INNOCENTI (587 King West, at Portland, 416-203-0551) Complete meals for $40 per person ($25 at lunch), including all taxes, tip and a pint. Average main $17. Open Monday to Thursday 11 am to 10 pm, Friday 11 am to 11 pm, Saturday 6 to 11 pm. Licensed. Access: barrier free. Rating: N Rating: N
When founding chef Chris Mathias left Innocenti, he took the Italian scooter parked inside with him. He also took the creative vision that made this restaurant an instant hit on King West.
We went to sample the fare offered for Winterlicious, running at this location until February 13. The $10 three-course lunch or $20 dinner features such items as a daily soup, romaine salad, penne pomodoro, the house sausage sandwich and dessert. Nothing of Mathias remains.
Sitting near a tree that reaches up to a skylight in the centre of the room, we predict bland when we notice a young couple feeding the food to their two toddlers.
The stracciatella ($6.95) and romaine salad ($7.95) we start with immediately justify our fears; their lack of flavour would appeal to two-year-old palates.
The stock for the soup is thin and watery, so the egg whites floating like pretty summer clouds taste like the pot remnants of poorly drained poached eggs. The salad is under-dressed, with a scant three greasy, tepid and chewy polenta croutons.
Moving on to the mains, the sausage sandwich ($9.95) is an interesting fennel and pork mixture, but it's served on a crusty baguette so it's difficult to get your mouth around it without the sausage falling out. Salad is brought with it instead of the frites we'd ordered, and when the error is corrected, the frites, too, are a disappointment, fried in not-quite-hot-enough oil.
The penne pomodoro ($6.95 for a primo portion, $11.95 for an Innocenti portion) is so dull, the fresh basil garnish is cut up and mixed in with the stewed tomato sauce for a little flavour. The half portion is large, but what's the point?
It might work as a $10 lunch, with the dessert of chocolate pecan tart or white and dark chocolate tartufo thrown in, but at $25 we're left feeling duped.