I had a lunch date with Marie in downtown Ottawa and was trying to find a spot I had never been to. I had heard good things about Café Mezzaluna, so that’s where we headed.
Located on Cooper near Elgin, this Italian restaurant is connected to the Cartier Place Suite Hotel. It has a nice little patio in the summer, but since March begun at -10, it wasn’t open, despite yesterday’s hype about year-round patios being considered by the city. I mean, this is not Vancouver, especially not today.
The restaurant’s decor is kind of dated, but I actually do not mind. It gives it a classic, old school feel, a warm and comforting atmosphere.
We sat at a table in the back corner. There was a party of 8 by the front window, sitting around a big round table. A couple of women showed up some time after. So it wasn’t empty, but it was quiet. Which, again, I do not mind.
We looked a the lunch menu. It was typically italian, of course, but not your typical italian menu. No Bolognese, no Alfredo, no Lasagna. Options, while limited, where at least little outside the box: Mezzaluna offers pasta, of course. You can choose between Penne Con Salsicce, Manicotti, Gnocci Con Gorgonzola, Linguine Primavera and Tortellini All Panna. A couple of protein dishes are available: Pollo alla Cacciatorre, Pollo Balsamico E Funghi, Scallopi Di Vitello Al Pepe Nero and Vitello Al Vino Bianco. A few salads, a panini, and that’s it. They have more options at dinner time, obviously.
Bowls of Seafood Chowder, the soup of day, were being delivered to the back table. Despite it’s enticing perfume, I resisted. I rarely have veal at home, so I went with the Vitello Al Vino Bianco, a veal scaloppini in a white wine mushroom demi glace. Marie went for Tortellini All Panna. “A good pasta deserves cream”, she stated. To each their own!
While we waited, a basket of Italian garlic bread, with oregano and pepper flakes, were brought to the table. Delicious!
The dishes were out of the kitchen very quickly, which is not surprising considering the attendance.
My dish had a simple, classic presentation.
Three pieces of roasted potatoes, one big piece of broccoli, three pieces of turnip, a good handful of carrots – those were the garnish.
A sizeable piece of veal, lightly dredged in whole wheat flour, topped with lots of mushrooms and smothered in a silky white wine demi glace.
The veal was tender, well seasoned, niceley cooked. The mushrooms were cooked perfectly – just enough not to suck in the sauce, not too much to lose their nutty, woody flavour. The sauce was more acidic than your typical demi glace. The white wine certainly played a role to get there. That said, it worked – it wasn’t overpowering, it was just adding a little zing to the meat and ‘shrooms combo. It had a nice consistency, silky but not fatty – and it didn’t congele while I was eating.
The veggies were fine – very simple, but not overcooked. There was a little fresh parsley, and I added some ground black pepper to add a little humpfh. No fresh-cracked pepper was offered and no mill was spotted. An easy-fix oversight.
On the other side of the table, a generous portion of tortellini were met by Marie’s legendary appetite – none survived to see a doggy bag!
Lots of new restaurants tend to be too loud, with lots of tables close together, with no intimacy. In contrast, Mezzaluna is an oasis of tranquility, with efficient service and quality food.