As soon as I heard that Jamie Oliver had opened his first Canadian franchise, I was Googling the location. Bad news: Jamie's Italian is all the way up north in the Yorkdale Mall.
I have some pretty traumatic memories of the Yorkdale Mall from my days waitressing at Moxie's in the summer of 2011, so it takes something pretty special to get me that far north on the Dufferin bus. I guess I consider freshly made pasta and British chefs to be pretty special.
Pro Tip: You actually can't get into the restaurant from inside the mall. But the mall's maps are very deceiving and lead you to believe the opposite. We might have walked around the mall in circles a couple of times... You actually have to exit the mall and enter Jamie's Italian from the parking lot. Can you see why I hate malls? They seriously stress me out.
But once you're inside, it is absolutely lovely! The decor is modern-corporate-hipster, and all the printed graphics on the menus have that vintage look I love.
Jamie Oliver is known for his passion for food that is delicious AND healthy. In other words, he cooks with REAL food and uses many natural ingredients. His restaurant reflects that passion and showcases its collection of charcuterie and fresh fruits & veggies behind the counter. Everything is brightly coloured and super-tasty looking.
We started with Tomato Ricotta Bruschetta with artisanal ricotta and slow-cooked tomatoes. As I anticipated, the ingredients were all fresh and full of flavour. This is a very simple dish but because it's so simple, all the flavours can sing. I might try to recreate a version at home, but I don't think I have the patience to slow-cook tomatoes for 16 hours like Jamie's chefs did.
Next we went for one of my favourite dishes: crispy calamari! There's something about deep-fried-seafood-rings that I absolutely love and this version definitely exceeded my usual expectations. Served with garlic & lemon mayo and dusted with sweet chilis, parsley, and crispy garlic those extra flavours made the dish a little more special. Behind them you can catch a glimpse of our Funky Chips (their name, not mine) which are hand-cut, triple-cooked fries tossed together with more garlic and fresh herbs.
Although it may not be the most photogenic dish, we couldn't go to Jamie's Italian without sampling their fresh homemade pasta. What I absolutely loved about this restaurant was that they offer the pastas in both small and large portion sizes. Too often I end up in a carb-coma from a delicious, but too big, pasta dish that I can't stop eating. The dish pictured above is the Sausage Pappardelle in the small size. Together with our shared appetizers, this was the perfect amount of pasta to split for lunch.
Finally, to reward ourselves to making it all the way up to Yorkdale: an Epic Brownie. I am the queen of brownie-baking (see my recipe here) and this one was the best I've had yet that hasn't come out of my own kitchen.
Would I schlep all the way up town for this meal again? Probably not, but only because I hate the TTC, Toronto north of Eglinton, and the Yorkdale Mall. However, the next time an errand takes me that far away from my mother-ship, I will definitely be stopping in for a second round of Jamie's Italian.