Black Skirt (College St.)
Black 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 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.
We 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.
White 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.
The 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.
Soaked 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.
Slightly less exciting, the speducci ($8.50) consists of flavourful but somewhat overcooked lamb skewers.
The 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.
The 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.