McEwan’s Italian food factory
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THE LATEST EDITION to Mark McEwan’s empire is a rustic Italian restaurant named Fabbrica (Italian for “factory”). Skeptics predicted his grocery store would never last in the outdoor Shops at Don Mills, so he went ahead and built a restaurant across the street.
He’s got big … something. The place is packed on a Tuesday night with a lively buzz of activity.
McEwan has created a whimsical take on Italian dining with splashes of reds and blues, mix-and-match wood, even a few old school formica tables for good measure.
But, the focus of this factory is on the big open kitchen that occupies the front of the dining room.
With all the pizza talk in town and authentic Neapolitan ovens that reach a gazillion degrees to cook your pizza in less than two minutes, I’m especially excited to taste the pizza Marguerita. It turns out I need to learn to temper my excitement. The flavour is there, but it is too doughy and too thick around the edges to meet my expectations.
For starters, bruschetta with bone marrow and horseradish gremolata ($10) is rich and intense, and the melted bone marrow on the warm bread works very well with the perfect amount of finely grated horseradish.
The grilled octopus ($15) is adorned with chickpeas, thinly sliced Genoa salami, a few arugula leaves and some chili flakes — rustic and flavourful but not loud and brash. The octopus is tender but slightly chewy with a little candylike char.
Linguine with clams sees perfectly cooked house-made pasta with a rich flavour, but there is a bit too much French influence here with shallots and a sauce of either beurre blanc or white wine. The clams have also held onto some sand.
Pappardelle, with guanciale (pork cheeks), cream, crab, shallots and a soft-boiled egg, is perfection with a creamy sauce and a rich crab flavour.
A pork belly entree is offered as a special of the evening. The scent is apple and sage with a perfect balance of fruit, but not sweet. The top is golden brown but soft — not crunchy. It melts as we put a fork in, and the pan gravy we consider drinking as a soup.
Sea breem is simply grilled with mint and capers ($32). It’s superfresh and well grilled but pricey. Braised lamb neck with lamb sausage in a rich caponata has tender meat served with its mellow broth. The caponata is perfect with the fruit pairing well with the rich lamb and fennel-spiked sausage.
Do not under any circumstances share the warm zeppole! This is the kind of dessert that might make you take your fork and stab anyone who dares to take one from you. The little perfectly fried doughnuts dusted lovingly with sugar and cinnamon and filled with a silky orange cream melt in your mouth.
Fabbrica to me is a rustic Italian experience with a French touch. Don’t expect Nonna’s cooking. The names on the menu are definitely Italian, but I taste the French structure in several dishes.
49 Karl Fraser Rd., 416-391-0307, $100 Dinner for two