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Restaurants

Aria Ristorante

Posted by Libby Roach / Reviewed on February 28, 2012 / review policy

crudaAria is pure eye candy. Taking its name from the Italian meaning for air, the restaurant has a breathtakingly beautiful interior, with 35 foot high ceilings in the prime and constantly evolving Maple Leaf Square. Celebrating their first anniversary next month with an almost entirely new menu, at least someone in the neighbourhood has a reason to rejoice (oh, those ever-crappy Leafs).

Aria InteriorArchitect Stephen Pile carefully thought out the restaurant, with banquette seating abound and a spiffy marble bar for the target demographic of the location — well-heeled hockey fans in for a pre-game risotto, or perhaps more commonly, Telus execs down to take advantage of the almost museum-like surroundings. The kitchen is helmed by a young executive chef in Eron Novalski, while the restaurant is owned by Guido Saldini and Elena Morelli, the proprietors of Noce for many years. Alas, pastry chef Steve Song is no longer with them.

Aria menuReception is friendly and swift. We were led to our table, and I promptly secured the cozy banquette side that featured small pillows adding to that lux feel. We reviewed our menus and perused the extensive, (not so shockingly) mostly Italian wine list. The view was vibrant and there was plenty to be distracted by. Throngs of disappointed Raptors fans leaving the game, bright neon lights from the buildings outside the all-glass exterior, and at one point I even busted my dining mate checking out the score on the ACC's giant outdoor TV (the Leafs also lost on the night of our visit).

Aria RistoranteDetermined to be distracted by something other than sports, we order a couple of appetizers to get the party started. The Beef Carpaccio ($18) sounds promising on the menu, the staple of so many Italian institutions. Here, it's accompanied by a meandering of arugula sprouts, creamy gorgonzola drizzle, chewy walnuts and porcini mushrooms. Certainly a meaty affair, but unfortunately under seasoned. After a quick fix (although not on tables, servers will happily tote over a small bowl of sea salt and hot chili flakes) it was much more dynamic.

With a somewhat goofy presentation, my partner was delivered his Carne Cruda ($15), which is very much like steak tartare with a cracked egg on top (see leading image). The beef was moo-worthy fresh, the creamy raw egg, all in a delicate balance. The fries were a tasty and unpretentious accompaniment. My mate was moaning about the generous garnish of rosemary, but not being a big fan of rosemary I guess that's to be expected.

Aria-risottoThe Shrimp Risotto ($26) in a lobster broth is best described as delicate; not overpoweringly fishy and cooked perfectly, which surprisingly isn't necessarily a given with Risotto at Toronto restaurants. Ther abundant portion of shrimp comes shell-off, which is a small thing, but quite welcome. I hate mucking around the bowl searching for tails.

vealThe Veal Striploin ($37) comes sheathed in prosciutto and swimming in a tangy balsamic reduction. The side is a lovely portion of a potato pancake, with thinly sliced white onion that seems to float above the potatoes, similar to the dramatic dandelion-esque lights above our heads. The striploin was cooked to our desired medium rare, and well complemented by the balsamic.

Aria RistoranteEven though Aria is technically Noce's sister restaurant, it feels more like a glamorous aunt, studded with jewels and air kisses. Service was mostly attentive and very friendly. My only grumble is that the bathrooms are located outside the restaurant, accessed only by a card key you must first get from the hostess.

Lest I complain too much, however, Aria does most things right — unlike they're neighbours across the square.

Aria exterior

Discussion

22 Comments

arts / February 29, 2012 at 12:22 pm
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Yum.
hendrix / February 29, 2012 at 12:35 pm
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was it relatively well-attended when you went? I went once and it was dead.. felt weird being in that expansive space with hardly anyone around. It has potential if they can get more people in there so it has some life to it.
james / February 29, 2012 at 02:48 pm
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The amount of rosemary on the carne cruda is positively unappetizing.
Horque replying to a comment from james / February 29, 2012 at 04:34 pm
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I was thinking that too. It'd be like eating pine needles.
nightsoil / February 29, 2012 at 04:36 pm
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The carpaccio looks like insipid roast beef lunch meat. And the cruda -- dear lord, it's decked out like an evergreen.
JJDD / February 29, 2012 at 04:50 pm
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Went for lunch a few months ago. Great food, service and decor.

