Before starting this review, there is some blog news to share. The Writer’s Kitchen is now a featured blog on Restauranteers.com. Restauranteers is a restaurant and food blog that also collects a wide variety of food blogs with an amazingly wide variety of different topics. I was initially unsure about joining with the site as I also write about other topics, but decided to go ahead because they are looking for a diverse collection of blogs. This will introduce more readers to this blog. For those of you who are not foodies, don’t worry - this partnership does not mean I will only focus on food. The mix will stay similar to how it has always been. Check out the blogs they have to offer at http://blog.restauranteers.com/top-bloggers. There is also a new badge on my sidebar that will take you to their home page. Another change is that I have added a button for readers to subscribe to my RSS feed. My blog always had that functionality, but now it is easier to grab my feed.
My mom and I arrived in Ottawa a day earlier than originally planned so we could help her sisters, who were organizing our family event, with some setup tasks. The payoff for this was we were able to get together with a few early arrivals for a dinner in the Byward Market. The restaurant chosen was Vittoria Trattoria, a fairly well-regarded restaurant in the heart of the market. Since there were 10 of us for dinner I wasn’t really keeping track of what everyone on the table was having. The menu focuses on the neighbourhood Italian standards, with the expected antipasti, many pizza and pasta selections, and secondos such as veal, chicken, and lamb. To start, I ordered the mussels with grappa, raisins and pine nuts. The mussels were fine. I kind of liked the touch of pine nuts with mussels and the broth was excellent, and I believe the grappa was useful in allowing the mussel broth to be the primary flavour (as opposed to, say, wine). However, when I make mussels myself I always try to find the freshest possible and cook them immediately, so the mussels are usually exquisitely fresh. These, while they were absolutely not spoiled or obviously old, were not as supremely fresh as mussels can be. This is probably an unrealistic expectation in most restaurants though, so I will say I liked the starter.
I had veal marsala, an Italian classic, for my main course. The sauce was fairly good, but the meat could have been prepared better. Veal scallopini requires careful treatment to be sure it is at its best. This veal had a slightly pasty texture on the outside, likely a result of too much flour used to coat the veal before pan-frying. Also the veal was just a little tough. There could be a couple of reasons why this happened. First, the veal was probably overcooked. Second, veal scallopini is usually cut from the leg, a tough cut of veal. In order to make this a tender cut, you must cut very thin slices and then carefully pound the meat to make a very thin, wide piece. This may not have been pounded enough. The sides were decent but not excellent. Several in our party had pasta and, from what they said, the pasta was cooked perfectly and the sauces ranged from acceptable to very good. For dessert I had zuccotto, a layered cake and mousse based dessert. That was excellent and definitely the best part of the meal. Other desserts include a good tartufo and a less than stellar molten chocolate cake.
Some were impressed with the food but the majority opinion (including my own) was that the food was not excellent but certainly good. It can certainly be considered an average neighbourhood Italian restaurant. The problem is that, because Vittoria’s neighbourhood is the Byward Market, the prices are too high for the quality of the food. The main courses are in the upper 20 dollar range with the high end meats (veal chop, rack of lamb) well over 30. I did not order anything overly expensive and my meal still cost at least 50-60 dollars with ONE glass of wine, before the tip. I have read reviews other places that complain about poor service here, but when we were there, the service was good. Again I would not consider it superb but they were friendly and reasonably accommodating. The wine list is pretty good, with some affordable selections, several by the glass.