Servers in Oakville always ask if I’m Sicilian. No, but I once had the pleasure of being treated to home-cooked meals by an authentic Italian Nonna who would crank out fresh pasta in the kitchen then pile it on a large plate for me, topped with butter. The serving was enormous and I’d never come close to finishing it. (I was dating her grandson, who always cleaned his plate). This time in their kitchen gives me some level of street cred when it comes to sampling Italian food …. here are the top 5 Italian restaurants in Oakville.
This north-end Italian joint is owned by Julia Hanna, who also runs Ristorante Julia downtown. With a warm interior, the Oak Walk Dr. resto houses an adorable Nonna Wall, honouring women who fed and nurtured their families, the server explains. She recommends the veal and the gnocchi, made in-house by Julia’s mother (who often competes with the Nonna at Ristorante Julia to see who makes better gnocchi). I started with the Calamari Fritti — the large portion of salty & crispy squid was coated with cornmeal then dusted with flour, served with a tasty cherry pepper basil aioli. The gnocchi, topped with Alla Vodka sauce and fresh greens, was soft and delicious, while the handbreaded veal parmigiana was thin, crispy, filling, and flavourful, served alongside spaghetti pomodoro. Ritorno means ‘to return’ and with food like this, how could you not be back for more?
Price range for dinner mains: $19-$29
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This restaurant on Lakeshore takes me back into time … when owners came out of the back to chat with you, shake your hand, and thank you for visiting. The owner, Pasquale, did just that. He’s old-school, and I’m charmed. Pasquale says his father ran Ristorante Pinocchio (in Etobicoke at Dundas and Islington) for decades and that’s where he began washing dishes at age 12. Speaking of dishes, the food is divine. The antipasto is lovely, with a great selection of salami and prosciutto, while the calamari is nicely seasoned and portioned perfectly. As for pasta, the pappardelle, made in-house, is served with bolognese sauce and makes for a delicious entree. (The gnocchi is downright sinful, although it isn’t made in-house). Meanwhile, the veal is perfectly cooked and is accompanied by tomatoes, roasted potatoes, and broccoli. The owner creates all of the desserts himself and takes great pride in his work. He recommends the mascarpone, and it’s absolutely amazing. Its airy texture is complemented by strawberries, and I detect a hint of booze — Grand Marnier, it turns out. Pasquale’s opened in 2009 and the food and service is wonderful. You must go.
Price range for dinner mains: $25.95-$34.95
The short ribs at Trattoria Timone should be on every meat eater’s bucket list. Seriously … it was an exquisite culinary experience. (Cheers to head chef Michel Fronteddu!) This long-time east-end favourite in the Oakville Entertainment Centrum has undergone renovations. It rocks a nautical theme, and it’s elegant and fun all wrapped in one. We started with the grilled calamari, which was crispy, not greasy, and served atop mixed greens. A great aioli with chives gave it a flavour boost. The gnocchi with veal ragu came in a creamy sauce, and it was phenomenal (the meat was well-done, while crispy asparagus and red peppers added texture to the dish). As for those short ribs … they were oh-so-tender and it was essentially pure carnivore heaven. Ribs were served with sweet potato fries, which I can’t stop raving about, alongside a spicy aioli. Service was outstanding and so was the meal.
Price range for dinner mains: $26-$39
The menu is curated and the offerings are fabulous. This cute little downtown Oakville spot opened its doors in October 2016 and is an under-the-radar dining experience when it comes to great Sicilian fare. If you’ve never been, start with the fried artichokes (incredible!) and order the steak (equally fabulous but keep in mind it’s not offered daily since the meat selection is changed up). The resto is casual yet authentic, kid-friendly and – more importantly – offers a solid wine list, plus cocktails and beer. Service is very friendly. You must go.
This modern Italian restaurant in Bronte is absolute perfection. Voted one of the best restaurants in Canada (no pressure!), the bar was high and the folks at Cucci certainly didn’t disappoint. To start, assorted bread (cut to order from an array of fresh baguettes) is served with sage-and-roasted-garlic-butter. Delish! Next, we had the grilled calamari, which was so, so good. But it was no match for the real star: Gnocchi. The amazingly creamy Gorgonzola sauce had a light crunch, thanks to walnuts. And the gnocchi, made in-house, was superb. You don’t even have to work to chew anything since it melts in your mouth. It’s one of the most popular items on the menu, alongside the Eggplant Parmesan, which is fantastic with a nice crunchy-yet-cheesy combination. (The baby arugula salad it came with had beautiful orchid petals!). Good thing it was a cheat day because the Cucci Brunch, which features Veal Milanese with a sunny-side up hen egg, drizzled in veal jus was some next-level dining. This was hands down the best veal I’ve ever tasted, with a schnitzel-like coating. Served with a side of sautéed green beans, there was barely room for dessert but we had to dig deep and devour the Avocado Chocolate pudding, which was pure decadence. With exceptional food and service, you’ve gotta treat yo’self (even if it’s not a Tuesday) and try the best Italian food in Oakville!
Price range for dinner mains: $32-$46
What’s your favourite Italian restaurant in Oakville?