Campagnolo (Little Italy South)

Campagnolo @ 832 Dundas Street in Toronto Ontario, call them @ (416) 364-4785

Visited: Thursday April 24th, 2014

The unfortunate thing about Toronto’s Little Italy is that there really aren’t many good Italian restaurants there. There are a lot of cheesy touristy ones. Sure, there are some quality family-run cheap slice and veal sandwich places (e.g., Bitondo’s) and an outpost of the venerable California Sandwiches chain. But the more upscale ones along College strike me more as cash-grabs aimed at the unsuspecting, tourists, or diners more interested in going to the nearby bars afterwards and don’t mind subpar food at a high price (ahem, Vivoli).

The outlier (but you have to walk several blocks south) is thought to be Campagnolo. And having recently moved to the area, I decided to treat myself and a friend to a night out here for having finished law school. I’m also here to tell you that what you’ve heard is right – this is an excellent restaurant.

One thing you might want to judge a restaurant on is how well they deal with tough situations. The night we visited they were clearly understaffed. Still, despite a few hitches (we waited about ten minutes for our drink order to be taken, and a rather long time between appetizers and entrees), the staff dealt with it with aplomb. Our sever, an effusive young gentleman was quick to ascertain what type of diners we were and soon figured out he could joke around with us. This is something I notice. One quibble is when asking about drink recommendations, he couldn’t help us until he found his glasses, indicating he didn’t know the menu. These are minor complaints.

It was hard to find a flaw with the food. We ordered the salumi plate, papperdelle with rabbit ragu, and a deconstructed chicken parm. The salumi plate was excellent across the board (pun intended), with a fatty venison salami as a standout. They do sort of coerce you you into getting the bread ($4) as a plate of salumi is really a rather silly endeavor without bread. While I quite enjoyed the perfectly cooked plate of pasta (the papperdelle was a revelation – someone in the kitchen knows exactly how long to cook fresh pasta), my friend’s deconstructed chicken parm was probably the standout. It consisted of a couple of ravioli, marinara, and a two perfectly cooked pieces of chicken. This was more-or-less everything you like about chicken parm without the heaviness. The “breading” in the classic Italian-American dish was even reflected in just an expertly crisped chicken skin (giving way to a still-juicy chicken breast – not an easy feat if you’ve ever tried to cook chicken breast through without drying it out).

I’d be happy to come back to Campagnolo, but it’d probably also have to be a special occasion type of night. While the food here is quite reasonably priced (around $20 for entrees), the wine mark up is a bit steep. I was drinking a Sangiovese by the glass that really shouldn’t have been out of the $10 range (it was $3-4 more).

I hate to end a review of a good restaurant on a negative note, so I’ll end it on a non-sequitur. Can someone explain this song to me? I can’t stop listening to it, but I can’t figure it out for the life of me.