Osteria Giulia (Toronto)

While Osteria Giulia has been awarded a Michelin star, it’s unlikely they’ll receive a service award anytime soon. Having arrived five minutes early, they weren’t ready to seat tables and we were asked to leave – no option to wait inside or at the bar, what a pain during a windy cold fall evening. Nonetheless, once we were seated, our waitress was warm and welcoming, making up for the poor first impression from the hostess.

Luckily, the food didn’t disappoint. The burrata e caviale ($45), although served a bit cold for my taste, was soft and fluffy, the centre creamy but doesn’t ooze out upon being cut through. The simple starter was a cacophony of flavours mixing briny Italian caviar, sweet Asfodelo honey, and a smoky sourness from the Blackbird bread. That splash of sweetness from the honey was unexpected but absolutely made the dish.

Pull apart the calamari ripieni con tonno ($36) before taking a bite and you’ll find the delicate seafood stuffed with yellowfin tuna paste so there’s a meatiness to each bite. It’s topped with a puntarella and charred pepper salad, giving the calamari a refreshing crispy bite. I’m glad it wasn’t overloaded with too many sauces so that the natural seafood flavours were present.

In retrospect, the lorighittas al mare ($38) was too similar to the calamari. In fact, when the dish was presented, all I could see was a plate of squid rings, only to find many were circles of hand braided pasta. Our waitress explains what makes the dish special is the time intensive nature of creating the pasta, which did have a lovely bite to it. Everything is tossed in a tasty olive oil sauce with a hint of garlic, chilli, and an umami essence from anchovy. I just wish the dish had more of the bay scallops and even some spot prawns thrown in to make it taste more like a seafood pasta.

I’m generally hesitant to order ravioli as it’s usually a scant dish and when they are not adequately filled it can taste like you’re eating pieces of dough. Osteria Giulia’s ravioli doppi ($44) smartly has one side unsealed so they can be overstuffed with silky ricotta and sauce, so you get a gush of filling with each bite. Chunks of lobster and kernels of sweet corn add richness and texture to the dish. It was an impressive dish and the most memorable of the evening.

If you’re visiting the restaurant and expecting to be full after an appetizer and pasta, you’ll be disappointed. Following true Italian traditions, the pasta is just the second course, you’ll need to order a main. We shared the rack of lamb for two ($85) and were presented with eight perfect medium rare lamb chops that were lightly dusted with sea salt. While this would be even better if it was served with a sauce, to give it interest, the meat was prepared beautifully.

The fagioli ($16) went particularly well with the lamb, the crispy beans well coated with a salty spicy meat sauce that added a punch of flavour against the otherwise neutral lamb.

With a selection of delicious sounding desserts, I opted for the millefoglie al cocco ($19), which was beautiful to take in with the thin layers of crispy pastry separating dollops of white chocolate and mango cream. It’s a dessert that could have benefited from being served with a knife, as it was difficult to break through the puff pastry.

Every table needs to order the tiramisu alla Giulia ($19), a rendition of tiramisu that brings it to another level with the ice cream centre and huge dollop of mascarpone and rum zabaglione on top. It was so rich and delicious… how can I have tiramisu any other way?

Osteria Giulia gets mixed reviews online and I can see why: what you order and how much you order can really affect the experience. While it’s a great Michelin option for those who have a smaller appetite or want the flexibility of controlling a budget for the evening, the restaurant should consider making a tasting menu to ensure tables get to really experience all their “best of” dishes – the ravioli, burrata, and tiramisu.  

The restaurant is certainly one of the more inventive Italian restaurants I’ve visited in Toronto and offers some impressive dishes. Still, there’s something about the experience that’s lacking compared to other Michelin restaurants in the city such as the absence of well-rounded service, not serving fully presented mains, and employing annoying nickel-and-diming practices like charging $3 a person for water. Unlike their ravioli, it’s not one experience I’ll be gushing about. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 134 Avenue Road

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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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