Every now and then I go out for dinner and leave just in LOVE with my entire experience. This was the feeling when I left Piano Piano a few nights ago. It had been on my list for some time and quite a few people I know had been with raving reviews. Needless to say, I was excited. You quickly realize upon walking up to this Harbord street spot that the experience starts even before you step through the door. I mean, have you seen a more beautiful exterior? I think Miss Thing’s may be the only other place I can think of that rivals the artistry of this outdoor mural.
Photo Credit: Toronto Life
The flower motif carries through to the inside with a few of their main walls adorned with floral wall paper. Overall the interior was very art-deco and a throw back to the days of Great Gatsby. High ceilings, arched bulk heads, brass fixtures, table and banquette seating all make for one beautiful space. My favourite part, which I realized later, is that Chef Victor Barry created a gallery wall of art by his two year old daughter! I never would have guessed by first looking at it, super adorable and a lovely show of love for his family.
Photo Credit: Post City
Photo Credit: Toronto Life
A few other little fun tid-bits before getting into the food, Piano Piano is short for ‘piano piano va lontano’ which translates to ‘slowly, slowly one goes further’. How much do I love that? The idea that we should take our time to enjoy both our food and company. Lo adoro! Finally, Piano Piano was previously Splendido, also owned by Barry which he decided to rebrand and move away from high end dining to a something more casual, laid back and accessible. Although, I totally think he needs to bring back the champagne cart.
Okay on to the important part, the food. They have a great little cocktail menu with all drinks priced at a decent $13 and wines sorted by $45, $65 and $85 for bottles or $9-13 by the glass. The menu itself is simple at first glance – pizzas, pastas, entrees and a good selection of starters. Splendido was known for their pasta and they carried forward some classic dishes while inventing some new ones. On the menu for this evening was:
Smoked Burrata – with Roasted Tomato, Garlic, Basil Pesto Toast
Mushroom Cavatelli – Truffle Scented Oyster Mushroom, Parmigiano
Canestri alla Vodka – Tomato, Chili, Mascarpone, Parmigiano, Spicy Pork ‘Nduja (we got it without the pork)
Meatballs – 1/2 Pound Meatballs, Tomato, Chili, Basil, Parmigiano, Toast
Braised Short Ribs – Russet Potato, Gnocchi, Chive, Mushroom
Brussels Fritti – Garlic, Lemon, Chili, Parmigiano
So first off, something to know. Their pasta’s actually come in two sizes – a $16 appetizer and $24 main serving. Here’s the thing, the appetizer size is not really an appetizer size. SO MUCH FOOD! Let’s dive in. First things to come out were the smoked burrata and the brussel sprouts. Can I just say that the toast that comes with the Buratta could be an appetizer on its own? The sprouts were not my fave but a good way to get some veggies/greens in without going down the salad route. The burrata was perfect, firm exterior with a soft creamy, oozing center. The toast was almost very similar to the tomato bread from Bar Raval but the pesto just takes it up a notch.
We actually got the larger portion of mushroom cavatelli to share as table and believe me when I say it was still not enough. From the minute it hit the table the smell of truffles was hypnotizing and every spoonful was a little piece of heaven. The cavatelli was also an interesting type of pasta that I’d never had before. A slight chew to the texture which was unexpected but not heavy like a gnocchi. If you know my love for the mafaldi ai funghi from Gusto 101 then trust me when I say this dish rivals it big time.
Next to come up were the mains. I had the meatballs and they were no joke. I only got through one of the three meatballs that came with the dish since they were about the size of my fist. They sat in the most delicious tomato sauces and came with crusty bread, can’t go wrong but I think I would get this to either share or opt for one of the pastas or pizzas instead. I tried a bite of the canestri which had just the perfect kick to it, super simple in its flavour profile but done really well. Comfort food at its best. The short rib was definitely something I’ll have to indulge fully in next time. My one small taste was perfect, tender, juicy, velvety mushroom gravy and soft pillowy gnocchi.
Needless to say there was no room for dessert.
Everything we had was incredible. There was not a single complaint and much silence as we just savoured every bite. The only snafoo in our evening happened when we first arrived. We had a reservation for 8:30 and were right on time but couldn’t get seated because a table of 12 had paid their bill but hadn’t left. This was slightly frustrating because on many occasions you get told that you have a dining limit and for some reason this rule didn’t apply here. Not that I am fan of those limits in the first place. We were eventually seated about 20 minutes later but just not the greatest start to the evening.
I will 100% be heading back to Piano Piano, hopefully in the near future because I’m dreaming about the food on the daily. It also seems like the perfect spot to host a special occasion like birthday or bridal shower so who knows, maybe I’ll have to have one of those soon 😉
Till next time!
Discover Piano Piano:
Address: 88 Harbord St, (Harbord & Spadina)
$$ – 55/person with a drink (we split the entire bill including a cocktail and a $45 bottle of wine)