A formidable late 19th century mansion formerly owned by George Gooderham lies on a great expanse of Jarvis Street with a patio the size of which could rival any Florence piazza. This is the home of Osteria dei Ganzi, an elegant yet casual Italian restaurant that seeks to deliver authentic Italian food from the Tuscany Region. I, along with my dining partner, was invited to sample a tasting menu prepared by Chef Guerrino Starpoli on a recent Wednesday evening and opted for a table on the spacious patio overlooking Jarvis Street.
The Toronto patio is indeed rare in its size and spaciousness and would be perfect for a cocktail event. We were warmly welcomed by the manager and offered a starter that included small balls of risotto and tomato, and olives, breaded and fried in a light batter and served with a homemade salsa. The crunchy coating perfectly complemented the enclosed tomato-rice mixture and the fresh tomato salsa added just enough spice to transform the dish into something spectacular.
To cleanse the palate, we were served the Amaretta Mista salad, a triumph in presentation and taste. The bitterness of the Belgian endive and radicchio was sweetened by fresh orange slices and local raspberries. The orange balsamic vinaigrette pulled all the flavours together.
The piccante pizza ($16) is an authentic replica of the pizza served in Florence, with a delightfully thin crust that was both crunchy and chewy. Biting into the pizza, you get a hit of chili pepper that gives the pizza a decidedly welcome kick. Chef Guerrino Staropoli informed us that any pizza worth its weight in gold should taste wonderful cold. Although I did have a piece of the pizza while served hot, being a notoriously slow eater, I was then was able to put Chef Staropoli’s pizza to his own test some 20 minutes later and yes, this pizza tasted just as good once it had cooled down. Chef Staropoli proudly informed us that almost all of the ingredients in the pizza including the tomatoes, flour, extra virgin olive oil and buffalo mozzarella cheese were imported from Italy and bear the DOP designation. Other ingredients such as the Portobello mushrooms are locally sourced.
We were then served shrimp and pleice mushrooms ($14) in a sauce of sambucca and cream, which was heavenly and not too heavy. Continuing in the seafood category, Chef Starpoli suggested we try the catch of the day, which was a dish of scallops, shrimps, mussels and tilapia in a white wine bouillabaise served with crostini. The tomatoes from Italy made all the difference, providing the tenderly-cooked seafood with a truly flavourful sauce. The crostini with extra virgin olive oil were great for dipping into the mildly-spiced bouillabaise.
For dessert, Head Pastry Chef Sonia Cecchi prepared a trio that included a decadent orange cream cheese mousse with mixed berry compote, a crispy cannoli and a serving of tiramisu. The orange cream cheese mousse was simply spectacular with a smooth, satisfyingly sweet consistency enhanced by the robust flavour of the berry compote. I loved the twigs of fresh mint providing a refreshing essence. The cannoli was stuffed with a light whipped cream filling that was not too rich. Chef Cecchi’s tiramisu showcased a light touch compared to some overpowering coffee versions of the dish I have sampled and resulted in one of the better tiramisus I have sampled.
With impeccable, attentive service, exceptionally good value and a stunning patio, Osteria dei Ganzi is the new go-to place on Jarvis Street for authentic Italian dining.
Osteria dei Ganzi, 504 Jarvis Street (just north of Welleslely Avenue East), 647-348-6520