Mar­vel­lous house-made $10 pap­pardelle

This pasta-spin­ning joint is the linch­pin in this up-and-com­ing nabe

Thornhill Post - - Food -

Ev­ery once in a while a restau­rant opens and cap­tures my heart in­stantly. I can see my­self stop­ping in ev­ery week, the servers, no mat­ter their age, mor­ph­ing into favourite aunts and un­cles whose plea­sure it is to make me happy — and well-fed. Annabelle is that place. And such a bum­mer that they don’t take reser­va­tions. But per­sist. Sun­day at 6 p.m. is a good time to get a ta­ble. The down­stairs is cosy, en­ter­tain­ing with the bus­tle of the open kitchen, a few small oak ta­bles: homey. Up­stairs I like bet­ter. No win­ter draft, more ta­bles (two of them high­tops), warm brick walls, with gilt­framed mir­rors and antlers, and a ca­sual vibe. One wall is black and white toile wall­pa­per. Neigh­bour­hood tod­dlers scarf down their pasta and learn epi­curean gen­til­ity. It’s all just cool enough to be the new epi­cen­tre of the up-and-com­ing Christie and Daven­port neigh­bour­hood.

Annabelle’s own­ers also own BOB Cof­fee Bar at Christie and Daven­port. Ca­sual hip­ster Ital­iana is their mid­dle name.

For­get the dif­fer­ent takes on Ne­gro­nis. The two I tried (friz­zante and orange blos­som) were highly for­get­table, a way to de­tract from the in­ten­sity of my sec­ond favourite cock­tail.

The chalk­board menu and pasta choices change daily, but holy cow, $10 buys their mar­vel­lous house­made pap­pardelle with zuc­chini rib­bons and fresh ri­cotta, full of flavour. And $10 also buys their splen­did riga­toni with su­per pork sausages in rich tomato sauce jazzed with the bit­ter of rap­ini and the mel­low of ro­mano beans. Among their pasta of­fer­ings avoid only the crab can­nel­loni, whose con­tents taste canned.

I love the bur­rata. Who doesn’t love moz­zarella with a heart of cream? The black­board in­forms about the daily bur­rata. My fave sits on puréed but­ter­nut squash (clearly en­hanced with the de­mon but­ter) with wal­nuts and beets. I am also en­tranced by shrimp and polpo with fin­ger­ling pota­toes. The oc­to­pus are just slightly charred, and it’s all bathed in won­der­ful spicy red sauce, Annabelle’s house-made an­swer to Sriracha.

Spicy pork meat­balls with romesco are cute lit­tle meat­balls awash in spicy romesco, a splen­did Span­ish sauce built of puréed nuts, chilies, red pep­pers and gar­lic. For $8! You can’t beat that in Toronto.

This is a kitchen with heart. They cook with soul and pas­sion, and they’re charg­ing $10 for a plate of mar­vel­lous pasta! As if that were not enough, try the salted caramel panna cotta dessert. It looks like a panna cotta I might make — as if some­body had a prob­lem get­ting it out of the mould, they cursed out loud and then served it any­way. So it’s all bro­ken up in unattrac­tive pieces. But oh the taste! Salted caramel and cream is the (an­i­mal fat) hill I could die on.

Clock­wise from left: the cosy up­stairs, spaghetti with shep­herd pep­per pesto, their daily bur­rata

JOANNE KATES Joanne Kates trained at the Ecole Cor­don Bleu de Cui­sine in Paris. She has writ­ten ar­ti­cles for nu­mer­ous pub­li­ca­tions, in­clud­ing the New York Times, Ma­clean’s and Chate­laine.

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