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Noce is something of a West Queen West institution, having overlooked Trinity Bellwoods Park for years. On a block increasingly littered with bakeries, you might expect almond croissants or baklava from its name--Italian for nut--but instead, you'll find well-executed, flavourful Italian cuisine.

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It's a spot for unapologetic fine dining--and not in its new incarnation of reclaimed wood tables, intricate lighting, and petite plates--but rather in a stately, old-world sense. There are white tablecloths and starched napkins in each of the three dining rooms, leather-covered menus, and knowledgeable (mostly male) staff dressed in black and white. Despite this, the walls are a warm yellow hue, and the decoration seems inherited from some Italian nonna with good taste and modest means.

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There's also the bonus that Noce tends not to be overriden with hungry diners--while reservations are recommended, if you arrive during a slow period, you can easily be seated on the covered patio or beside the large streetside window. The latter provides unfettered people-watching--and I'd imagine, allows you to be watched (much as I once spied someone who might have been Peter Gallagher , he of the formidable brows).

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The wine list is, and I should stress this, appropriately priced for the restaurant. There's a small selection of by-the-glass options, and to any oenophile's delight, a lengthy list of bottles (among which the least expensive still rings in around $50). The atmosphere also invites slow, leisurely dinners. When we sit down, it's a blindingly bright afternoon, and we watch Trinity Bellwoods-ers sun themselves in the grass; then, an hour or so later, flee squealing as sunshowers descend.

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We start with the beef carpaccio ($15). Despite being a well-documented meat-lover , I've always been a bit squeamish at the sight of raw, ruddy meat. This arrives (as many of Noce's dishes) without much flourish on a white plate, and garnished with parmigiano reggiano and a touch of arugula--the beef is sliced thin as petals and perfectly marinated, with a slight tang that's offset by the cheese and the intense hint of tartufata.

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Next is the fritto Genovese ($14), which, in the right hands, is heads above your average pub-style fried calamari. A lightly breaded blend of calamari and shrimp, fried golden brown, was all well and good, but I have to go rogue and praise the sauce far above the plate itself. It's dubbed salsa verde, but smells distinctly of fresh pesto--an unusual choice to pair with fried seafood but surprisingly complementary--and so good that I polished it off on its own.

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Despite the mouth-watering options for mains--from pan-seared Pacific salmon, to their veal chop alla Milanese--we settle on pasta. First up is the caper tagliatelle, with freshly-made pasta, capers, asparagus, roasted red peppers, cherry tomatoes, garlic, white wine and herbs ($14). Given the influx of infusions, foams, and other distractions on the plate, it's refreshing to see a confident dish that makes no allusions to offering anything innovative. The asparagus is well-cooked, and the capers make for unexpected bursts of salt amidst the noodles--not a spectacular dish, but a brightly fresh approach to pasta.

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Nothing leaves you with a finer impression of a meal than a stand-out final dish. In this case, it's ravioli stuffed with a blend of mushrooms ($16), then sauteed in white truffle butter and sprinkled with parmigiano reggiano. It's a decadent pasta--white truffle butter being the culprit--and best eaten slowly, as the flavours are complex.

Noce Toronto

Beginning next week, Noce will be offering a lunch-time menu from Wednesday-Friday, from noon onwards. Gauging by what was available for dinner, it'll be more traditionally-prepared tastes of Italy that, while perhaps not as refined as you'd guess from a sidewalk glance, certainly deliver on taste.

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