Thursday, February 12, 2009
Originally my friend Stephen and I were going to try an Indian place he'd heard about from a friend.
"OK, so I just called my friend and it turns out the place is in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE."
Plan B was Italian sandwiches at Peppino's, because I'd never had an Italian sandwich before.
"What makes a sandwich Italian?"
"Body hair... hand gestures... connections to The Mob..."
I was in. Unfortunately, it turns out that Peppino's is closed on Sundays, so after wandering around Kensington for a little while, we finally decided on Plan C: Pulcinella.
Pulcinella specializes in "Authentic Napoletana Pizza" and is located in a brick building that used to be a saloon, but they have completely gutted and redone the place with a very mod, black-and-white decor so that you can hardly recognize it. We had excellent service from our French waiter, despite the fact that we might've been a little underdressed—I had just gone out for a run, while Stephen is growing a beard for his girlfriend and he asked me whether it made him look crazy. It doesn't, but I told him if he doesn't comb his hair, maybe.
We were debating whether to get the Fungi Fritti or the Arancini to start when the server came by, so Stephen asked him whether the former was good.
"Yes, but you have to really like mushrooms to like this dish because the way they prepare it comes out... not as soft as regular mushrooms. If this is your first time here I would suggest trying the Arancini, that is very good." (Remember to imagine this being said in a France-French accent.)
Since our waiter had such awesome mind-reading skills, we decided to start with the Arancini, which is described as "saffron-infused Arborio rice molded and stuffed with mozzarella, breaded and topped with a tomato sauce." (More restaurants should put their menus online.) In other words, risotto balls.
The Arancini was a perfect balance of crispy and creamy, something I'd failed to achieve when trying to make risotto balls from leftover risotto in the past (mine just came out chewy.) I was happy that neither the cheese nor the tomato sauce overpowered anything. The waiter brought by a salt shaker, saying that we would need it, but since my inner nutritionist makes me a salt-phobe (despite having lower-than-average blood pressure), I was good without it (and it was still delicious!)
Stephen and I each ordered a pizza on the advice of our waiter, though I guess I must have underestimated the size of a 10" pizza in my head because they were huge! I got the Vegetati Grigliati, which had grilled eggplant, zucchini, peppers, mozzarella, parmigiano, and fresh basil, because I am always intrigued by vegetarian food (and usually turned off by cured meats).
As someone who's used to pizza of the delivery or frozen variety, I was a bit taken aback by the tomatoey-ness of the sauce. While I understand it means the pizza is using less artificial ingredients, I think I like the sweetness of canned tomato sauce better *blush*. Otherwise, the pizza was pretty good; the veggies were nicely grilled (though the eggplant still had a little "raw" flavour), and the cheese was nice and soft and melty. The only qualm I have with the pizza was the crust - while the surface was nice and pillowy (it tasted like there were air pockets within the pizza, which I think is a good thing), the underside tasted a bit charred and left grey charcoal marks on my plate.
Stephen decided to get the Pulcinella as soon as he saw the words "buffalo mozzarella". I wasn't sure what the fuss was about, and even after trying a bite of his pizza I still can't figure out what the big deal is. Yes the cheese is made from buffalo's milk, yes the pizza was *covered* in cheese, but not grossly cheesy because it wasn't very strong and salty.
Despite being thin-crust pizzas, they left us stuffed even though he had some leftover and I had half of a pizza to take home. The charred crust was a little disappointing for me but I'd still love to go back, if only to stuff my face with appetizers and desserts, or get spoiled by that French waiter again :)
1147 Kensington Crescent NW