Corso 32's chicken skin is both crisp and balsamic in a pomegranate sauce. GRAHAM HICKS/ EDMONTON SUNEdmonton

Corso 32
10305 Jasper Ave.
780-421-4622
corso32.com
5 p.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week (11 p.m. Friday and Saturday)

No advertised delivery service

Food:  5 of 5 Suns
Ambience:  3 of 5 Suns
Service: 4 of 5 Suns

Dinner for two, excluding beverage and tip: Basic $60, loaded $120

By GRAHAM HICKS

This is Corso 32’s third Weekly Dish review in the Edmonton Sun, both the restaurant and this column having debuted in 2011.

In a remarkable tribute to hands-on executive chef and owner Daniel Costa, for the third time the Weekly Dish has awarded Corso 32 with an unprecedented five out of five Suns for its food. 

Believe me, there has been no special treatment. Reservations are made through regular channels months in advance, under a different name. The bill is presented and paid in full.  I barely know Costa. He barely knows me.

Yet, after another perfect review, I’m worried.

When does a restaurant become so perfect as to be too perfect?

Certainly it’s not the décor.

Before tasting Corso’s self-described “creative interpretations of traditional Italian cuisine” thousands of first-time customers have walked in and wondered what the fuss was all about.

The restaurant is a clean hole-in-the-wall on Jasper Avenue. You must know the address to find it. The tables and chairs are functional and crowded together. Cutlery is wrapped in napkins. There are no table cloths. The interior is plain white. Corso was closed for renovations earlier this year. Superficially at least, very little has changed.

No, it’s certainly not the décor.

It’s the food, it’s the food, it’s the food. The parmigiano, the pecorino, the rosemary oil, the roasted hazelnuts, the shaved pear, the truffle oils, nothing but the freshest and most tender of meats, the melt-in-your-mouth pastas, the tantalizing sauces.

Goat ricotta cheese and rosemary oil await crostini dipping.

I’m worried, because, like Larry Stewart’s enduring Hardware Grill up the street, a certain sheen and smoothness has descended over Corso 32 and can be found in every dish.  Beautiful shaved parmigiano, burnt butter and rich unusual oils are everywhere. A Corso 32 “signature” is getting stronger and stronger.

Costa and his talented kitchen staff  are not so much resting on their laurels as becoming content.

Other than one remarkably different dish – the vegetable and cheese omelette/pancake-like panne fritto – everything our party of four ordered had the Corso touch.

The arancini (rice balls) were as light as air, rich melted pecorino inside with a parmigiano dusting.

A generous dollop of kitchen-made goat ricotta was bathed in an oh-so-soft rosemary-infused oil, sprinkled with herbs, served with picture-perfect crostini.

The ultra-fine-chopped beef in the carne cruda had been lemon-bathed for even further tenderization, was dressed with a refreshing arugula topping and, of course, mountains of shaved parmigiano.

The pastas, as always at Corso, were rich and soft and beautifully blended with defining ingredients. A delicious oxtail ragu was layered onto garganelli pasta. The ravioli-like agnolotti were stuffed with ricotta and truffled pecorino.

Cheesy, buttery, yummy agnolotti pasta.

The pollo all’aceteo was a “blackened” chicken thanks to crisped, balsamic-marinated skin. The beautiful meat was left to speak for itself on top of a pomegranate sauce. A gorgeous pork chop swam in a liquidy but flavourful  polenta soup, with veggies perched on top.

It was all Corso, all the way … except for the panne frito. Its flavours were very different – the omelette-like skin made of whey and taleggio cheese, with chopped leeks and cabbage playing in burnt butter, sage and, of course, parmigiano.

Corso 32’s unusual pane fritto, leeks and cabbage as rarely used elsewhere.

Costa has taken Corso 32 to great heights, but the restaurant has been parked on a high plateau. Perhaps it is the curse of culinary success – don’t change what works, dance with the customers that brought you to your party, evolution not revolution.

Shaved Brussels sprouts and gremolata decorate a pork chop within a delicious polenta “soup”

But it will soon be time for Costa to nudge Corso in different directions, paying more attention to the emerging less-oily, less-cheesy “cleaner” tastes of contemporary dining. Within what he does so well now, another five-out-of-five for food is justified.

FOOD NOTES

Evening parking downtown is fast moving from inconvenient to disaster.

Driving has been complicated by bike lanes, LRT construction, confusing and complex new signalling, escalating parking charges and, ultimately, fewer and fewer convenient street parking stalls.

Regular customers are giving up, no longer driving downtown to eat, I’m told. The only exception is hockey and concert nights at Rogers Place. Public transit remains so inconvenient as not to be an alternative. “Today, I would never open downtown,” says the owner of a popular fine-dining establishment. “The parking is driving too many regular customers away, out to the suburbs.”