The executive chef, ‘Rizio, came out at that time, and I had the opportunity to ask him about it. He cooks his squid sous vide! It gets added to the risotto at the last moment. Very tasty risotto.
Next came my third polenta dish of the last three weeks. I thought the polenta I had at Rosa’s in San Francisco was tasty. This was better. Creamy perfect polenta, with osso buco and marrow butter. There’s rosemary in the polenta, giving it a rich herby perfume that can stand up to the richness of the veal shank. Sometimes polenta has so much cheese in it that the flavour of the corn is lost. Not the case here.
With the stew on top…the brunoise was perfectly cubed. The meat is so perfectly exquisitely rich, tender, braised long enough to be tender, not overcooked (which makes a meat taste dried-out). This dish deserves a revisit. I had the small one: I can see coming back and having the full size. It turns out that Chef Maurizio is from Bergamo, just north of Milan, in the heart of polenta region. He really cares about his polenta, and it shows.
Alas, no room for dessert. However, I’m honoured that Chef Maurizio brought me a glass of his dessert liqueur — similar to a limoncello, yet his own. It was a great way to finish the dinner.
I sip my after-dinner liqueur, and watch around me as the restaurant starts to fill up. There are couples, families — opposite me, it looks like the grandparents have taken their two well-behaved little grandchildren out for pizza. Staff and customers recognize each other. It’s definitely full of neighbourhood people, and I think that a lot of them are regulars already.
Given the owners, staff, and the food, I’d be proud to have a restaurant like F’Amelia in my neighbourhood.