Review: Città makes for a fun CityPlace hangout, but don’t expect top-notch Italian

Review: Città makes for a fun CityPlace hangout, but don’t expect top-notch Italian

(Image: Jackie Pal)
(Image: Jackie Pal) (Image: Jackie Pal)
 

Città
92 Fort York Blvd., 416-623-9662

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The new casual Italian restaurant in CityPlace’s condo village is the latest project from Toronto’s resto-lounge titan Hanif Harji, who hired chef Ben Heaton fresh off the closing of his critically celebrated—though frequently empty Dundas West Brit pub—The Grove. The place has a posh party vibe, with approximately 20 beaded boudoir chandeliers, black leather banquettes and an affluent condo crowd who seems eager to let loose with ice buckets full of Prosecco and tables crowded with high-priced pizza.

Trouble is, the boot basics don’t quite measure up to those at the city’s many other excellent red sauce spots, nor do they deliver the Heaton’s proven panache. Greasy, squishy squash fritters come on a yogurt sauce with a distinct vanilla Yoplait sweetness that competes with the mild-and-mayo-y pepperocini emulsion on top. A highly efficient server suggests the Vesuvio Salsiccia penne in dandelion pesto, mozzarella di bufula, fennel sausage and crunchy bread crumbs, but it feels like a thrown-together weeknight dish: the sausage has licorice depth, the sauce offers no dandelion burn, salty satisfaction or even the promised bufula—a lonely, marble-sized blob congeals at the bottom of the bowl. The wood-fired Di Donato pizza has a crisp, blistered crust that sags perfectly in the middle, but the timing is off, delivering fridge-firm bufala balls, lukewarm sauce and stringy prosciutto beneath olive oil-dressed arugula.

The minimalist branzino, however, was much better: a juicy fillet tinged with seared flavour, dotted with sea salt and soaked in roasted lemon juice. Sides for proteins are pricey ($8) but, in this case, worth it: a tiny serving of dark-roasted cauliflower on a thick swatch of crème fraîche with sweet, fat raisins and tangy capers recalls Heaton’s well-balanced cooking at last. The pistachio-chunked cannoli are a sublime contrast of creamy ricotta and shattering pastry; the over-sized bombolini look magnificent but taste like Tim’s.

The verdict: if you live nearby, Città could be a fun hang, especially for a glass of obscure Italian wine on the monster patio promised to open this summer. Just don’t expect the top-notch Old World cooking Toronto is spoiled with elsewhere.

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