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Restaurants

Black Skirt (College St.)

Posted by Brigitte Noel / Reviewed on May 21, 2011 / review policy

Black Skirt TorontoBlack Skirt is a recent addition to College Street's bevy of Italian restaurants. Open since January, the eatery takes over the space formerly occupied by Pantry, just west of Dovercourt.

Hearing the word 'Italian' before the word 'restaurant' raises the hackles of foodies everywhere - Italian food is done often, and often done wrong. While College Street offers up a wide array of restaurants, Little Italy's quality options are spread thin among the glut of pedestrian offerings.

Black Skirt TorontoBlack Skirt is one of these rare quality options. Owners Rosa Gallé and Aggie Decima have taken their venture from Yonge and Bloor to the outskirts of the city's Italian district, with great success. Their location and menu are both refreshingly off the beaten path.

A superb establishment, the restaurant's decor is modern rustic, blending wooden accents with the work of local artist Francesco Gallé, the owner's brother. The dining room is sun-strewn and breezy, with light music and a floral-clad, smiling server showing us to our table.

Black Skirt TorontoWe sit in the mismatched antique chairs and tuck into a fresh loaf of bread, served in a brown paper bag. The man beside us is enjoying a large portion of incredible-looking pasta, and our mouths water as we decide on antipasti.

Black Skirt TorontoWhite Sicilian anchovies ($8.50) are the first choice to arrive. The small, meaty fish are soft and lemony, served with grilled Italian bread and chopped tomatoes.

Black Skirt TorontoThe arancini ($3.95) is a must, a battered ball of rice with a decadent veal, pea and mozzarella centre served with a side of tomato sauce.

Black Skirt TorontoSoaked in a bold, spicy tomato sauce, the shrimp ($10.50) are fresh and plump. A generous portion of the sauce provides an opportunity for bread dipping, a delicious indulgence.

Black Skirt TorontoSlightly less exciting, the speducci ($8.50) consists of flavourful but somewhat overcooked lamb skewers.

Black Skirt TorontoThe beet and spinach salad ($8.95) is an amazing blend of textures. The nutty leaves provide a chewy accompaniment to the velvety beet slices, while bits of candied almonds give the dish a sharp crispiness.

These first bites are a tantalizing preview of what is to come. Our server tends to our table with care, bringing our main dishes along with grated parmesan and an oversized pepper mill.

The muffaletta panini ($10.95 - top photo) is a gorgeous sandwich, with sharp mortadella, capicollo, buttery provolone cheese, giardiniera and black olive paste between two slices of rich, crusty bread.

The scombro panini ($10.95) is a zesty combination of flaked Italian mackerel with ripe tomatoes and lemon olive oil. The bread is soft and tender, a lovely pairing to the fish's crumbling texture and subtle taste.

Black Skirt TorontoThe daily special ($16.95) is the meal's undeniable champion. A pistachio pasta, the large portion is perfectly cooked and piping hot. The sweet, creamy pistachio sauce accented with bits of wilted basil, soft tomatoes and firm pieces of nuts.

Dessert is discussed but we are simply too full - the cannoli will have to wait 'til next time - and there will be a next time.

Black Skirt is Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Black Skirt College TorontoPhotos by Courtney Lee Yip

Discussion

7 Comments

lucas samuels / May 22, 2011 at 12:41 pm
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this place looks great. yet another reason to eat on college. top notch photos too!
tina / May 23, 2011 at 08:47 am
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now this is a review! Lots of pics with prices makes this a worthy read.
Pat Bateman / May 24, 2011 at 04:08 pm
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The pistachio pasta is my favorite - dessert ... tiramisu. Just a big mush in a bowl. AMAZING.
jdguy / May 26, 2011 at 09:25 pm
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I agree with Pat. The pistachio pasta was excellent. The service was great. The old italian guys next to us revelling in the anchovies and pasta must be a good sign!
patrick / May 31, 2011 at 09:17 am
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The black skirt is great. Great friendly service, awesome sandwiches. I need to go back and try some of the pasta and other dishes.
smash / August 11, 2011 at 05:19 pm
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We have now been to Black Skirt about 4 times. I have found the service to be attentive, and informative. The menu, at first glance looks very southern Italian, with a Sicilian edge to it. The specials are the same - a spaghetti with tomato pistachio sauce. This special has been the same in the 4 months we have been there. No other special has been tried out yet. I have had that, the osso bucco, the tuna salad, the octopus carpaccio, the 'white sicilian' which is marinated fresh anchovies, the shrimp in pizzaiola sauce, the salumi for two (a charcuterie plate), the lamb speducci, and the domenica, fretta, nonna and Sicilian pastas. The speducci was great, as it was lamb on skewers. Everything else was.....fine. Not great. The pastas are all a bit saucy, although tasty, but not amazing for the price - the pasta was fine, but once in a while over-cooked The tomato sauce used is very good. The tuna salad could have been, and probably was, store bought, pre-washed arugula, with decent tuna in a jar poured over it. Nothing special. The charcuterie plate was a few pieces of cured italian meats and cheeses, but for $22, it was a bit thin on quantity to share between two people.
Basically, the restaurant is trying to be in a slightly high end market, but not actually spending the time and resources on the food to make it there. They are holding back - being very tentative about going all the way and providing food and dishes that should, for the price, marvel us and makes us want to spend our money to come back there.
The restaurant has been open for 6 months. There has been a beautiful pizza oven, new, just sitting in the open air kitchen area - unused. When I asked about when pizza will be added to the menu, I was told every time that they were 'testing it'. I know now that they do not intend to make pizza at all and will be selling the equipment for it. They were not prepared for the space and effort involved in making what needed to be exceptional pizza, especially in a neighbourhood that has Pizza Libretto in it. On top of that, the bread is the cheapest, softest, worst kind of stuff from the Riviera Bakery. It did not seem fresh, and it was tasteless - unfortunate because the sicilian tomato oil that goes with it is the only decent thing they serve consistently.
ALL this to say that this COULD be a good, nay, great restaurant if it took a freaking chance to make extraordinary food. Instead I sense fear in the food that is there, and too much in the price for it. Stop serving mediocre food! Give us something to cheer about in our 'hood!
Laura / January 26, 2013 at 03:35 pm
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I was very much looking forward to dining at BLACK SKIRT after having heard great things.
Everything was very nice - delicious food, good prices, truly wonderful service (Denise!).
However, I would not go back or recommend it to anyone after a very odd experience I feel compelled to share.
We (2 of us) chose to sit at an empty long table near the front rather than in the more cramped, louder, back area. The obvious, most comfortable spot was near the wall, but we were only allowed the option of the centre seats of a communal table, near the door on a -30 degree evening. After politely requesting to slide down (twice), we were told it was "in case" a party of 4 showed up. Which never happened. It was confusing why our host was so adamant, saying this imaginary, larger party would be "pushed out the door" should they have to sit on the other end of the table. There would easily have been plenty of room for everyone. We dropped the issue, but it set an uneasy tone for our entire evening.
It was a senseless, comfortable confrontation right off the bat and we likely would have left had it not been for Denise - so friendly, attentive, and professional.
Toronto is too much of a divine culinary playground for there to be any room for unsavory first impressions. Our interaction with the host was witnessed by other staff, so I assume our experience is in line with the philosophy of the restaurant.
Lots of great places on College St. Just wanted to share our experience at this one.

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