Those of you who know me personally already understand my general distrust for any over-hyped, tourist driven, under-achieving restaurant in the Byward Market. Along the lines of an all-star soccer player from Greenland, any resemblance of skill is likely due to the lack of proper competition in the native region. Test that skill against a player from England, Germany, or Brazil, it would almost certainly be an embarrassment. Such are restaurants in the market… Except maybe Vittoria Trattoria.
I can say this, as we’re at the tail end of our wood-fire pizza series. We’ve gone to every Ottawa area restaurant that cooks pizza by fire, in an attempt to determine which one does it the best, and which one does it the worst. Therefore, this miracle restaurant from the depths of Byward, as shocking as it might be, actually served me the best margherita pizza in its class. A moderate thin crust, cooked to a crisp without being overly burned, served with the expected flavourful toppings. The cheese was stringy, the basil was fresh and strong, and the pizza hadn’t gone limp by the time I reached for my final slice. From top to bottom, there's not a single thing I would change.
I’m not going so far to say that Vittoria Trattoria is the perfect restaurant. Hoards of hungry tourists are difficult at the best of times, and I could see the results of endless demands in the tired eyes of the service staff. My appetizer, salmon carpaccio, was completely overwhelmed by the generous amounts of wasabi crème fraiche, which when combined with the oils from the salmon, resulted in something similar to no name, low fat, peanut-free cool whip. On the other hand, the restaurant did have significant visual appeal, boasting two floors, modern design, and simple art that accented the plain walls. Furthermore, the wood-fire oven/pizza prep station was fully visible from the main-floor dining room, and although this is not uncommon, I couldn’t help but notice how clean and organized it was.
In the end, I believe Vittoria Trattoria has made my very-short list of Byward restaurants that I would recommend and, more importantly, willingly return to.
I woke up on Canada Day and had the overwhelming desire to see Will and Kate, so I made Jay stand in the sun, on the side of the road with me for two and a half hours until they drove by in their limousine. We ended up being on Will’s side, and I will forever regret it. And then I was hungry. Since we still had one restaurant left in our wood-fire pizza series, we thought we’d walk over to Vittoria Trattoria.
The first thing I noticed when we walked in was the beautiful artwork. It was ubiquitous, yet each piece was well-placed and tastefully chosen. The rest of the furnishings were also perfect for the bistro setting, with its raw stone walls and open-concept kitchen. Since it was Canada Day, our server was very busy, but she still took a few moments to chat with us, which I always appreciate. Her service was timely and friendly, which was a happy surprise.
We went to Vittoria Trattoria for the wood fire pizza, and decided to make it a date by ordering some appetizers. I’m afraid to say it, but the food did not stand up to the expectations set by the service and décor. My appetizer consisted of pear and brie wrapped in a thin slice of prosciutto, and with ingredients like that, I was expecting a wonderful medley of flavours in my mouth. Instead, all I tasted was bland pear, young brie and an old piece of prosciutto that had probably been sitting out for a while. And it was all sitting atop a random selection of young greens with no apparent dressing. That is, until I got to the last bite. The dressing was hiding underneath it all! What a disappointment. Five bites of dry lettuce, and one drenched in balsamic dressing.
Despite this failure of an appetizer, I remembered that I had a salmon pizza coming, and hoped that it would make up for the disappointment of my starter. Alas, I was to be mistaken. I was presented with a pizza that had barely any sauce (which was supposed to be a dill mascarpone sauce, but just tasted like a bland alfredo) and far too many leeks. The salmon was great, but on a barely-there bed of cream sauce and overpowered by the flavour of onion, it definitely did not reach its potential.
I left the restaurant feeling disillusioned yet again with the ability of Byward Market chefs to produce quality dining experiences. The next time I want a really good wood-fire pizza, I’m going back to Tennessy Willems.
(Click to expand pictures)