Nodo is an elegant yet casual Italian restaurant in the Junction , occupying a deep space on Dundas West next door to Playa Cabana . A trio of high school friends (and industry vets) invested 11 months into converting the space, stripping the floors down to the original terrazzo - and, luckily, discovering high, coffered ceilings.
The result is an inviting 70-seat dining room painted in subdued colours, punctuated by eclectic antiques and furnished with white cabinetry, tufted leather banquettes, and tables made from marble and wood.
An additional 12 seats can be found at the bar where cocktails like the Buoncorso ($12) are crafted with Amaretto, Aperol, orange bitters, juice and a splash of blood orange Pellegrino.
Hospitable touches like the complimentary lupini beans (set down as soon as we're seated) make a good first impression, especially when presented with multi-page menus from Sicillian chef Roberto Marotta.
To start, there are shareable selections for the table, ($8 each), including quick-fired items like garlic knots, arancini and spiducci.
Snackish parties can also order up salumi and formaggi boards ($19) or various antipasti ($14 each) like the polpo e palate, a plate of tender tentacles finished on the grill for a little crispness and paired with roast potatoes and grilled zucchini. For me, its only fault is being too restrained when it comes to seasoning.
The list of pizza includes classic personal-size pies or calzones, as well as half a dozen long, stretched varieties meant for collective consumption. The Milazzo ($16) is a twist on a popular antipasti pairing that sees ribbons of sweet cantaloupe, salty prosciutto crudo, dollops of mascarpone and fresh basil leaves laid over a light and airy, stone oven-baked crust topped with fior di latte.
From the selection of fresh pasta I try the fettuccine ($17), a satisfying bowl of noodles tossed in demi glace, wild mushrooms and wilted spinach before being crowned with pine nuts and tender strips of beef tenderloin (the caps from the same cut deemed fit for carpaccio elsewhere).
Like the dinner menu, the all-Italian wine list is a thick stack of paper which turns out to be far less intimidating than it first looks. Cleverly organized by price, the majority of bottles fall under $35, $45 and $55 headings, while $90 is as pricey as it gets. By the glass options start at $7, while there's also the choice to go Il Volo ($19), which translates to wine flights served three 3oz pours at a time.
Served in pairs, handmade cannoli ($8) - Chef Marotta's nonna's recipe - are filled with sweet ricotta crema and finished with crushed pistachio, shaved chocolate and candied orange rinds.
Except for the private dining room downstairs, the restaurant doesn't take reservations hoping to attract locals on a regular basis rather than an influx of destination diners. Take-away orders are welcome and a potential for delivery is on the horizon.
Photos by Jesse Milns