Oretta is where to go on King West for sophisticated but casual Italian eating in a chic retro modern environment. The name, casually, means, “about an hour,” and lunch hour and happy hour are sure to be a big draw in this downtown neighbourhood, but Oretta could also be a hip young woman’s name.
It’s owned by Salvatore Mele of Capocaccia and the kitchen is headed up by chef Christian Fontolan. The precious is equally balanced out by the rustic here, and it’s a perfect place for a quick solo lunch, brief meeting, or after-hours celebration.
The interior is palatial and airy with pastel and jewel tones that evoke the sixties or seventies. Swooping arches were entirely constructed into the space.
At the back there’s also Oretta Cafe, a less imposing space where one may simply waltz in and grab a quick coffee and house baked pastry or pizza slice, munching on it indoors, out on a small patio or taking it away.
This pristine rosemary apple cake had just come out of the oven when I arrived, and was promptly nestled between bambolini ($3) and spinach crostata ($4.25).
Every other week burrata is flown in from Italy, and goes towards making this artful beet salad ($14). The yellow beets here are smoked, the red are pickled and the candy cane are roasted. Melty burrata, sweet candied walnuts, and clean watercress highlight the different beet flavours.
Pazza di te, the name of this $14 cocktail, translates to “crazy for you,” and it’s certainly romantic with its creme de fraise and bright red cranberry juice base mixed with Finlandia and Soho and a hint of lime.
Tagliatelle ($18) is made in house and smothered in ragu like Fontolan’s own nonna used to make, a savoury, hearty mess of saucy pork and beef topped with parmigiano reggiano.
Though it translates to “blank” in Italian, this “sbozzo” pizza ($18) is anything but, layered with the classic Italian flavours of mascarpone, orange preserves, pistachio and mortadella, one of the pizzes bianchi on the menu.
The lamb shoulder ($28) stole the show atop a hash of cauliflower, potato, and crispy delicate lamb bacon with a mint and leek sauce. They get their whole lamb from Beverly Creek Farms in Burlington.
A stunning dessert platter ($16) carries everything from olive oil cake to amaretti to a lava cake filled with dulce de leche and a Christmas-y tasting gianduja chocolate mousse rectangle.
There’s a private dining area upstairs with a view of the lower dining room.
Adjacent to that is a beautiful demo kitchen where David Rocco, a Food Network personality who also has a hand in the restaurant, has already prepared some special and camera-friendly meals.