Sherman's Food Adventures: Marcello's


With all of the new Italian restaurants that have opened up in the last few years, it is easy to forget the OG spots such as Marcello's.  Sure, we find sexier spots such as Caffe La Tana, Oca Pastificio, Livia and even the American Italian Pepino's strewn along Commerical Drive.  However, Marcello's continues to go strong with their normal sized pastas and pizzas.  What I mean by that is you don't need to order more to get full.

I revisited the place to get a refresher of what Italian food was like along the Drive before the boutique spots opened up.  Case-in-point, the Frittura di Calamari was enough for the table to share with a pile of perfectly fried squid and foccacia.  The light batter was crispy and properly seasoned.  The squid itself was tender while retaining a bite.  This was served with 2 sides of tzatziki.  I mention this is most places do not give you enough tzatziki!

We also went for the other squid dish in the Calamari alla Griglia with peppers and foccacia.  As expected, this was considerably different than the fried version.  The tubes of squid were tender with a slight chew.  They were kissed on the grill which added some smokiness.  I would've preferred a bit more seasoning and the peppers could've been grilled a bit longer.

Our last antipasti was the Melanzane Parmigiana or otherwise known as eggplant parmigiana layered with cheese and tomato sauce.  I really enjoyed this where the tomato sauce was bright and tangy.  This was a nice counterbalance to the amount of melted cheese.  I liked how the eggplant was tender and delicate, yet not mushy.  This was rather heavy for an appetizer, so sharing it was the way to go.

Moving onto the pastas, we started with a dish I've had before in the Chef Tagliatelle in a creamy tomato sauce with sautéed mushrooms, black olives and capers.  For a vegetarian offering, this was bursting with flavour from the tangy capers and equally salty and tang olives.  Due to the amount of moisture, the tagliatelle was a bit past al dente, but this was exactly the same execution the last time I had this dish.

Next, we had the Spaghetti Puttanesca with spicy tomato sauce, black olives and capers.  This had a similar flavour profile to the chef tagliatelle due to the ingredients, yet it was considerably more impactful due to the spice in the tangy tomato sauce.  Furthermore, the lack of cream meant this was much more in your face as the capers and black olives came through with less counterbalance from the cream.  Unlike the last dish, the spaghetti was perfectly al dente.

My favourite pasta dish, if not the best dish of the meal, was the Ravioli with Beef Shortrib in Truffle Mushroom Sauce.  The fresh made-in-house pasta was thin and completely al dente.  Inside, there was a generous amount of tender and well-seasoned shortrib.  I thought the sauce with a bit of the braising jus was just the perfect compliment to the ravioli.  Naturally, truffle and mushroom go well with shortrib.

Possibly drowning in a bit too much sauce, the Linguine Carbonara ate better than it looked.  I realize without enough moisture, carbonara can often become sticky and clumpy, but this was just a bit too much.  Surprisingly, the pasta remained al dente despite this.  Also, it was tasty with enough parm and pancetta for impact.  They are consistent though as this is exactly how I had it last time as well.

For our one gnocchi selection, we chose the AI Quattro Formaggi.  This was as cheesy as its description and definitely benefited from the gorgonzola.  It provided a sharpness that brought life to the dish.  Since it was baked, there was a layer of crusty cheese on top that added both texture and nuttiness.  As for the gnocchi, the little pillows were soft with just the right amount of chew left.

If you have read this blog enough, you know my favourite pasta dish is Linguine alla Vongole and yep, we got that too.  This was a good version loaded with fresh clams and tangy tomatoes as well as plenty of garlic.  Noodles were al dente with just enough moisture to keep them from sticking together.  Possibly, the dish could've used a bit of clam nectar to amp the brininess, but other than that, this was really good.

We went basic with the next pasta in the classic Tagliolini e Polpette.  Sporting 4 large meatballs, this was hearty and comforting.  The pasta was al dente while coated with enough tangy marinara sauce for both flavour and moisture.  I thought the meatballs were on the firmer side due to the lack of filler and the leanness of the meat.  However, it wasn't dry though being tender and moist.

Transitioning from pasta to a meat dish (that still featured pasta), we were served the Chicken Parmigiana with Tagliolini Pomodoro.  I was a bit confused because the pomodoro was a bit too similar to the marinara.  However, it was still fresh and tangy, so it wasn't a huge deal.  The large piece of chicken was tender and moist with a light breading and plenty of cheese.  This was probably the best representation of ol' skool along the Drive.  You wouldn't find this at the new small craft pasta shops down the street.  Not overly fussy, this dish was both satisfying and a reminder of times past.

We finally made it to the pizzas and unlike the ones you'll find at most Neapolitan-style joints in town, this one was loaded with toppings and tonnes of cheese.  The crust was still relatively thin and uniformly crunchy with some chewiness in the middle.  We ended up trying the Carciofi e Salsiccia and the Funghi.  Naturally, with spicy Italian sausage and artichokes, the first pizza was more zesty and tangy.  The funghi was more subtle with some woodsiness.  But frankly, it was more cheesy than anything else.

Not many places in town serve up the classic Calzone these days and we were ecstatic to try the Classico consisting of ham, salami, mozzarella and tomato sauce.  Similar to the crust of their pizzas, the calzone had a crunchy exterior giving way to chewy, properly seasoned interior.  There was plenty of filling that made this a dish that definitely needed to be shared.  I liked how that the crust stayed firm even though there was considerable moisture inside.

We ended off the meal with a combination of in-house desserts and prepared Gelato from Mario's.  I'm not going to get into the Mario's desserts but say what you want, they are solid nonetheless.  As for the in-house desserts, we had the Panna Cotta, Hazelnut Chocolate Semifreddo, and Mascarpone Cream.  I thought all 3 were good, especially the semifreddo as it was creamy, purposefully sweet and nutty aromatic.  So as you can see, the dishes here at Marcello's is a little more ol' skool complete with ol' skool portions and ingredients.  Still solid after all these years and offers up a different experience than the newer spots.  Most likely you will be more full too.

*All food and beverages were complimentary"

The Good:
- Solid eats
- Fair portions
- Huge menu and equally large dining space

The Bad:
- Some pastas were too saucy
- Not sure if this is necessary a bad for most people, but maybe too much cheese on the pizza?


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