Two of my good friends and I often go out together for dinner, and usually (almost always) try out an unfamiliar restaurant or one we’ve heard good things about but have never been to. For one of said friend’s birthday, she picked Trattoria – possibly because she lives so close to it, or possibly because she just loves Italian food! In any case, Trattoria was our destination for her early birthday celebration on one Tuesday evening.
When I showed up, I was early and ahead of my friends as usual. I told the waitress I wasn’t sure if my friend had made a reservation for three, and was informed that the restaurant 1) doesn’t accept reservations (something to keep in mind!) and 2) wouldn’t seat me until the entire party was present. I’ve actually never come across this particular second condition in a restaurant in Vancouver before, but I’m assuming it has something to do with Trattoria being supposedly quite popular…
In any case, my friends and I still managed to grab a table fifteen minutes later. Lucky they showed up when they did, because the restaurant was almost entirely full fifteen minutes after that! Take-home message? Get there early. (We were seated at 5:45pm, which is pretty early already, in my opinion.)
Our waitress told us that all pastas on the menu were $10 that night (except for one: Lobster Fettucine, which is $19), and that any dish ordered on the side was half off. Awesome. For three poor stingy students, this seemed too good to be true and like a pretty good deal for a restaurant that seemed ” too hip” for us when we walked in. (We all felt a little underdressed initially, but later noticed that the majority of the dinner crowd wasn’t really that dressed up at all.)
Being one that loves classics, I just ordered a Penne Pomodoro with an Insalata Mista on the side…
I have to say… I was quite intrigued by the big pinkish thing on top of my salad! The presentation was fantastic and we were all quite impressed (but I still have no idea what it is). The greens were pretty standard, but dressed up with the vinaigrette that came with the salad, they tasted delicious. The tomatoes were particularly fresh, and crushed almonds added a very nice crunch to the salad. It was a refreshing blend of flavours and a nice way to cool down between bites of my pasta…
The Penne Pomodoro was delicious and, I admit, did exceed my expectations. The tomato sauce was chunky and fresh with wilted spinach mixed in. It also had a bit of a spicy kick — just enough to wake your tastebuds up without sending the spice alarm off. My pasta was actually cooked perfectly, and was al dente – the way I know most people like their pasta. (I was slightly disappointed, but only because I had read on another blog that the penne had been undercooked in previous cases, and I like my pasta slightly undercooked, heh.)
The birthday girl got some sort of pasta special of the day, and I can’t remember what it was called. As the photo indicates, however, it was a linguine dish with cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, pancetta, and a bit of spinach. Apparently the dish was fabulous, though I did not taste it myself… She did comment, however, that an actual sauce would have brought the dish together a bit more. The flavour combination was still great, but the dish seemed to be lacking unity. The linguine was also cooked just until it was al dente, so rumours of undercooked pasta may just tell us that food – or, more specifically, pasta – is a bit of a hit-and-miss deal at Trattoria.
My last friend ordered the Garganelli, which is cooked in roasted chicken broth and served with herb roasted chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and peas. She’s a bit of a poker-face so I couldn’t gauge how tasty this dish really was, but she said it was “fine”. I would hope that the pasta at least had extra flavour, seeing as it was cooked in chicken broth and not regular salted water.
Since it was a birthday dinner, I asked the waitress if she could bring something special for the birthday girl… and the birthday girl was served a nice, big slice of tiramisu! (Classic Tiramisu” on the menu.) The tiramisu was indeed classic and completely true to the original ingredients: there was a gentle underlying flavour of the liqueur, and the marscarpone was fluffy and just sweet enough… Layers of dark chocolate cocoa powder (one on the top and one in the middle) contributed a nice, slightly bittersweet contrast to the layers of sugary sweetness… Very nicely done. The presentation was beautiful, but I wasn’t quick enough to get my camera out! (Yes, it was supposedly that hard to resist eating that lovely dessert right away…)
All in all, we had a great night. Our waitress was consistently attentive, which is impressive given the fact that the restaurant was so extremely busy. (Our water glasses were almost never empty!) However, if I must complain about anything, it would be that the restaurant felt a little bit cramped. Our table neighbours were just a little too close for comfort for us. This is most likely just a result of the fact that the restaurant is utilising every last bit of space available in order to cater to its constant stream of customers. Luckily, the ambiance and atmosphere does not suffer much; Trattoria has a relaxed and casual feeling to it, and somehow the place was never too noisy (well, after a noisy family with children left, this was the case). We never had to shout to carry out a conversation, which is the way I like it.
So, should you try out Trattoria? I don’t know about the pizzas, bu the pastas were fortunately quite good on the night I visited! I would recommend going early on a Tuesday so you can at least give the pastas a taste-test without going bankrupt. And if you still have room, definitely give the Classic Tiramisu a try!
(On a scale of 1-5:)