Maialino Enoteca Italiana
Enoteca Maialino Italiana shines as a beacon in Parkdale with welcoming staff, astonishing food, and striking décor. Opening quietly in mid December there hasn't been much buzz devoted to the restaurant in the months that have intervened. My guess is that within the next month, however, this will be one of the 'it' spots in the west end.
Owner Mike Rutigliano was a hairdresser, but after 16 years he hung up his scissors to fulfill a promise he made to his great grandfather to one day continue the family business. Having grown up spending time in his family's espresso bars, he had a clear knack for the service industry. Several years after his great grandfather's passing, Rutigilano opened Barista Espresso Bar — now, a few years later, he's jumped head first into the restaurant business with Maialino.
Appetizers: Porchetta ($8) and Crostini Con Uova di Quaglia ($9)
As a meat lover I was excited to see the Mount Everest style plating of slow-roasted, shaved pork. It rests on a bed of lentils and shares the plate with peporonata and caramelized onions. My first mouthful is of the pork alone, which sets my taste buds into a dance. The meat is fatty and flavourful. Then, putting all of the ingredients onto my fork for the full affect, I'm blown away by the complexity of what is apparently such a simple dish. The onions and peporonata offer a sweet and silky coating for the tender meat.
The quail eggs are arranged beautifully, their speckled shells sharing real estate with frisee. I scoop up the yolk and smear it onto the crostini. Unfortunately the crostini is too crunchy, and doesn't do much for the light egg taste. Putting the yolk onto a piece of soft bread, which was brought to the table alongside Sicilian olive oil upon our arrival, I'm able to enjoy this delicacy.
The chef brings over arancini without us ordering it, "because we just have to try it!" The only way to describe this traditional rice balls is that it gives me the same warm and cozy feeling that a blanket does. Order the arancini ($7) — don't share it.
Mains: Ravioli alla Norma ($15) and Stinco di Maiale in Agrodolce ($23)
Ravioli is traditionally eaten as a primi but after two appetizers this is a perfect main. The pasta is made in-house and stuffed with eggplant. The pasta is properly al dente, which combines with the smooth filling to produce an above average dish. Covered lightly in a cheery pachino tomato sauce, this is a dish that would easily make chef Boyardee weep with envy.
The braised pork shank comes highly recommended by the server, so I give it a go. The moist and tender meat sits in a bowl of cherry tomatoes, dandelion greens, capers, celery and green olives — it's a salt-lovers dream. Even better, the acid from the vinegar reduction creates a tangy punch that accentuates each ingredient while also preventing the sodium from getting out of control.
Dessert: Cannoli ($7)
I am stuffed but cannot say no to dessert. A recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation, it's clear why the cannoli is outstanding. The smooth and fluffy ricotta cheese is particularly noteworthy, which makes sense given that it comes from a local Sicilian distributor.
If you are in the market for an adopted Italian family, the folks at Enoteca Maialino Italiana welcome you as one of their own. Maialino proves to be a restaurant to be reckoned with. The portion sizes are overwhelming but tackle them, as each dish is stacked with an unbeatable taste.