CLOSED: Il Covo for Winterlicious (Toronto)

Winterlicious is back and people are flocking out to support Toronto restaurants while nabbing a deal.

Il Covo was bustling with every table and bar seat occupied. In fact, we were seated at their window with a ledge that didn’t seem large enough for a dinner service, but in retrospect functioned adequately and provided us with a bit more privacy than being seated at the bar.

Their three-course menu ($55) started with a plate of hot focaccia buns, which had a lovely crispy exterior and soft fluffy centre. Salty and slightly oily, if you’re a lover of Jack Astor’s pan bread, Il Covo’s elevated version is delicious even without all the garlic and parmesan.

In true Italian fashion, our first course was a rigatoni con ragu where fat tubular pasta was swimming in a meaty Bolognese made with pork, beef, and chicken. The pasta was al dente, the sauce hearty and not overly acidic, and the light shreds of cow’s milk cheese adding a touch of creaminess. It’s a pasta that would make any nonna happy.

My body was craving iron that evening so I continued with the tagliata di manzo. Our server didn’t even bother asking how we’d like the steak prepared, instead the seared flat iron steak arrives a perfect medium rare. Thankfully, the plain dinner knife they provided was sharp enough to cut through the tender beef.

Given the main contained no starch, I did find the greens – a mix of pickled leeks, watercress, and mushrooms – too salty as a side. Especially when the brown butter jus was already fairly seasoned as well. It’s a shame there wasn’t even a couple of wedges of roasted potatoes, it would really help balance out all the strong flavours.

Not wanting to risk a sleepless night, I opted out of the afragato for dessert and went with the aranciata sorbetti instead. Sorbet isn’t overly exciting, but I liked that Il Covo’s version wasn’t too tart, and the addition of mint and Prosecco gave the orange sorbet a bit of interest.

Despite being absolutely packed that evening, the service was respectable, and the food arrived at a well-timed pace. We were even thanked for being “an easygoing table” with a round of complimentary limoncello, Il Covo’s house made version not overly sweet, smooth, and vibrantly flavoured.

The first Winterlicious back must be challenging for the restaurant industry, especially when dealing with staffing shortages, rising input prices, and bouts of sickness still looming in the background. Il Covo rose to the challenge and treated us to a successful meal, despite the less-than-ideal sitting arrangement. Welcome back Winterlicious.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10
Is Winterlicious worth it (based on an estimated selection)?
Winterlicious - $55
Regular menu - $67* - pasta* ($12), black cod ($41) and tartufo ($14)
Savings - $12 or 18%

* Based on half portion of the gnocchi el ragu

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 585 College Street

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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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