Jamie's Italian at Yorkdale Mall is the first of its kind in North America. The Naked Chef operates over three dozen restaurants internationally but for this first foray into Toronto, he's teamed up with the folks behind Buca , which seems a wise decision.
The restaurant is located on the north side of the mall and can be accessed without ever stepping foot inside the shopping centre.
The first floor houses a bar and a maze of dining rooms that divide the space into various rooms, one looking into the pasta making station, another where booths upholstered in jewel-toned leathers are in earshot of the sizzling open kitchen. Upstairs a mezzanine offers an intimate space for dates and private parties.
The bar deals house wines by the glass starting at $8.50 for a five ounce pour, Peroni on tap for $7.95 per pint, and cocktails like the Amalfi Collins ($11.95), a refreshing blend of gin, St. Germain, limoncello, citrus and soda.
The menu lists an array of bread and nibbles, antipasti, planks loaded with cured meats and vegetables, salads, pizzas, pastas, and mains.
Pastas are made in house, including the broad ruffled noodles used for the sausage pappardelle ($9/$16.95). It's thoroughly coated in a slow cooked ragu of fennel and pork sausage then topped with parmigiano reggiano and pangrattato, a herbed breadcrumb that adds a delightful crunchy texture to the al dente pasta.
Under the list of mains, there's Italian Farm Sausage ($18.95), a plump grilled pork and fennel sausage threaded onto a skewer with cubes of pork belly pancetta. It's served over a bed of peppers and watercress.
The pork chop ($19.95), brined overnight and then cooked under a brick, is evenly browned on both sides while the meat is moist and tender. It's served over bagna cruda, an Italian bread sauce made of butter, capers, anchovies, garlic, milk and fresh parsley. A ribbon of crackling makes for a mouthwatering garnish, while the accompanying mix of apple, kohlrabi and daikon contribute crunchy, tangy counterpoints.
On the lighter side, there's the Acqua Pazza ($28.95), a whole pan-fried sea bream swimming in a garlic wine sauce studded with capers, olives and sweet plum tomatoes.
The superfood salad ($8.95/$14.95) is both hearty and healthy. It starts with a base of quinoa, wild rice, and puy lentils and is topped with tender stem broccoli, seared albacore tuna, half of a char grilled avocado filled with cottage cheese and harissa. Sherry vinegar, olive oil and a sprinkling of seeds, fresh herbs, and pomegranate seeds finishes it off.
If you can find room for dessert, there's selections like tiramisu ($9.95) and gelato ($6.95).
If not, there's a gift shop worth of swag (wood planks, linens, cookbooks) for sale on route to the exit.
Photos by Hector Vasquez.