Ardo (Toronto)

Ardo isn’t flashy. The décor reminded me of someone’s kitchen, the tables neutral and sparse.  Even as the tin of bread arrived, the thick slices looked rather plain. Yet, one bite into the salted soft chewy bread and a dunk into the rich olive oil, I knew the restaurant doesn’t need pomp … using fresh ingredients and seasoning dishes just enough is their calling.

Take the carpaccio ($16), the dish incorporated a nice selection of flavours and textures with the leafy peppery arugula, salty preserved mushrooms, and a slight crunch from roasted pistachios. Sure there was cheese, but unlike other places that shave copious amounts of strong parmesan on top, Ardo showed restraint with smaller pieces of ragusano instead.  My only grievance was the cut of beef: perhaps it was sliced too thickly or cut with the grain, but they were a tad chewy for carpaccio.

Seeing arancino ($7) written in its singular form on the menu, I should have realized we may need more than one for a table of three. Nonetheless, the risotto starter was a decent size and could adequately satisfy two. Inside the cone shaped coating was the traditional creamy rice … but stuffed meat ragú, green peas, and a light caciocavallo cheese! One of the best arancino I have ever tasted, it would even pair nicely with a salad to make a light meal.

Yet, it’d be a shame to miss Ardo’s pasta. The anatra ($18) was fantastic: the fettuccine chewy and emitting a lovely egg flavour.  Although I couldn’t decipher the five secret spices in the duck ragu, it was delicious and with the sauce on the bottom added a buttery meaty essence to the dish. Even the crispy kale on top was a good touch – just eat it quickly before the heat starts wilting the kale and rendering it chewy. 

You really can’t go wrong with pasta; my friend’s salsiccia ($17) showcased soft chewy pieces of orecchiette. The house made Sicilian spicy sausage added a hearty richness to the dish but it was balanced with rapini and cherry tomatoes.

As much as I enjoy Neopolitian pizza, I’m glad restaurants are starting to branch out to other regions as well. Ardo’s Sicilian crust is crispy with huge air pockets – oh that lovely yeasty aroma that escapes as you bite through the pizza. The speck & ‘shroom ($19) incorporated copious amounts of prosciutto and the same salty preserved mushrooms used in the carpaccio. The thin layer of tomato sauce was enough to flavour the dough, but more fior di latte is required for creaminess.

Despite being in a Sicilian restaurant, we didn’t order the cannoli for dessert, instead settling on the torta all’arancia ($8) to share. I didn’t think I’d like the dish after reading there’s orange incorporated into the creamy mascarpone. But, it wasn’t bad. With the lady fingers, amaro liqueur and sprinkling of cocoa powder, the cake is essentially a tiramisu with fruit. It’s okay, but I’ll take the tried and true espresso any day.

Another thing I like about Ardo’s low key environment is the quieter setting. With all the loud music blasting at the “trendy” places, I’m delighted to find a place where the ambient noises are subdued and I don’t have to shout to catch up with friends. So yes, Ardo isn’t fancy … but that’s just the way I like it.  

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 243 King Street East

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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