L’appetito vien mangiando! Appetite comes with eating and the Divas are used to eating well. But we haven’t been wowed like this in a long time. After a tedious day at work, and after Diva #1’s GPS sent her via the scenic route on her way to pick up Diva #2, we finally ended up at Hostaria in Little Italy. Recommended by our friend Calvin, once again, he picked a gem.
We were seated at our table adjacent to the marble topped bar, complete with an ice bucket filled with breadsticks and the chalkboard menu listing the specials to our right. Our waiter, Andreas, greeted us right away and was very knowledgeable. The Divas needed wine and Andreas chose an excellent dry, red wine off their extensive wine list out of their glass-enclosed wine cellar. Wine in hand, we enjoyed bread and olive oil to appease our growing appetites while choosing what to eat. Andreas was kind enough to explain everything, and translate some dishes for Diva#1, and our mouths were soon watering.
When Diva #2 heard that the Ricotta di Bufala was from Caserta, it was an obvious choice for our appetizer since her dad is from the nearby neighbouring town of Benevento in Naples. This was the real deal, not that grainy mess you buy in the store. The large portion of ricotta was served with grilled bread and thyme on a wooden cutting board. Simply drizzled with a touch of olive oil, the consistency was smooth and velvety. And while Diva #1 was busy stripping the sprig of thyme onto her ricotta, Diva #2 simply indulged.
The only problem the Divas had with the menu was that everything sounded good; we couldn’t choose. Diva #1 was craving pasta all week and couldn’t decide on one plate. So we asked Andreas if it would be possible to make us a pasta sampler dish. And he did! Along with the three pasta dishes we chose, we also opted for one of the specials of the night, the roast suckling pig. Everything was served to us family-style, from one dish, very Italian. Yes, the Divas share but with each other. If you approach our dish without invitation, you risk being stabbed with a fork. Consider yourself warned.
Aside from being so accommodating, the Divas were also impressed at the “small” portion sizes for plates we were sharing. Our dishes were also brought at different times; Andreas explained that this was to accentuate the flavours of what we were eating. Our first pasta dish was the pappardelle with boar ragu. Diva #2 had this dish on her first night in Torino this past summer and she is not afraid to say this, Hostaria’s dish was better, no question. The generous pieces of meat were tender and full of flavour. The pasta was delicate and cooked al dente. And the Divas like a little spice so we added a touch of Hostaria’s chili infused olive oil. Absolutely delicious.
The ricotta gnocchi were served next. Diva #1 had only ever had gnocchi made with ricotta at Diva #2’s house, made with love by Mickey the Butcher. Hostaria’s gnocchi were very light, creamy and delicious. They were served on a bed of white beans which was very different than the usual way a gnocchi dish is served.
Our third pasta dish, the butternut squash risotto, was served with our main dish, the roast suckling pig. The risotto was by far the best we’ve had anywhere. It’s how risotto should taste. Very creamy but not overcooked and the diced butternut squash was fresh and the flavour worked well with our suckling pig. Again, another generous portion and one of our favourite dishes. Hostaria’s pasta trio left us very full but we were excited to try the suckling pig that Lesley Chesterman had raved about in her own review in The Gazette.
The roast suckling pig was one of the specials of the night and it was hard to pass up when the waiter described the “crispy, crackling skin.” It was served in a clay dish and the portion was huge, served on top of roasted potatoes (which were so-so) and asparagus (which were delicious) and sprigs of rosemary and thyme. We each had a section of ribs and a leg and the only fighting we did was over that greasy, crispy, crackling must-eat-with-your-hands skin! The meat itself was succulent and juicy and we definitely enjoyed it. It’s a great meat dish that will have the likes of Vegan Vixen dropping her vegetarian charade in a heartbeat! We were so full but we did our best to lick the bones clean, truly a great dish.
Though we were full, we couldn’t pass up dessert. Diva #1 was a bit disappointed when we were told that they didn’t have any more Affogato but once our lemon and chocolate ricotta pie was brought to the table, we forgot all about it. The pie was to die for and paired perfectly with Diva #1’s signature cappuccino. A little reminiscent of the ricotta pie Diva #2 is used to at Easter, we couldn’t stop eating it despite our oncoming food coma.
Hostaria also has a lunch menu and a late night menu for $25. The Divas already have their eye on the Bison for Two for their next visit since we’ve already tried so much, and the rabbit dish. The sons of the owner of Hostaria own Bottega on Saint Zotique, another great Italian restaurant known for its pizza. The Divas were thoroughly satisfied with their night; the service was top notch and the food was on a level all its own. Definite proof that Italians know their way around the kitchen. It is rare to impress an Italian with Italian cuisine but Diva #2 was not only impressed but ready to propose to Calvin for such a stellar recommendation.
Our Rating: Always on Thursdays
Tagged: 236 Rue Saint Zotique Est, Always on Thursdays, Bar, Bison, Boar, Bottega, Chalkboard Menu, Cheese, Cocktails, Gnocchi, H2S 1K9, Hostaria, Italian, Late Night Menu, Little Italy, Little Italy restaurant, Lunch, Montreal, Montreal Restaurant, Pasta, Pig, Rabbit, Reservations Needed, Ricotta, Risotto, Saint-Zotique, terrace, Veal, Wild Boar Ragu, wine