After three years I did it: the Taste of Streetsville. Each year I promised myself or made a date with friends, and each year I managed to forget or back out. (I’m a terrible person, I know.)
The Taste of Streetsville is an annual event for which participating restaurants in Streetsville (“the village in the city” just a 44N bus ride away) offer a $30 prix fixe menu with proceeds from every meal this year going towards the redevelopment of the Emergency Department at Credit Valley Hospital. “Just a Taste” menus at select small restaurants and bakeries provide a similar set menu deal for anywhere between $5 and $10. Think Toronto’s Winterlicious or Summerlicious, Streetsville-style. It runs from now until October 5.
After salivating my way through each participating restaurant’s menu in the Medium office, I take my fellow editor’s advice and settle on Goodfellas Wood Oven Pizza. Despite having eaten my way through most of Streetsville’s culinary offerings, I’ve yet to make my way to Goodfellas.
Upon arriving at the restaurant, I mistake the valet parking at the front door for the pedestrian entrance. The attendant takes no notice. Once I finally make my way inside a middle-aged, enthusiastic yet clearly experienced Italian waiter greets me. Without giving the hostesses a chance to consider where they might put me, he takes me to his section. It’s apparent he’s trying to sit me without upsetting that night’s reservations or the opportunity to take in large groups. He places me at a low table running along the counter dividing the kitchen from the dining room. If I sit up straight I can just see the team of chefs tossing thin-crust pizzas into their infamous wood oven. It’s awkward, but I like the idea of an “almost chef’s table” and the table itself is wide enough to accommodate my dinner date: French grammar homework.
My waiter’s quick to get my order and rather abruptly asks, “Do ya want any wine?” Flustered, I place my order and embarrassedly request a simple glass of water. Their Taste of Streetsville menu offers two choices for each course as well as an option of tea, espresso, or cappuccino to finish. I order the insalata mista to start, followed by the Margherita pizza. I’ll choose my dessert afterwards.
The ambience is everything you’d want from an Italian restaurant. There’s a fun, exciting energy. It’s packed with groups of four or more. The waiters joke with one another and the kitchen throws out dishes in a symphony of china plates smacking the marble counter and dinging services bells. I’ll admit that while I adore dining alone, I feel a bit lonely seeing all the hustle and bustle around me. My waiter is happy to chat, though. He asks me, “What’s your background?”—a question I realize I’ve never been asked before, given that I’m a small round-faced white girl. He goes on to tell me I’m good-looking. (If only he weren’t old enough to be my father!) He explains the hospitality program he graduated from in Italy and proudly exclaims that he speaks five languages. Finally, and thankfully, my first course arrives and our conversation ceases.
The salad is a step up from average. True, it’s not your typical iceberg lettuce with tomato slices and red onions. It’s your almost-as-tired spring salad mix with cherry tomatoes and (almost all) pitted black olives. The cherry tomatoes make me sad, particularly when I reflect on the beautiful, meaty Ontario tomatoes I ate this past week for lunch. As a kind of apology for the boring assortment of vegetables, it’s doused in huge glug of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I spot the other prix fixe menu starter option—three Arborio rice balls—sailing out of the kitchen and I half-wish I’d ordered them instead. While I’m certain I could make a better salad at home, I know I’m not one to regularly whip up Italian arancini.
As I’m just finishing up the crostini that accompanied my salad, my eager waiter throws down my pizza, proclaiming, “Perfect timing.” (I beg to differ.) He grinds a sprinkling of pepper over top and brings me a spicy red pepper condiment.
I remember my reason for choosing Goodfellas: the pizza. My dear Margherita pizza with her charred thin crust, fresh torn basil leaves, and shards of mozzarella smiles up at me. I enjoy every moment of ripping chunks of her and garnishing her with that delicious spicy condiment. Endless waiters bring half-eaten pizzas to the counter beside me and package them up for overstuffed guests. I promise my Margherita I won’t let her go unfinished. (I respect her too much to do that.)
My waiter congratulates me as he swoops down for my empty plate and prompts me for my dessert order. I take his advice and choose the Sicilian cannoli. He adds that they’re easy to package up and take home—as if he thinks I’m not capable of finishing them. Within a few minutes, three delicate pinky-sized cannoli arrive. These cute little crispy pastry shells are stuffed with ricotta and topped with chopped pistachios. They’re nestled in what I think is a thick chocolate sauce, but is in fact just a good old dollop of Nutella. I’d say they’re an improvement over the salad, but certainly not overwhelming.
I ask for a tea, to my waiter’s disappointment—he assumed I’d want a cappuccino. I notice my section has filled up since my arrival an hour ago. Shortly thereafter I ask for the bill. It’s $33.90 after tax and I give a 10% tip. As I leave, I overhear that it’s a 45-minute wait for the next free table.
I cross the street and pass the valet parking attendant, who has been joined by an accordion-playing busker, to catch the 44S home. I’m pleased with my Taste of Streetsville experience. Definitely a deal, despite the unreliability of the meal itself. That said, I’d happily return to Goodfellas (with some company) for its humorous yet energetic service and that fine, fine pizza.
I will return, my dear Margherita.