>> Monday, March 19, 2012
I was reading in the paper the other day about how city planners in Calgary are concerned that 17th Avenue is going to turn in to the next Electric Avenue. This is mainly due to the shift from small unique shops and stores to more restaurants and bars opening along the avenue. I can see why the planners are concerned that we’re losing the appeal of small store owners of wanting to open their eclectic stores along the street, but at the same time being a foodie, I think it’s great that there are more restaurant owners looking at investing in our city. There has been an increase in restaurants in and around the area and Borgo Trattoria is one of them. Opened by the owners of the old Capo, Borgo is supposed to be a more casual version of the old higher end restaurant. Since I can’t change them I might as well join them…so to speak.
Atmosphere: Boisterous and open with a lofty warm comfortable dining area.
Price Range: Mid $10s - $20s
Food and Wine: My dining companions had already ordered the appetizers before I arrived since I was running a bit late. It was another earlier dinner since Borgo, like many other new restaurants opening around town, does not take reservations. I was informed that they’ve ordered the Arancino of Risotto, which is a fried ball of risotto with a cheese fonduta aka sauce served overtop. Since I’m not a big cheese eater (let’s just say, I’ll never reach connoisseur status), the rest of the table thought they were very good and actually not too cheesy at all. In hindsight, maybe I could have had a couple bites…
Instead I was a bit more focused on the Eggplant Fritta. The eggplant fries were nice and thick, coated with crunchy breading and complimented nicely by the side of fennel yogurt. For those that don’t like fennel, beware, because it does come through quite strongly in the yogurt. I personally enjoy the taste of fennel quite a bit and found the yogurt to cut the greasiness of the fried eggplants.
The table was kind enough to wait for me before ordering the entrees. Since it was more family style we decided to order based on the more traditional Italian dining menu of Primo, Secondi and Dolce. Starting with our first courses of the Orecchiette and Gnocchi Pastas. The orecchiette, or tiny ear shaped pastas, were al dente and chewy, covered in a thick and creamy bacon, roasted garlic sauce with bits of broccoletti. The first couple bites were quite tasty, but it did become a bit heavy after a couple scoops. I was glad that we were sharing at that point. The ricotta gnocchi (recommended by the served), which is made in house, came in a cheesy mozzarella basil and tomato sauce. Each tiny gnocchi was fluffy and had a nice texture, but I found the sauce again a bit overwhelming.
Since the aforementioned dishes were a bit on the dense side, it took us a little while to work through and we were all ready for the smaller second course dishes to arrive. The Grilled Lamb Chops came with confit tomatoes and a olive rosemary vinaigrette. I found the lamb to be a bit gamey but the vinaigrette did help cut through that a bit. The chop itself was seared to a nice medium rare. The Braised Pork Shoulder was accompanied by an intriguing sweet & sour agrodolce sauce. Its sweetness went very nicely with soft herb polenta, which I found to be better than the pork itself. The rest of the table agreed that the pork was a bit on the dry side considering it was braised. I definitely recommend sharing some appetizers and pasta dishes before ordering the main entrees because they are a bit smaller.
Choosing our dessert was made easy because Borgo offers the Guantiera, which is a sampler of all the desserts they have on the menu. I can never say no to sampling! The four desserts include:
Cassata style semifreddo (meaning semi frozen) with chocolate amarena cherry and pistachio sponge cake – very refreshing and light,
Raspberry & milk chocolate bavarese with a light chesnut sponge – I could really taste the chestnuts, probably my favorite
Lemon and dark chocolate torte with anise and chocolate ganache – the anise was a nice surprise, not my favourite though when compared amongst the others
Apple vanilla semifreddo, walnut sponge and grappa fig jelly – the cake was fragrant with many different types of spice, it was cooling and light as well.
The Montepulciano wine we ordered was out of stock and the waiter recommended the Batzella “ormai” Bolgheri (cab sauv/syrah/cab franc), which he said was superior. So we decided to go with the flow. I found the wine to be a bit spicy and tart due to the syrah in the blend. It’s a medium bodied wine with a longer earthy finish. I can see it being a good wine for a cheese course or game meat.
My Picks: Orecchiette Pasta
Overall: Borgo’s pasta dishes were definitely filling and flavourful. It’s nice to welcome another Italian addition to the 17th Ave area of town. It’s always nice to have more dining choices. So I don’t necessarily see why it would be an issue with creating a location within the city where people know they can go for great food.
818 16 Ave SW