The restaurant can be busier/quiet on certain days it seems, but that is mostly due to location in my opinion - the area is still coming along (lots of construction of condo/office/hotel). It certainly is not due to the food/service, that is for sure.
Raymi / February 29, 2012 at 04:51 pm
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Need that cruda in my moutha right nowa.
CO / February 29, 2012 at 06:49 pm
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Do NOT support this business, these people are exploitative scumbags who scam poor job seekers over the Internet, bringing staff in for unpaid work, promising them jobs and then never contacting them or returning their calls.
Eli C. / February 29, 2012 at 08:57 pm
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I've never been to the restaurant, but I moved just 2 years ago from Italy (Piedmont, the region where the carne cruda is from). The carne cruda is definitely one of my favorite food, but it has to be served plain, just with oil, lemon, salt and pepper as dressing ... + sliced parmisan maximum! I could never imagine it with an egg, FRIES and rosemary on the top!!!!!
jt / February 29, 2012 at 09:49 pm
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agree with your friend, the amount of raw rosemary on top is ridiculous, you can't eat that. i like the egg on top but not with the polenta fries with a mushy interior.
DM / February 29, 2012 at 11:06 pm
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Terrible operation they have going here. I work in the building so I have had ample time to uncover why the food is so dry, plain, and uninspired. They have the chef in the basement parking lot cooking minuscule "Italian" food portions (I call them samples). The samples are then carted through the parking lot, up a service elevator (which can be unavailable/ busy ar times) then through a bustling corporate lobby/ ACC sports fans' hangout spot, to a snobby staff before it gets to your table. Not quite the romantic meal you'd expect for exorbitant prices. I dread being invited there for post work dinners etc. Eleven across the street is much more preferable. Same prices. However they have some inspiration in the kitchen to back it up. Not a thumbs up for eleven though. You want real food you have to get out of condo land.
JM / February 29, 2012 at 11:54 pm
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Typo in the last sentence. You want "their" not "they're"
FGD / March 1, 2012 at 11:09 am
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Horrible restaurant, horrible review. Have you actually been to the restaurant incognito? This place is waste of the decour they flaunt.
Moi / March 1, 2012 at 11:16 am
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Pass by there everyday.....never anyone in there
Restaurant needs an "enema"
And true, they do hire, then fire, don't pay employees
Word will get out of course
Guess they should join "E11even" across the street in how they treat employees.....oh daaaa horrrrrrror!
mayor dodge / March 1, 2012 at 12:52 pm
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When you wrote: 'I hate mucking around the bowl searching for tails', you really lost it. And, what the h3ll are you going on about the Maple Leafs for in a FOOD blog? Roach is the word, for sure. How many did you smoke?
gaylord dodge / March 1, 2012 at 03:26 pm
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Another day, another troll. Mayor, roll some pennies and buy a hotdog outside this restaurant. You can submit a review about it to this site and see if they publish it.

I've eaten there three times in the past month and echo nearly every observation in this review.
gaylord dodge / March 1, 2012 at 03:27 pm
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Another day, another troll. Mayor, roll some pennies and buy a hotdog outside this restaurant. You can submit a review about it to this site and see if they publish it.

I've eaten there three times in the past month and echo nearly every observation in this review.
Hepman replying to a comment from gaylord dodge / March 2, 2012 at 08:44 am
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So, gaylord, you hate mucking around in your bowls searching for tails, too. mayor, you're right about roach's maple leafs reference. Let us know how the hot dogs turn out.
Sulawesi replying to a comment from hendrix / March 2, 2012 at 05:40 pm
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The location has to be the worst for a fancy place such as this one. It's wedged between that ACC/Union walkway and that building on York with the Longo's in it. Whenever I walk past, it's a cemetry. The light fixtures are off the chain though.
Jesse / April 29, 2012 at 03:55 pm
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Opt for Noce instead. The menu is similar but better thanks to an open kitchen, the ambience, superb wine list and great service.
Danae / January 25, 2013 at 11:31 pm
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We went to Aria as part of Winterlicious. The menu was delicious (though not the same Winterlicious menu they have posted online). Good service, nice wine and cocktails. Amazing light fixtures.
Angela Glor / June 13, 2014 at 10:49 am
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Dined here last night! Now one of my favourites! The Decor and location is sort of perfect, it is a little hidden because of the bushes, but the food makes up for that. Started off with the tomato crostini and the carpacio. Both fabulous! I had the heritage chicken (AMAZING) and my friend had the veal. Again both great. PLEASE PLEASE order a side of fries, because these are the best fries! I will definitely be back!

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