It is not often I go to a restaurant and pretty much ignore the menu but that is exactly what I did last week. I left the confines of downtown Toronto and ventured out in the wilds of suburbia to a restaurant located in a mall, yes a shopping mall. I was there for this –
Roasted Pig’s head and tail. James Chatto, local restaurant critic and bon vivant told me I had to try this dish. As soon as he began describing it I knew it was the dish for me, so with several other intrepid foodies, some of whom already knew about the delights at Villa Allegro, we headed for the 'burbs.
We began with– the cherry wood smoked quail, flattened and grilled over cherry wood. It comes right to the table hot coals and all. Poached quail's eggs on toasts and cherry tomatoes completed the dish. I love quail, missed the bones 'though, but it still made great tasty finger food.
Here are the pig's heads, that followed the quail. Notice how the staff expertly carve them, no half a head plunked on a plate. I love silver service, please note this restaurant has stools for your handbag, it reminds of France. We were given a choice of pieces; I of course, had everything. Two types of lentils, yellow and black, were served along with the head and there was cabbage as well. This was no place for a vegetarian but we did eat our veggies.
Here is my plate, from the front in a clockwise direction it holds cheek, belly (yes they added roast pork belly in case we were really hungry) lentils, tongue, tail and that cabbage mixture. Needless to say I wasn't paying too much attention to the vegetables. A piece of ear was added later, but by that time I was too busy eating to photograph it, sorry. It was all it should be - crispy skin, a thick layer of fat and moist melting meat, chewy cartilage (the ear) - James was right.
One of our group had called ahead to order brains. First these calf’s brains arrived in a crisp crumb coating. The sauce was buttery with capers a classic match and some chopped capers in the coating. Look! Even more vegetables, favas and a caramelized onion.
Then came the real show stopper - A huge wooden platter with six roasted lamb's heads, here is a close up view. The natural containers for the lamb’s brains and while this might put some of you off, one of our party wasn’t up to it, but then she wasn’t even up for the quails, you must admit it is great presentation.
If it wasn't the heads themselves it was the sight of the brains being scooped directly from them that did her in. I, on the other hand, was delighted. The brains were cooked longer than normal, turning them into the consistency of thick creamy – just wonderful. I would have liked to try the cheeks too, but nobody offered them and I was getting rather full.
There was pasta, tasty merlots from Chile, dessert and even grappa for the brave but all that faded into the mist. This was an evening about getting a head and eating it.
You can of course go to this restaurant and enjoy more regular fare, pasta, risotto, and great beef. And you should owner Felice Sabatino is the consummate host; the staff professional and you could spend the rest of your life reading the wine list. If you want a read a review of this restaurant that constantly makes Toronto's top ten list look here.
However if you want to experience dishes that rarely appear on menus on this side of the Atlantic call ahead and order, the roasted pig's head and tail, the brains, the horse meat or if you're lucky the lamb's testicles and discover how delicious these overlooked pieces are.
This last photo was taken by the team of Adjey/Correia - thank you.