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The swish factor

Scaddabush has a new downtown location just steps from Toronto’s gay village

Scaddabush has a new location just outside Toronto’s gay village. Credit: Scaddabush

Having grown up in your average Irish-Canadian Prairie family, my exposure to foods from other cultures was somewhat limited. It’s hard to imagine that while I was chowing down on cabbage rolls and toasted Spam-wiches, other kids were eating things like fresh-made pasta, gelato and pizza that didn’t come out of a freezer. This disparity in childhood nutrition becomes particularly depressing when visiting an Italian eatery like Scaddabush, now in a snazzy new downtown location.

Truthfully, there are some aspects of Scaddabush that seem a little at odds with its urban home. It certainly follows the downtown trend of eclectic-chic design, complete with reclaimed wood counters, exposed brick and vintage signage, but the environment borrows heavily from its original Mississauga progenitor: there’s the remix of an old Journey song blasting overhead, and the wall of antique mirrors is liberally interspersed with framed LCD TVs showing various sports games. Fortunately, the super-cute waiter maintains the swish factor with friendly, flirty service.

The food, however, is anything but suburban. Scaddabush’s menu emulates its name’s Italian meaning: a little bit of everything. Certainly the star of the show is the  selection of hand-made mozzarellas, prepared daily on premises. There are a few varieties, but my companions and I decide on the mozzarella stuffed with honey and truffle-infused cream. It’s rich, slightly sweet and heavenly smooth, reminiscent of triple-cream Brie without the skunky undertones. Served on the accompanying toasted crostini, it’s easy to see why the restaurant also does a brisk trade in take-home portions.

The honey flavour is carried through to the osso-bucco bites, Italian dry-rubbed pork beautifully flavoured with chili-rosemary honey and served atop pappardelle crisps. Truth be told, the crisps are disappointingly bland, but the bites are a fantastic alternative to chicken wings. They’re perfect for sharing and could easily be a quick meal during an upscale downtown pub crawl.

Scaddabush’s other boasting point is the signature giant meatball, and they have good reason to brag. This sucker is the size of a baseball, served on a thick slice of Italian bread and soaked in a delicious tomato sauce. Even just sharing these appetizers, we’re all getting quite full at this point; if you’re looking for good value for portions, this is definitely the place.

It’s hard to decide between the hand-made pasta and the pizza, but we plump for the latter and are not disappointed. The Atomica pizza is a real fireball, thin-crust without being brittle, and dressed with super spicy sopressata salami, sweet peppers, red onions and the aforementioned fresh mozzarella. The San Marzano tomato sauce is tangy with a touch of sweetness, smooth and delicious.

For diners wanting a light meal, be advised that the portions at Scaddabush are hearty and very filling. I normally wouldn’t follow such a heavy amount of food with dessert (yeah, right), but I follow my assignment through to the bittersweet end with zeppole, a paper bag full of deep-fried sweet dough bites served with a rich chocolate sauce. My dining companions nab the apple ravioli, filled with caramel and apples and served with velvety vanilla gelato.

While the atmosphere may skirt a little closer to suburbia than I’m normally comfortable with, Scaddabush’s food is definitely worth the exposure to 1980s cock-rock music. We dropped about $130 for three people, including a few glasses of wine and bubbly water. Factor in that a normal human being would eat about half of what we did, and you have a pretty reasonable night out with a good chance for leftovers.