Home is where the stomach is… Nodo makes food for the heart and soul. #stclairwest
You know you’re at the beginning of a special relationship when you walk into a restaurant and realize the place has a personality of its own. It’s like it opens its arms and welcomes you with a hearty cry of “Hello! Come on in! Sit down, have a drink! Wait until you see what I’ve made for you!” This is precisely the feeling I had walking into Nodo Hillcrest located at 794 St. Clair Avenue West.
The team that began Nodo Junction (2885 Dundas St W.) —Gianmarco DeZorzi, Vito Tomasicchio and Charlie Giordano—have, with the addition of fourth partner Tony Rubino, brought a second Nodo to Hillcrest Village. They wanted to bring their neighbourhood restaurant home to an area that has much history for them and to do so with the approachable menu and surroundings already in existence at Nodo Junction.
The four men share a synchronistic relationship which speaks of their mutual respect for not only one another but their staff and the atmosphere they have created. Their commitment to, and zeal for providing quality ingredients, sourced locally and in many cases produced specifically for Nodo, is a topic often revisited and with much enthusiasm.
The atmosphere is bright and comfortably modern without being sterile—elegant, stylish and welcoming are words that come to mind. There are three seating areas each with their own distinct vibe and yet the flow is seamless. The equally inviting bar area is a tempting location for a meal and the intimate backyard patio will without question become a sought after three season destination.
Now to the heart of the matter—the menu! In short, the wine list is massively impressive. All Italian wines helpfully organized by price from the absurdly affordable to slightly more decadent choices. The word extensive would be an injustice. There are varietals and styles from every part of Italy. It is much like the partners describe the overall mantra for the restaurant—approachable, accessible & affordable.
The perfectly dressed and balanced Zucca Arrosto e Cavolo Fresco is memorable with its baby kale, oven roasted butternut squash, toasted pumpkin seeds, dried cranberry and shaved ricotta salata. A fresh taste of autumn.
Next up was the Carpaccio e Rucola. Ever so delicately sliced beef tenderloin carpaccio with toasted pine nuts, fried capers that will make your taste buds joyful, topped with fresh arugula, shaved parmesan and a hint of lemon zest. Both layered with textures and flavours while remaining delicate and refreshing.
The Arancini was a pleasant surprise served in the traditional Italian street food style with the ragu mixed right in with the rice. It’s sort of thing that’s so perfect and portable you might be tempted to save that order for the end and have it as a midnight snack! What’s that? Did someone say “Nodo, The Food Truck”? A girl can dream right?!
The pizza menu is divided as expected between classic preparation and white pizzas but I highly encourage you to go out on a limb and have a look at the Il Creativo menu where you will find the chef’s own creations. Our waiter Luca won me over the instant he told me the Grifone had n’duja, which is a gorgeous spreadable sausage, but with the addition of fiori di latte, gorgonzola, caramelized onions and an eggplant purée base, it was pure pizza love!
All ingredients on the pasta menu proclaim loudly flavour, quality, and tradition! And, the Garganelli Cavolfiore Gratinato, a grano-padano and fontina breadcrumb crusted cauliflower with green peas stayed right on target with that message. Although seemingly simple, this dish offered a depth of flavour often lacking in vegetarian choices.
If the two desserts we were served are any indication of what Nodo has to offer, I suggest you plan to save room. The house made Sicilian cannoli balanced perfectly between creamy, crunchy and ever so delicately sweetened. Sticky caramel bread pudding with banana gelato and berries—come on! I had thought that I would be able to show a little willpower at this point in the meal, but nope! You cannot say no to this sticky bit of heaven.
The vision these four men have for creating an approachable environment is well on its way to becoming realized, I am certain that Nodo will become your go-to local. Gentlemen of Nodo Hillcrest, you had me at Hello!
Visit: NODO Restaurant Online for more information.
STACIA CARLTON is a culinary school grad and food writer with a soft spot for restaurants with true personality. Find her at www.bestillandeat.com where she obsesses weekly about all things food.