During the day, Violino Gastronomia Italiana, an Italian restaurant in a converted historic home, has a casual vibe, where pizza dishes are served alongside classic pastas. Servers rush by my table on the patio, where I’m seated beside a large tree that’s older than the veranda – there’s a hole in the floor so that the thick trunk can freely grow upwards, with branches creating shade on neighbouring tables. It’s an ideal place to soak up the last bit of warmth before the season changes and the patio becomes just a distant memory.
To my right is a pizza oven and, as a chef opens the door and slides the pie towards him, I catch a whiff of bacon. Served on a wooden board, the square pizza arrives at our table still steaming – little surprise, considering it’s only a few steps from oven to plate. The salsiccia pizza with Italian sausage and mushroom is classic with thick chunks of meat and even thicker tomato sauce on a thin crust. On top, there’s mozzarella bubbling and slightly browned, or you can opt for goat cheese instead.
Another classic dish with a casual bent is the penne pollo, a chicken pasta dish with asparagus, boar bacon and Asiago cheese. The thick roasted red pepper sauce is sweet and flavourful while the cheese adds a slight saltiness.
But my favourite is a classic pasta dish with a twist – the gamberi primevera, which sees large, flat noodles covered in a soy and sesame ginger sauce. The sauce covers the broad noodles, shrimp, red and yellow pepper, and carrot. I can really taste the ginger, and the dish has a slight curry flavour accentuated by the soy. It’s a refreshing dish that’s hearty and satisfying – like all of the other dishes we’ve tried. (10133 125 St., 780-757-8701, violino125.com)