Mangia mangia! Or: All rise for the risotto

A few weeks ago I went to a nice little restaurant in the far western reaches of Vaughan for some Italian with WW and I realized at the time that I don’t think I’ve actually written a review of any Italian restaurants here at DKLoMakan. I then came to yet another realization (it was a magical and thought-provoking day, clearly), which is that I think I now can officially say I have an actual favourite Italian restaurant.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m a sucker for value. Despite obviously living in the biggest mansion in North America, driving between my many jewel-filled bathrooms in my Ferrari, and taking regular dives in my money pool a la Uncle Scrooge from DuckTales, I am still picky when it comes to getting bang for my buck in eating (just kidding, I only have one gold-encrusted bathroom). This is why Italian food often comes a little low on my priority of things to go and try. I have enormous difficulty in rationalizing that a bowl of pasta with some sauce on it is worth $20 or so. I mean, on an ingredient level, it’s essentially flour with sauce. As everyone can agree that flour is very cheap and cooking pasta isn’t a terribly difficult thing (raw pasta shapes, meet boiling water!), I’m basically paying the whole cost of the meal on the sauce. And that, to me, represents terrible value. Delicious perhaps, but terrible value nonetheless.

It's like paying $15 bucks for this, but with some sauce on top. --- from www.bestfoodmarket.biz

It’s like paying twenty bucks for this, but with oregano and some sauce — from http://www.bestfoodmarket.biz

I am aware that there are the proper Italian restaurants that in all likelihood hand-make their pastas. The problem is that usually these places are of the “so expensive I can barely afford it without selling one of my golden Bentleys” variety. As such I’ve had a tendency to shy away from many Italian restaurants, mostly because my favourite Italian food is (for the most part) pasta and pasta is, as explained above, poor value for money. I have, however, recently developed a love for another Italian dish: the risotto. To me, I feel that the risotto at least can convince me that it requires skill to make properly. Not too hard, not too soft, and with a whole host of creamy delicious ingredients thrown in to make the flavours come alive. And after some searching on Chez Google, I found a place in Vaughan that reportedly makes some of the best risotto in the GTA: Zizi Trattoria, right by Highway 400 on Highway 7. I liked the restaurant so much that I decided to come back to it, a few weeks ago, and made a promise to myself that I would blog about it. And so ends my absurdly long back story about my thoughts on Italian food.

As you might have gathered, this wasn’t my first visit to Zizi. The fact that I liked the first visit so much was the reason why I decided to come back here, when WW had another of her semi-annual risotto cravings. When we came in, we were greeted with a warm NI HAO! from the proprietor, who wasn’t Chinese. I thought it was cute and gave some bonus points right there.

We then sat down and was greeted by the same waiter we had last time, a friendly (and exceedingly polite) Fabio-looking Italian fellow named Roberto, who gave us a round of what the specials were. But we knew what we wanted even before we walked in: risotto for WW, and a pizza for me. Actually I wanted risotto too but we both have this  custom of “Oh let’s order something different so we can try each other’s food and sample more stuff that way”. Having grown up in Indonesia and bearing in mind that WW hails straight from the mothership of PRC, I can now officially confirm that Chinese people regardless of country of origin and upbringing all think this way when we walk into a nice restaurant (and the occasional Red Lobster).

And this is DEFINITELY not Red Lobster.

And this is DEFINITELY not Red Lobster.

The pizza I ordered this time was the La Villa, while WW’s risotto was the decidedly exotic-sounding Risotto Pescatore in Bianco. On the side is a little house special the Roberto told us on our first visit: Zizi’s home made chili oil, a lovely fiery concoction that will add extra oomph to any of your meals. The La Villa pizza was very nice. The pizza itself isn’t intensely flavoured, apart from the smooth tartness of the fresh tomato sauce, but this is balanced very nicely with the saltiness of the Italian sausage and prosciutto slices. The grilled chicken added some bulk to the pie, while the smattering of hot peppers gave it a nice kick that actually blended really well with the chili oil. The pizza is thin crust, just as I like it, and it is a HUGE piece of work. Two people can comfortably share this large manhole cover and be sufficiently satiated.

The most DELICIOUS manhole cover, that is.

The most DELICIOUS manhole cover, that is.

The risotto (the highlight of the meal) was also very lovely. Instead of the Risotto Champagne which WW ordered last time, she decided to go for a slight change and try the Pescatore instead. And if you’ve ever wished for more toppings inside your risotto, then this is the one you should definitely get. I’ve never in my life seen so much seafood crammed into a plate of those lovely arborio rice. Large (and fresh) pieces of tiger shrimp, tender calamari, and what seemed like a dozen mussels were all comfortably hanging out in the dish. It almost felt like we were interrupting an undersea party (by EATING its participants nomnomnom). This was definitely the highlight of the dinner. Contrasted with the previous risotto we ate during our first trip, I can safely recommend the following: if it’s more risotto (and stronger flavour) you’re after, go for the Risotto Champagne. If it’s more seafood contents you’re after, go for the Pescatore,

Sebastian? Is that you?

Sebastian? Is that you? Oh, the huge-manatee.

The restaurant itself is located in a rather nondescript strip plaza (aren’t they all?) on the western edges of Highway 7. It’s nicely tucked into a corner right beside an Aren’t We Naughty store, so you can always have a great dinner and the prospect of awesome shenanigans after. The place isn’t the biggest but it never feels cramped, the whole room feels quite cozy and they frequently host parties on the weekends so it’s best to have a reservation if you’re planning a Saturday night dinner. The staff are friendly and are only too happy to accommodate any special requests you have, or even to engage in some light conversation (providing the restaurant isn’t too busy, of course!), so make sure you drop a friendly CIAO to Roberto when you come there next.  And if he’s at your table, you’ll be well-taken care of.

–Final verdict: Mari Makan!

Zizi Trattoria

4040 Ontario 7
Woodbridge, ON L4L 8Z2 ‎
(905) 850-9875

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