Every time I am wandering the Byward Market I pass by Vittoria Trattoria, always peaking in the windows, seeing what’s on someones table without taking the time to venture in to try for myself. This may be because I am always underdressed, but that is besides the point. Finally, with only a few more nights in Ottawa I decided to take a few of my girlfriend’s there to give it a try! We were all thinking ‘Italian’ so it seemed like a great chance to forego my window watching and indulge for myself.
As far Italian restaurants go I would have to say this is one of the classier places. With their local art showcases, brick interior, and fancy white table clothes, the staff greeted us warmly and walked us back to our table. Unfortunately (as one of my friends pointed out) they put us way into the back of the building, for as she put it "we were not as fancy as they had liked". No matter, the service was impeccable and the wait staff was very friendly. It was almost as if we did not have to lift a finger. The wait staff was so quick with their plate and utensil changes that they never once interrupted our conversation, only to ask if they could get anything else for us. As for the food, I was a bit underwhelmed with some of their dishes for they did not represent what fine Italian dining can be—which is fresh, fun and inventive. Instead it seemed more of a stuffy, cookie-cutter representation as to what they know to be Italian food.
For myself, I had been devouring food left, right, and centre all day so I only ordered appetizers. The ones I did have fell on a scale of delicious and not so grand.
Starting my evening off I got a caesar salad. I know what you might be thinking, how can you mess up a caesar salad? Well, I am glad you asked foodie friends! When I had received my appetizer it was definitely a good sized for what it cost, however there were more short comings than successes. One success was the fact that it was made with anchovy paste, allowing it to taste richer and have a much nicer flavour. Some fails came with the parmesan cheese, croutons, and lack of marvel. The parmesan cheese was not fresh, but rather powdery (like the stuff that comes in the cans at the grocery store). Also, they decided it was best to put a mountain of this powder cheese onto of my salad. So, when I stuck my fork into my stack of romaine lettuce it all came tumbling down and out of the bowl. As for the croutons, they were from a bag that was probably store bought. They were not fresh, warm, or inviting to the palate and I do not think I would ever order this again unless it were to be revamped. My suggestion would be to tack on an extra dollar or two, make fresh croutons that are lightly seasoned and shave a few nice pieces of fresh parmesan onto the top of the salad.
Assembled in the middle of a porcelain plate came my second appetizer which I was much more pleased with than the first dish I had received. Now, escargot is definitely an acquired taste and not many people are too eager to try such a dish, however I feel Vittoria Trattoria did a wonderful job as far as flavours were concerned. From the look of both plates, they were not the most atheistically pleasing to the eye, but as previously said, the taste of this one was much more enjoyable. First impressions, I was not blown away by the presentation for it seemed to be an amalgamation of grey matter atop a piece of cornbread. After taking my first bite though, I changed my opinion for these tasty little morsels were bursting with aromatic character. The escargot were succulent, savoury, and not chewy as many people think snails are. Along with the snails there was a plethora of small pearl onions that gave the dish bursts of sweetness. It was also paired with a creamy tarragon sauce, small slivers of garlic, sautéed wild mushrooms and laced with a bit of cinzano. Overall, it was very well put together and I recommend if you have never tried snails, this is a good dish to put a different plate on your palate.
Vittoria Trattoria is a great space for a first date, family dinner, or going out for a nice evening with your friends. However, if you're not dressed the part, truthfully they will probably just sit you in the back out of the streets view. If you don't mind that and want some awesome service this is definitely a great space, but as far as food goes it seems a bit over priced for the plates they are bringing to the table- I give it a pass to try but don't be surprised if it does not amaze you.