(Dinner Friday and Saturday only, reservations only)
Food: 4 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 3 of 5 Suns
Service: 4 of 5 Suns
Weekend dinner: Fixed price, $35 per person.
Lunches: Slice of pizza and pop, $5
I was at Saccomanno’s Pizza Pasta Deli a year ago, and it was not a pretty sight.
Grandpa Frank Saccomanno was getting tired. Son Joe helped out, but Joe is a teacher, not a grocer or restaurateur.
The big space on 127 Avenue near 97 Street, across from CN Rail’s regional headquarters, had long been a gathering point as a grocery store and trattoria for the north-end Italian community.
But Frank and his wife were tired. The store didn’t look so good any more. The trattoria was still good but lacked variety and was losing its sparkle.
Today …. Rebirth!
Having grown up in the store, grandson Francesco, in his mid-20s, has decided the life of a restaurateur, deli-and-grocery owner is fine by him.
Francesco has taken over Saccomanno’s. Everybody is happy.
Especially the customers!
Francesco’s first moves are bold and innovative.
Rather than operate a full weeknight kitchen for limited guests, Saccomanno’s is now only open for dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings. You must reserve ahead of time, 780 478 2381 for an all-evening affair, a pre-set, plated, served-to-your-table five-course Italian feast … for a stunningly inexpensive $35 per person. It includes antipasto (first plate), primo (pasta dish), secondo (main dish), salad and dolce (dessert).
The secondo dish alone would have cost $35 in any of this city’s high-end bistros.
It was a beautiful, generous fresh Alberta lamb shank, on the bone, slow-cooked to perfection in a bath of rosemary, thyme and oregano. By weight, there must have been eight to 12 ounces of lamb in each serving.
There was not a person at our table of six who did not strip every piece of succulent meat off the bone, except perhaps my Maria who, knowing the demand for tasty leftovers on the home front, always packages much of her meals. (This is why she remains slim and trim, while hubby’s girth keeps gently expanding. One has discipline. The other has not.)
Everything about this dinner was remarkable. Francesco, with Joe assisting, is a first-rate cook. Family patriarch Frank greeted the guests, and then went home. He can relax. Saccomanno’s is in good hands.
The antipasto was delightful, three strips of in-house cured prosciutto, a pizza slice (a “pizzette”) garnished with lightly sautéed strips of eggplant, a wedge of provolone cheese dotted with balsamic vinegar with two olives brined by Francesco’s gramma. The piece de resistance was a light, flavourful aranci ball (rice, stuffed in this case with cheese, shaped into a ball and submerged in hot oil to form a crust).
Francesco’s antipasto plate summed up the new Saccomanno’s - twists on the old, some new, pleasing to all, easy-going with a visually attractive look on wooden platters with parchment paper.
The primo dish offered choice. I went for chicken broth and cappelletti (Italian style dumplings). The cappelletti were light, al-dente style compared to most dumplings so over-cooked as to be slippery.
The pear carpaccio salad was excellent, a white sweet balsamic pulling the taste out of the pear.
Finally dessert – a home-made Nutella gelato with home-made bombe (oval mini-cakes with a burst of sweet in the interior). Did we go home happy?
Truly a magnificent dinner, served without pretense in a simple family-like space.
You will not find such quality, for such value, anywhere else. Even at $50, this pre-set menu would still be excellent value.
Saccomanno’s lunches, meantime, have gone the opposite direction, as simple as simple can be; a choice of a meal-sized pizza slice, straight out of the oven, with a can of pop, for $5.
May Francesco and his fiancée Danijela Josipovic have fine careers as next-generation proprietors.
780 707 6379