“Lovely for a nice night out.”
Review by Chynna Hamm, student writer in the University of Alberta WRITE 297 program
When my friend Josh and I first walked into the tiny restaurant at 14233 Stony Plain Road, I was immediately reminded of the restaurants in Italy that are often off busy streets. I’m not sure how long the building has been there, but the restaurant boasts that it has been serving Edmonton for over 25 years. The structure itself looks like an oversized house, and the fact that it is in a residential area solidifies that homey feel. There is parking in the back, and if the lot was full, it would be easy enough to park down the street and walk. The restaurant is only open 5-9 PM most nights.
The dining room is relatively small, and they ask on their website that parties of six or more please make a reservation, but the two of us were seated immediately. There was no music, just the ambience of other people eating and conversing. It was warm and friendly and not too fancy, which I thought was good. There were lots of tables, dim lighting, and everyone was close. There were also photographs and paintings on the walls with scenes from daily Italian life. A Christmas tree stood in the corner, and a few other elegant and festive decorations were on top of the central fireplace. It was dark outside, and the lights from the passing cars made Josh say to me that he thought this was like a cozy little restaurant from a Hallmark movie.
Bread is my favourite food, and I was thrilled when soft, lightly salted bread was brought to our table, along with a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dredge it through. There was a lot of wine to choose from, and some fun non-alcoholic Italian options like Orangina or Chinotto. I just ordered a Coke ($3 for soft drinks) and we perused the rest of the menu. There didn’t seem to be many vegan options, but a vegetarian could easily find something to eat.
Our server brought us our food in a timely manner; the presentation was simple, and the food was abundant. We were offered ground pepper and parmesan, which we both gladly accepted. I ordered the Cannelloni ($18.95) and Josh chose the Petto di Pollo Limone ($24.95).
Tasty Tomato is known for none other than their tomato sauce, and both Josh and I got to try it in our dishes. It came smothered over the Cannelloni, which are thick pasta rolls stuffed with veal, sauce, and cheese. The pasta was cooked to perfection and the meat inside was flavourful. I was happy that my rolls were filled with more than enough cheese.
The chicken that Josh got was sautéed with lemon and herbs and sat on the plate beside the ‘pasta of the day’ (which our server told us is usually shell pasta) covered in the signature tomato sauce. The chicken was tender, and the lemon was a fresh and welcomed flavour after the richness of the meat and cheese that I was ingesting. The tomato sauce itself was extremely delicious and it is no question why the restaurant is known for it. It was rich and slightly sweet with subtle hints of mixed herbs like rosemary and oregano. I appreciated that it was smooth and not chunky. It complemented the food without overpowering it.
Josh and I finished our main courses and our server offered us some dessert. The restaurant is best known for their tiramisu, but I am not a fan of coffee flavour. We both chose one of the many gelato options ($8 each). Mine was a vanilla, cloaked in a white chocolate shell and some sort of cherry sauce oozed from the middle. Josh chose a dark chocolate and raspberry that was dusted with cocoa. They were tasty, but they were obviously pre-frozen in molds and nothing made them especially amazing.
The service was very efficient and there was never a time that my water glass was less than half full. Because of this, I eventually made a trip to the bathroom. A lady with a thick Italian accent told me to ‘go down the stairs,’ and I was almost worried I had misheard her until she pointed to them at the very back of the restaurant. The washroom was clean, bright, and had a separate area with just a mirror for primping. Now I know that when I find a nice guy to take me on a date, I can go and freshen up, even if it is in a slightly creepy basement.
Our server came over and offered us lattes or cappuccinos to finish. We declined politely and asked for just the bill. In total for the two of us, including tip, it was around $75.00. Definitely not an all-the-time kind of thing for a student like me, but it was lovely for a nice night out.