Windsor’s Little Italy, dubbed “Via Italia” for marketing purposes, is dressed up with lights all along Erie Street’s restaurant strip. The repeating bright arches with their five-pointed stars do make you feel that you’ve arrived somewhere. For all I know, the surrounding neighborhood is as Italian as our Greektown is Greek. But no matter. Via Italia’s abundance of restaurants — not a chain among ’em — beg to be tried, one by one.
One reason to choose Pasticcio — clip and file this review till next summer — is its new terrace. It’s a little noisy right there on Erie Street, but on a Friday evening we got to see a Critical Mass bike ride surge by, dinging their bells and eschewing their autos for all they were worth. The bonus is a great view of the sun setting on the Ren Cen.
I had visited Pasticcio four years ago and was impressed with the quality of everything we ordered, from salad to dessert. During our recent visits, it was really the entrées that stood out as ambrosial, with some slippage in a few of the other courses.
A good appetizer is grilled shrimp. The little guys are studded with garlic bits and there’s plenty of sauce to sop up with Pasticcio’s crusty, open-weave bread.
I was disappointed in the mozzarella caprese, which I’d been making this summer from my own garden to much acclaim. This is a combination of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil; since it all depends on the quality of the tomatoes, I inquired carefully beforehand. Despite assurances, they came pinkish and underflavored, teaching me once again what I already knew — restaurants don’t serve good tomatoes. (Indignant chefs should write and offer to prove me wrong.) It could have used more basil too.
Grilled calamari were better: large, garlicked and spiced, lightly breaded pieces that looked more like a real squid than most restaurants dare to admit.
Pasticcio’s salads are way overdressed; ask them to use a light hand. And I don’t find that carrot shavings add anything to the excellent romaine-only salad I’d enjoyed before.
By this time, though, the house red, a friendly Monte Pulciano, is making itself felt, and your entrée is on the way. If you’ve ordered what most people order, scalloppine al tartufo (truffle), you are in for an extravagant blend of delicate and rich, with a faint hint of sweetness. Sumptuous is the watchword here. The ingredients are porcini, brandy, white wine, goose-liver pâté and truffle sauce. I can’t praise this dish enough.
If you didn’t eat your lox for breakfast, an unusual choice is scaloppine portofino, with smoked salmon cooked atop the veal in a silky rosé sauce.
Even better is the grilled lamb: multiple tiny chops, the tenderest ever, marinated in mint.
Among the pastas, I liked the mushroom choices: fettucine ai funghi porcini, pungent and simple in a big white bowl, or rigatoni alla boscaiola, musky with long-stemmed mushrooms. Actually, this latter is not on the menu anymore, but the owner assures me you can ask for it. There is a veal scaloppine alla boscaiola which I’m sure is just as good, in a tender-meat rather than a noodlish sort of way.
I regretfully passed up spaghetti allo scoglio, which includes calamari, clams, mussels and shrimp in a white wine/tomato sauce. If you try it, let me know. The pasta dishes are $15-$20 Canadian.
Two filet mignons, one with Calvados and goose-liver pâté and the other similar to the scaloppine tartufo, but with red wine, both make me want to come back. Ditto for the orange roughy in cream sauce with mushrooms and scallops, and the salmon in dill cream.
For dessert, the tiramisu is ordinary; more interesting is the orange raspberry rum cake. Both orange and raspberry, you’ll remember, are brilliant accompaniments to chocolate; here, it turns out, they are inspired complements to each other.
Bear in mind that in U.S. dollars, you can get that tartufo for just $12. So go. Open for lunch and dinner every day but Sunday.
Jane Slaughter dines for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].