Destingo makes me pose the question, what does a nice Czech lady know about Italian food? A lot when you're the former wife of chef Felipe Vacca from Yorkville's Vaticano. Monika Vacca's new casual eatery is located in the former Pavillion furniture store. If you ask me, I'd trade patio furniture for patio drinks any day.
The 70-seater restaurant also features a massive patio, which just received clearance days ago. It's refreshing to know that Vacca has ditched her white linen background for something more casual, in what she says "pays respect to her Queen West surroundings."
The impressive interior was designed herself and features exposed ceiling, concrete walls, Restoration Hardware lighting and an interesting cooper bar, inspired by a few restaurant abroad.
We start with the Prosciutto di Buffala ($13.95). It's your standard antipasto with slabs of thinly sliced prosciutto, cherry tomatoes and a mountain of fresh buffalo mozzarella, lightly drizzled with a balsamic reduction. Standard, yet impeccable.
Next up is the Margherita pizza ($12.50). It may not be cooked in a wood-burning oven, but the recipe in itself is very traditional. You won't be disappointed by these thin and delicate pies.
After that we try a fresh and simple pappardelle dish (lead photo), tossed in a gorgeous Marsala wine and funghi sauce. It's light with a hint of sweetness. The kind of dish best enjoyed on a patio with a glass of white wine.
Next, we indulge in Vitello Destingo ($21.95). A delicate veal dish topped with scallops, sundried tomatoes and a thick and creamy rose sauce. Perhaps this dish is a bit dated, but what does it matter when one else on Queen is doing it anymore.
As much as this is an Italian joint, there is one thing on the menu that differentiates itself: The shrimp burger, priced at a modest $11.50. This soon to be house favourite is made with huge chunks of minced shrimp, smothered with an addictive seafood aioli and rested between a fresh Brioche bun. The combination of ingredients are divine. And the house cut frites dusted with Parmigiano is the perfect little accompaniment.
Naturally there was no room for dessert, but how could we skip it? Italian food, after all, is about overindulgence. And we definitely indulged in the Creme Brulee ($7.95), which outdoes a lot of the ones I've tried at French restaurants.
By my favourite dessert had to be the homemade pistachio gelato. If you're looking for the overly sweet, neon green version, you've come to the wrong place. It's clear Destingo doesn't take shortcuts, and that's why their pistachio gelato actually tastes like pistachio. You'll be taken aback by its intensely nutty and almost smoky flavour from the roasted nuts.
I could've chosen to wash it all down with a nice espresso, but I opted for more wine. And you'd be foolish not to since Destigno is one of a few restaurants in the city with a state-of-the-art Enomatic wine system. This means you can taste expensive wines by the glass without taking out a mortgage on the bottle. As for bottles, prices range from a modest $30 to an opulent $625. And if you're just looking for a patio drink, try the red and white wine by the keg, 6oz of Cabernet or Chardonnay for just $7.
Italian food, at least for me, is about conviviality. It's about making your guests feel at home. And make no mistake about it, the top-notch service here is warm, friendly and they take pleasure in feeding you. Call me old fashioned, but there's something nice about stuffing your face with someone who truly wants to see you stuffed. Toronto needs more places like this. Come to think of it, so does the world.
Writing by Toto Schillaci / Photos by Ike Ford