Address: 243 Lilac Street
Entrees: $21 – $48
Cast your memory back to the Before Times and you may recall restaurants reveling in stark, minimalist chic. But trends are cyclical, and a return to comfort and maximalism has gathered on the horizon of the cutting edge. The latest designs have trended towards vibrancy and playfulness, while upping the cozy factor.
This turn also leads us back to some longtime favourites, who’ve known all along the value of a welcoming room and delicious food to eat it in. One such resto is Cafe Carlo. With three decades under its belt, this just-off-Corydon room continues to deliver the high quality it’s known for with a very now predilection for homey comfort.
The burgundy-walled space exudes warmth, with pendant lights and a softly glowing banquette. Tables are typically filled with small huddles of neighbourhood regulars and date-night pairs.
Classic appies get the elevated treatment, like plump prawns wrapped in crisped sheets of prosciutto. Porky and sea-saline, these morsels are set on a buttery hollandaise cut through with lemon and a drizzle of zingy herb gastrique.
Fried chicken is another share plate that you may need to be reminded to share. Supremely juicy, it hints of buttermilk tang, playing nice with savoury-sweet tomato jam. Pan-fried broccoli may sound simple, but when paired with toasted pecans and savoury XO sauce, it delivers a tangy umami burst.
Cafe Carlo is known for pastas, with its fett chile (fettuccine in a chile cream sauce loaded with Spanish ingredients like roasted red peppers and chorizo) long reigning supreme. Opt for classics like vongole and ragu, or try pappardelle swimming in curry cream sauce and spaghetti tangled with spicy eggplant and feta.
Protein-centered entrees are equally well-prepared, blending tradition with just enough of a nouveau touch. For veal lovers, the schnitzel is a dream: a full chop, bone in, breaded and pan-fried to crisp perfection. The dusky meat meets its match with a bright sauce of plump capers and lemon.
What is it that turns diners into regulars, coming back again and again? For the answer, look no further than a towering wedge of birthday cake semifreddo–layers of yellow cake, funfetti and chocolate ice creams, piled with sprinkle-popped struesel, all topped with a little candle. It’s fun, it’s decadent, and most of all, it’s delicious. What more could a restaurant be?