Sherman's Food Adventures: Claudio's


Around 10 years ago, I had visited a non-descript Italian restaurant in an equally plain-looking strip mall on Dawson Street near Brentwood.  The place was Pasta Amore and it has recently become the victim of redevelopment.  However, the story lives on with the opening of Claudio's roughly across the street in the SOLO district along Lougheed at Willingdon.  Claudio's pays homage to the man himself, Claudio Magagnin, who ran Pasta Amore since 2000.  Now the next generation has taken the tradition and modernized it, complete in a snazzy new spot.

We ended up heading over to Claudio's with my entire family including my parents.  Just like family, we were graced with the same great service as was at Pasta Amore.  With an updated menu, we started with the Ahi Tuna Carpaccio with birds-eye chili, capers and lemon.  This was a light and appetizing starter with plenty of acidity and tanginess.  Buttery and soft, the tuna was contrasted nicely by the thin crisps.  The addition of chilis gave the dish a notable kick.

Although a bit defaultish, the Caesar Salad was actually really good.  Featuring fresh and crisp romaine hearts, there was a nice crunch to each bite.  As much as the house made pane fritto was a bit chewy in the middle, it was welcomed as there was variation of texture.  Now the salad was a bit over-dressed, but that wasn't a huge issue as the dressing was impactful.  It was creamy with lots of nuttiness and saltiness. Could've used just a bit more acidity. 

Our last antipasti was the Pumpkin Arancini served as a trio.  At first, we were a bit concerned that they were using pumpkin.  It often can be rather strong and overwhelm most dishes.  However, this was not the case as the aborio rice was sweet with only background fall flavours.  There was also the usual cheesiness which added body and aroma.  We found the rice mostly al dente while the outside was crispy and light.

Onto the pastas, we thought the Pesto Gnocchi was on point.  These were large and super pillowy soft.  They were delicate, yet didn't disintegrate.  Featuring a pesto cream, the whole thing was pretty rich.  It was a good thing we were sharing the plate.  Due to the amount of cream added, the impact of the pesto was somewhat muted, but it was still definitely there with an aromatic nuttiness.

We weren't super impressed with the Pappardelle Manzo Brasato featuring braised beef belly and red wine.  It was actually surprising that the stringy meat in the dish was beef belly.  We couldn't understand how it could be chewy and dry.  As for the sauce, it was quite bland and lacking flavour all around.  It needed, among other things, salt.  Fortunately, the pasta was perfectly al dente though.

The best pasta of the bunch was the Tagliatelle Nere with clams, crab meat, mussels, prawns, lemon butter, chili and parsley.  Beyond the perfectly al dente pasta, the abundance of shellfish was a real treat.  They were cooked perfectly with buttery plump clams and mussels as well as cold-water prawns.  Best of all, the pasta actually tasted briny like the sea.  Sometimes, seafood pastas do not taste like seafood.  This one did with plenty of crab meat as well.

For our pizza, we had the Boscaiola with tomato sauce, mushroom and sausage.  This hand-stretched pizza featured nutty leoparding and a crispy crust.  However, the middle was a bit softer than usual (even though it is supposed to be tender).  It could've been partially due to the amount of toppings (especially the water-releasing mushrooms).  Despite that, the pizza ate well and the dough was seasoned enough.

For our mains, we shared the 20oz Bone-in Ribeye with red wine jus and arugula.  We asked for it to be prepared medium-rare and it couldn't have been any more perfect.  It was evenly grilled on both sides with the middle being juicy and tender.  I wouldn't say this was the most tender ribeye we've had, but it was more than acceptable.  The side of red wine jus added the necessary flavour to the beautifully cooked meat.

Seemingly a simple dish, we thought the Chicken Parmigiana was excellent.  Paying homage to the dish we had at Pasta Amore 10 years ago, this one was even better.  We found the chicken breast to be juicy and tender with a crunchy breading on the outside.  Tangy tomato sauce and melted fior di latte ensured that there was tanginess and stringy cheese with every bite.  This was a good version of this dish.

Since we were pretty full by now, we only had a few desserts including the Tiramisu.  The kids had the Gelato (which was a great deal at $3.00 per order).  As for the tiramisu, it was quite good with moist, properly soaked lady fingers with balanced espresso hits throughout.  They were enveloped by creamy mascarpone that was just sweet enough.  So in the end, we though the meal was quite good especially considering we were in the burbs.  Can it compare to the best in town?  Well, no, but considering the price and the portion sizes, I'd say it was fair and an option in the neighbourhood.

The Good:
- Cozy, modern space
- Excellent service
- More than acceptable eats

The Bad:
- Parking is not free and actually expensive for the area
- The braised beef belly pasta was actually not good



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