Osteria del Piolo
Address: 3670 Roblin Blvd
If there is something we have learned as professional eaters and food writers, it’s that some of the city’s best eats can be found in unassuming strip malls in the suburbs. Osteria del Piolo has pulled no punches, launching itself into eatery-scarce Charleswood.
In a frosty winter city, sporting a functioning fireplace may just be the perfect way to win diners. In the wide open room, a blazing fire is a focal point of a fashionably open kitchen. The space revels a pure affection for Italian culture spelled out in graphic art on the walls. Mangia Bene and other quotes artfully rendered by local artist Kal Barteski frame the entire room.
A menu of Italian dishes is naturally themed around sharing. Small plates presenting salads, vegetables and pasta in creative ways, and big plates bear entrees for two. And of course, there’s pizza fresh from that wood-burning oven. The menu manages to be succinct while offering a satisfying range of ingredients, a mark of the careful thought behind this new spot.
Starters are veg-centric, offer impressive variety, and begin the journey through fiery, charred tastes. Charred broccolini is a multi-sensory dish, its smokiness offset by pickled blackberries, hazelnuts and lemon mascarpone.
Unexpected and playful mashups are de rigeur here. Roasted carrots served with their greens are complemented with fennel, nduja (sausage) paste, and a slight citrus note derived from orange infused salt. Beets appear three ways alongside Granny Smiths, a unique pistachio pesto and citrus Parm-spiked aioli. The medley presents a delightful contrast of textures, temperatures (with beets roasted, pickled and fried) and flavours with every mouthful.
Pastas, typically the cornerstone of Italian menus, appear sparingly here. All three are winners: traditional spaghetti carbonara; shrimp bolognese, a fresh take on a classic blending fire roasted shrimp with carrots and pickled shallots over tagliatelle; and potato gnocchi presented “Cacio e Pepe” style, with a mix of pecorino and fontina cheeses and lots of black pepper.
Big plate entrees meant for two are hearty and delicious. Sea bream arrives beautifully charred whole, crisp skin breaking way to moist flaky flesh. Accompanying clams in Chardonnay, fennel and mushrooms round out this substantial feast.
Espresso martini tiramisu is a perfect ending to the meal, the definition of a classic with its signature combo of chocolate, Kahlua and espresso.