If you should be smart enough to spend an evening dining at The Big Ragu then be sure to ask the waitress for a drink called the Candy Dandy Palooza! Chef/Owner Carmine (pronounce that Car-meeeeeen-ay) Accogli (the G is silent) is a proud daddy to his delightful daughter, Amelie. Amelie is often seen hanging out in the restaurant until her Mother, Barb, one of the best cake makers this side of the Great Lakes, called CakeStar picks her up. I just happen to run in to them last night
when I took my daughter Meg there for dinner. Amelie is a creative little soul who's artwork can be found on the front window of the restaurant. This week's creation is called the Candy Dandy Palooza, which is an olio of beverages stirred in together with a couple of pieces of peach candy tossed in just for flavour. Amelie concocted a special version just for Megan and I have to say, if you added a shot of vodka, this drink has potential! More importantedly though, this is one of the reasons I love the Big Ragu so much because with Carm & Barb, it is all about la familia! Amelie chattered our ears off with her list of 100 questions and then was kind enough to provide me with some new artwork for over my desk. Hey, a girl can always use her own Candy Dandy Palooza poster!
Ok, here comes the big revelation. Megan, with a very straight face and a very sincere tone, informed Chef Accogli that his pizza was better than the pizza she had eaten at Libretto. (insert gasp here) Yup, The Big Ragu had just served up a better pizza than the most talked about pizzeria in the city. Meg asked Carmine about the flour for the dough and the next thing we knew Carmine pulled up his chair and said "let me explain to you about flour, all is not as it appears to be...." Hence Flourgate. Thanks for the flour education Carm. It was insightful and it also shows how much you love the true art and the true craft of making food.
Finally, after an evening of filling our faces with Magic Mushroom salad, grilled calamari salad, Spicy, garlicky shrimp with almonds (super delish by the way!) and a gorgeous thin crust pizza laden with fresh basil, and washing this all down with a bottle of chilled Prosecco, the waitress hands us the dessert menu. I moan. Megan groans. No way can we eat dessert. Next thing you know out comes a double slab of Nutella cake that Chef has sent. Meg and I just look at each other. Hey, sometimes you just gotta take one for the team. This cake was dense, moist and brought back memories of savouring and devouring nocciolata during our last sojourn in northern Italy. More moaning, more groaning. Then just to really finish us off the Chef then sends out a martini glass filled with Tiramisu. If this doesn't make you feel like part of the family, nothing will. Mangia! Mangia! Mangia at the Big Ragu. You just can't miss in a place like this. Thank you Carmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeenay!
The Big Ragu is located at 1338 Lansdowne Avenue (just south of St. Clair). Closed Mondays. By the way, the BR made Joanna Kates 2010 Top 100 Restaurants List for Toronto. If you truly love family and rustic Italian food and a Chef with a big heart then this is your kinda place. Ask for Carm and tell him MamaCoop sent you!