Summary: a trendy, hip, yet casual place to hang out for morning coffee, lunch, dinner or post-dinner drinks with a great selection of tapas-style appetizers
Borgo Trattoria is the latest restaurant offering from Owner/Executive Chef Giuseppe di Gennaro of the now-defunct Capo Restaurant in Inglewood and is tucked away in Mount Royal Village Shops, just off 17th Ave SW. The great thing about Borgo is that this place is open all day…literally. According to the website, the coffee bar/lounge/restaurant starts its day at 0830 and ends somewhere around mid-night (presumably…the website just says “till close”). So, basically, they are open for morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, AND late night snacks….pretty ambitious!
I am not complaining though, as YYC needs more late night hang-outs like Model Milk where you can get good food and drinks. It also helps that the interior is gorgeous and is a visual feast. We went after work on a Friday night, but judging by the pictures taken by other bloggers, the place looks gorgeous in natural daylight. The high ceiling creates the impression of a wide open space even though there is a bar right smack in the middle of the establishment. The coffee/alcohol bar can be viewed from all corners of the restaurant which further lends to feeling of spaciousness. There is also a semi-private area tucked in behind the bar that is available for private parties.
Kent and Richard got there at around 1800 and had to wait about 30 min. for a table. The place was pretty happening by that time and had a great vibe and excitement. It felt like we were transported to some other place instantly like NYC or some other big city.
We were seated in a spacious booth and each given a paper copy of the menu. The concept at Borgo, if you haven’t heard by now, is family-style shared meals. They have four different menus: lunch, dinner, dessert, and cicheti (small bites). Most of the appy’s are priced per piece, meaning you can order as many or as little as you want to share amongst a group of friends.
The vegetarians at the table ended up ordering risotto cheese fonduta ($2 pp), bruschetta ($2 pp), eggplant fritta with fennel yogurt dip ($7), sauteed mushrooms ($8), and finally, grilled foccacia with balsamic vinegar in olive oil ($4) to start. This was a large amount of items, but we were sharing between four people, so it wasn’t really that substantial.
Biting into the risotto cheese fonduta “balls” was equivalent to biting into a little fluffy cloud: a deep-fried, creamy, cheesy, extremely delicious piece of cloud! Must try!
The bruschetta was delicious but felt a bit flat. The crostini was a bit too thick for my liking and the “bruschetta” was just a piece of tomato on top of the buffalo mozzarella.
Eggplant fritta was very addictive, especially with the fennel yogurt dipping sauce. The crispy exterior gave a very satisfying crunch every time I bit in to it.
The sautéed mushrooms smelt delicious, but ultimately didn’t live up to it. The sauce was creamy but not too rich and was perfectly seasoned though.
Last but not least was the focaccia bread which was very soft and perfectly salted. The mark of any good restaurant is the bread they serve, and in this case, Borgo definitely delivered.
All throughout this gastronomical tour of Italian cicheti, the service was perfect. Our server was on top of things and was very helpful and patient with our questions. Everything came out almost immediately and nothing was missed.
After demolishing all the cicheti, we had room still for pasta, so we went for the tomato and mozzarella gnocchi…which turned out to be the major disappointment of the night. The sauce was extremely salty. I love salt, but this was too much even for me. I couldn’t eat more than one or two bites at a time. I thought I was the only one but everyone at the table felt the same.
Not wanting to offend the chef, we enquired if the the gnocchi was supposed to be that salty, which sounds like such a stupid question, but I am no food critic, so I didn’t want to look like a fool. This seemed to set off a chain of events which ultimately led to the manager reproaching us for not informing the kitchen earlier on. This was fair: in retrospect, instead of being polite, we should have informed the kitchen right away. We didn’t really want more food (which he offered) either, so it was all good.
When I hear “Trattoria,” I think of a small, family style Italian restaurant, but Borgo is a trendy, modern-themed locale that kind of reminds me of Model Milk in its lighting and white bricks. The black-and-white film projected on the wall and factory/industrial elements all added to the chic feel – expect to see plenty of yuppies here.
The main menu fits on a single sheet – though in this case, the piece of paper is tabloid-sized and double-sided, so there is quite a variety of small eats, pastas and meaty mains to choose from. They even have a sort of “charcuterie” section with meats and cheeses.
An initial glance suggested that prices weren’t too bad, but our waitress warned us that “everything is small… very small.” Turns out that her warning was fair for a few of the dishes – for example, the wafer-thin scallops, which probably weighed less than the ink on the menu (though they still packed a surprisingly good amount of flavour). Some of the dishes though, like the mushrooms and the pasta, I thought were quite reasonably sized. Plus, the sodas are only $2 a pop, which is quite a good deal for a place like this.
As for taste – well, it was all over the map on the evening that we were there. The mushrooms were very nice, with the aroma of truffles and cream, but the bruschetta was rather mediocre (hard, thick bread, not very flavourful) and I wasn’t the biggest fan of the foccacia (it’s on the dense side, and was served barely above room temperature).
Even the pasta was bipolar – in addition to the gnocchi, Kent, our friend Song and I also shared the paccheri maccheroni (in essence, giant, tube-shaped pasta). The pasta had a nice springy texture, the shrimps were crisp and juicy, and the bit of panko sprinkled on added an interesting dimension to the dish. Alas, it was also salty as balls – this wouldn’t be a dish suitable for people with hypertension. I’m not sure if it was an off night, or if it’s commonly like that, but we couldn’t finish the pasta as a result and I was gulping water for the rest of the night.
I finished with a couple scoops of sorbetto, almond and lemon – they were decent, though the almond one was a bit sandy (I think almond makes a better gelato than sorbetto).
Service was a bit oddball as well – it was adequate (if a bit slow) earlier on in the night, but for some reason after we spoke to the manager about the saltiness of the pasta our waitress appeared to get banned from our table (in any event, she never came back). It was an awkward situation to say the least.
Despite the uneven food, I was pretty impressed by the service quality. None of us were expecting Borgo to not charge us for the gnocchi, especially as we ended up eating over half of it, so I give kudos to the manager that night. Kent’s attempt at tipping was dismissed (this was the most bizarre part of the whole night), but it would have been unconscionable if we didn’t leave a $20 tip for the service and reversal of charges.
At the end of the day, the food was hit and miss, with some of the appy’s being great and other’s not as much. There’s nothing on the menu that would entice me to come back for dinner, but that said, Borgo would be an amazing place for morning Illy coffee (and freshly baked goods) or late night eats after a play or movie. Borgo seems to have garnered a lot of negative reviews for their service, but this could have been due to the initial growing pains. Most of the established bloggers such as Dan’s Good Side and Chocolate & Ginger though, don’t seem to report any problems with service or food quality.
At the end of the day, any restaurant that is willing to eat the cost of a dish is serious about it’s service quality and reputation. Combined with the excellent service, the lively ambiance, and of course, the food, Borgo is a great place to share an evening with friends and family.
|Originality Authenticity |5/6
||26/36 = 72%
||23/36 = 64%