Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Big Ragu

Eating dinner at Carmine Accogli's restaurant the Big Ragu is like coming home to an old friend's place or better yet dinner at Nonna's casa! The BR is an old restaurant spot (formerly Venezia) and stepping into it one can't help but to feel like you've really stepped into an authentic Italian experience. What a great change of pace from the College Street Italia chichi scene or the overly hyped overly priced Bene Note.

It was my husband's birthday so I invited friends to celebrate with us. I made a reservation which was a good thing because the BR is a small dining spot (between 30-40 seats) and the place was hopping. Right from the minute we got there Carm took care of us and treated us like we were la familia! :) He is so personable and his love for his business, the food he serves and the customers is so very evident.

We started with cocktails and asked Carm if he could bring us some antipasti. No problem. A few minutes later out came three plates. Two with assorted salumi's/prosciutto, artichokes, roasted peppers and olives. The last plate had three Italian cheeses and they were plentiful. Then he took his time to go over the specials of the day and answered any questions we had. In detail he talked about how things were cooked and what spices, herbs, wines etc. were used.

Three different salads got ordered.

A magic mushroom salad, a grilled calamari salad and a pear & Parmesan salad. All salads were fantastic but I have to say the magic mushroom salad stole my heart! Baked mushrooms with goats cheese atop a bed of arugula. Sometimes goats cheese in salad can drown the greens but not at the Big Ragu.

Our mains included the Braised Lamb of the day; a baked Cod and I opted for the provimi veal, pan seared in white wine and sage and then topped with prosciutto. It was a flavour explosion. The only downside of my veal dish is that that potatoes just weren't cooked enough, just a tad to hard still. The lamb was fall off the bone tender in a gorgeous sauce that was so good my friend next to me used a spoon to scoop up the last of the sauce.
The baked cod completely caught me off guard. I'm usually not big for cod, I find it smelly and salty but boy was this fish de-lish!

We ordered a side of rapini sauteed in garlic and olive oil and a bowl of spaghetti because leaving the Big Ragu without trying the pasta just wasn't going to happen. Everyone got to taste and we agreed the sauce was hearty, stuck to the pasta and had a slight edge of an arrabiata attitude. We washed down all this home styled Italian goodness with a couple of bottles of Chianti.

Carmine showed his class and his host who is the most side by bringing out a tray of glasses filled with Prosecco to mark the birthday occasion. Let me tell you something about Carmine, this boy can sing! He's got opera pipes! All of a sudden the lights in the whole restaurant go out and in the darkness out comes Carmen with a slice of cake and a candle and he is singing in this unbelievable voice, rendering his operatic version Happy Birthday. For the most part I usually find the singing birthday cake thingy kinda cheesy but at the Big Ragu it works. We finished off with coffees, espressos, cappuchinos. It was a great night.

So the low down was this: 4 cocktails, 2 beers, 2 bottles of Chianti, a table sized antipasti for six people, 5 salads, 6 mains, 5 coffees and the total of the bill with taxes came in at $350. We felt that for the level of food and service that the Big Ragu put out this bill was a bargain.

Check out the pics. If you are ever up in that neck of the woods (Lansdowne & St. Clair) then I would highly recommend you stop in and meet Carm and treat yourself to some really awesome, home styled Italian food.

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