Review: Strada 241, the Rubino brothers’ new take on rustic Italian

Review: Strada 241, the Rubino brothers’ new take on rustic Italian

(Image: Emma McIntyre)
 
Strada 241
241 Spadina Ave., 647-351-1200

strada241.com
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The Rubino brothers are an unpredictable pair. As stars of Made to Order, their own reality series, Guy and Michael catered to the show’s fans, experimenting with ever-more complex, outlandish and expensive Asian fusion dishes at Ame and Rain. And now the always-surprising brothers are serving the least surprising cuisine in the city—rustic Italian. The heady scent of espresso and marinara fills the soaring set of rooms, which includes an all-day café, a dining room, a massive bar and an open kitchen. Miniature tabletop foosball boxes encourage diners to linger over their post-meal macchiatos. Guy’s menu doesn’t stray an inch from Southern Italy. Things start out poorly with 10 shards of fried, flavourless calamari, each grotesquely impaled on its own nail. However, plates improve markedly with charred asparagus spears topped with an eggy zabaglione. The Alessandro pizza is smaller than similar ones at Libretto or Terroni, but the toppings on the salty, blistered crust pack huge flavour: juicy veal meatballs, hot pepperoncini flakes of fresh Parmesan. An unfussy al dente spaghetti all’amatriciana, layered with shreds of smoky bacon and sharp pecorino, is spicy and rich, encouraging huge forkfuls and slurps of red wine, as any good spaghetti should. Desserts by Robert Gonzvales, the Rubino brothers’ pastry chef of 13 years, end the meal on a high. Semifreddo with a miniature hazelnut brownie achieves the Platonic balance of deep chocolate flavour, chewy texture and hot-cold temperature contrast. Servers set a casual tone, peppering their deep knowledge of the wine and food with disarming banter. A small collection of Italian cocktails joins some powerful Italian wines on the drinks list.