Otto’s Trattoria (Toronto)

If song writers were to remake popular songs to update them for the 21st century, I wonder how Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song would change. Could chestnuts still be roasting on an open fire? I can’t remember the last time I’ve had roasted chestnuts, especially not during Christmas. And do families really cook anything over an open fire anymore? The closest foods that come to mind are barbequed meats and pizza, but I guess “tomahawks and pizza cooking on an open fire” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. Regrettably, you now have a glimpse of my chaotic inner mind.  

Perhaps it’s a tune that Otto Trattoria will consider remaking for their holidays as their wood burning oven is prominently displayed and coaxes every table to get one of their pies.

I like tasting a chef’s skill with a plainer pizza. We tried the burrata pizza ($24), which was covered with tomato sauce, basil oil, cherry tomatoes, and the cheese. The crust had a lovely soft chewy consistency but would have been better if it weren’t soggy in the centre – unfortunately, there was too much tomato sauce. Still, I liked that the chef broke up the cheese and applied it evenly across the pie so that every bite contained some burrata.

The prosciutto & rucola ($22) takes the basic pizza and tops it with a covering of thinly shaved cured ham and arugula. Strangely the chef cuts the crust before topping the pie, so diners need to saw through the prosciutto with a butter knife, which causes the cheese to slide around. One small change of cutting the pizza after covering it with the meat would help make eating this easier. Messiness aside, the paper-thin crust remains crispy and it’s a flavourful bite as you get the fresh tomato sauce, gooey cheese, salty ham, and peppery arugula.

I’m glad Otto leaves their tomato sauce rather neutral so it’s not overly salty. If anything, it allows you to ask for their chopped green chili oil to scatter over top to give it a light heat.

The chili oil also pairs nicely with the rigatoni Bolognese ($24), cutting through some of the heaviness of the meaty beef and veal and helping to flavour the under seasoned sauce. While the menu notes it’s served with rigatoni, the pasta almost resembles an oversized macaroni that really traps the sauce within the crevices and inside. The dish is simply finished with parmigiano and tastes authentic.

While I was taken aback by the square pasta shape used in the shrimp linguine ($23) – surely, more spaghetti than linguine - I’m glad it was homemade and arrived with a lovely chewiness. The white wine, olive oil, and garlic sauce was thickened with a touch of pasta water, so it clings nicely to the noodles. Along with cherry tomatoes and spinach, the dish is fresh and nicely seasoned. I just wish there was more than four shrimp and that they would be cooked less so they aren’t as rubbery.

Yet, nothing surprised us more than the sheer size of the chicken parmagiana ($31) - just the cutlet resembled a dinner plate and was covered with a gooey cheese. Usually, it's a dish you need to eat quickly or starts to get soft. At Otto's, the thinly butterflied chicken breast was lightly coated in bread crumbs so it held onto the tomato sauce without becoming mushy and the spaghetti cooked al dante remaining chewy to the last bite. Trust me, you need to share this dish or be prepared for leftovers galore.  

I was skeptical whether Otto’s calamari fritti ($18) would be good… it came out so quickly after placing our order. They are likely the frozen variety, but nonetheless lightly battered, crispy, and well seasoned. For those wanting some heat, you’ll find it in the aioli.

The more I think about it, the more I like the sound of “pizza toasting on an open fire”… it has a ring that causes a food lover’s heart to sing. Mr. Bublé, maybe it’s time for another Christmas album?

In a nutshell... 
  • Must order: rigatoni Bolognese and chicken parmigana
  • Just skip: burrata pizza
Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3441 Yonge 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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