Ascari King West
Ascari King West is the second outpost of Enoteca Ascari, specializing in crafted Italian dishes for lunch, brunch, and dinner.
With high ceilings, 16-foot windows, and distinct enclaves for semi-private parties, this design is definitely better suited to the King West crowd than its 38-seater counterpart in Leslieville.
You can pick between the tables along the western windows for a naturally-lit brunch, the central area for a glimpse into the kitchen, or more secluded, low-ceilinged seating, if an intimate dinner is more your vibe.
There's also a patio out front, taking over some coveted King West sidewalk space for people-watching.
The menu here is largely the same as the original Ascari, as is the concept behind the brand.
Next to the kitchen, you'll find a shrine-like wall dedicated to Alberto Ascari, the paunchy two-time Formula One champion racer from Italy whose joie de vivre is basically the M.O. behind Ascari's food and drinks program.
Paying hommage to Italy's exiled queen, Elena of Montenegro, is the Elena's Eyes cocktail ($14).
It uses ingredients only found in Bologna, with cantaloupe water, soda, lemon juice, and Amaro.
The Quattro e Venti ($16) uses sage, basil, and ginger, with Bulldog gin, egg white and orange bitters.
For some light finger food, the Crostini Alla Toscana ($12) is a great way to start.
These tasty bites offer chicken liver mousse spread on crostini from next-door bakery Forno Cultura, with capers and onions.
The Zucchine Fritti ($11) are addictive; sort of like fries, but so much better.
These battered and deep-fried Tuscan shoestring zucchini are covered in parmegiano reggiano and served with a side of delicious parsley sauce.
Off the dinner menu, the Orata ($18) is a beautiful crudo dish (check Ascari's location tag on Instagram and you'll see it everywhere).
Using sea bream from Cyprus, Sicilian olive oil, pistachio vinaigrette, and pistachio butter, it's made extra pretty with rhubarb and decorative drops of mint oil.
The Risi e Bisi ($24) is another stunner. English peas give the carnaroli rice risotto a vibrant green colour, with some pancetta pieces mixed in.
The most impressive dish for me is the Agnello ($39), which serves its Ontario lamb in two ways.
There's the lamb rack, served on top a pool of spring peas, farro, and onion puree. Then there's the chunks of braised lamb neck that's been pulled off the bone and pressed into soft, mouth-watering bites.
Ascari delivers with dessert as well. The Croistata Al Limone Con Pinole ($12) is a delicious lemon tart covered in pine nut tuile and icing sugar.