Brrrr! Is it December already? The semester has gone by in a flash, and suddenly, the holiday season is upon us! This means two things: it’s freezing cold outside, and things are busier than ever! While the holidays don’t start for another couple of weeks, festivities have already taken Kingston by storm. I’ve gotten enough potluck invitations to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside…but then I the panic sets in, because I realize that I have to bring something delicious to every one!
My biggest fear for potlucks is that everything on the table will be quinoa, hummus, or some fancy iteration of hardboiled eggs; to me, that kind of dainty, picky eater-unfriendly selection is not on par with the drinking that happens at these events, making it all the more important for me to show up with something more substantial! In my last post, I discussed my downtown favourite party food: Minos on Barrie. In the West End, however, my go-to is Go Italian Fresco Authentico. Go Italian is a one-stop restaurant, takeaway, and catering business, and as you walk into their Princess Street location, you’ll be greeted with a range of individual, family-sized, and larger, more party-sized “take-n-bake” pasta dishes. They offer family favourites including Meat or Vegetarian Lasagna, Rigatoni Parmesan with Meatballs, and 4 Cheese Penne. Not only that: they also feature lovely olive oils, coarse salt, and biscotti: ideal options for host gifts for when Santa gets a bit forgetful!
That being said, Go Italian shouldn’t be saved for the Christmas season: it’s an easy choice any night of the week. It’s located in what owner Joel Braunstein calls “take-out Mecca”, a set of strip malls at Princess and Bayridge Drive. For me, it’s the perfect restaurant for a dinner-and-a-movie date night. Located only a couple of lights away from Cineplex on Gardiners Road, it’s a relaxing place to go in jeans, and that delicious garlicky smell that welcomes you upon arrival never gets old.
In anticipation of this blog post, I returned to Go Italian with my “second stomach”, my boyfriend Steve. Gazing over a revised menu that boasts 14 new dishes, we decided to venture out of our “usuals” and order the Risotto Balls as a starter. We were originally surprised to see that instead of a vast number of tiny balls, we were served three giant orbs of breaded and fried risotto, sitting on top of a light layer of fresh, homemade tomato sauce. Any disappointment at the number of balls per person immediately turned into regret: once we dove into them, we realized how dense they were! At Go Italian, the biggest risk is your eyes being bigger than your stomach.
Aside from offering casual comfort food that will satisfy the pickiest of eaters (they even offer gluten free pizza dough and pasta!), My Margherita Pizza in the foreground, Steve’s tortellini in the background, featuring amazing, cheese-covered garlic toast.Go Italian boasts stellar customer service. When I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the cheese in the middle of the Risotto Balls, which came less melty than I expected, the waitress immediately whisked the dish away and brought us a completely new order. That’s right: not the same dish just microwaved, which is always a temptation at busy restaurants, but three new Risotto Balls, hot and melty to perfection. I recognize that restaurant kitchens do their best and can’t be perfect every time, but the no-nonsense responsibility that this waitress took and her efficiency in fixing the mistake were a genuine testament to the quality of Go Italian’s customer service.
Returning to the food itself, by the time we got to our entrees, we knew we’d be taking something home in a takeaway container! My Margherita Pizza was tasty and very crispy. While I tend to prefer floppier crust Neapolitan pizza, I could see the virtue of this type of pizza for entertaining: it’s the kind that you can eat while standing up and mingling, without needing to sit down and carve away at it a knife and fork. My only qualm about the pizza is that it was less cheesy than I had expected from a place that I know and love for their tendency to melt cheese over everything. For next time, I’ll stick with their pasta menu for that ultimate comfort factor.
Steve’s Cheese Tortellini, however, was right up my alley, and I’m lucky that he let me steal a few bites! It was creamy, cooked to just the right tenderness, and came with a side of their garlic toast (with melted cheese, a worthwhile up-sell!). The garlic toast itself is actually my favourite item on the menu. Weird, right? I can’t help it! Offering a soft center with a generous crust, it’s outstanding on its own, dipped in minestrone soup, or soaking up the last of the pasta sauce. To my relief I found out that larger-sized loaves are also available for take-out!
Go Italian is one of those restaurants that has an outstanding dessert menu that people tend not to try because they’re too stuffed after a giant meal. On Saturday, though, I finally decided to order a Sticky Toffee Pudding to go, so that I could eat it later that evening. When our friendly waitress handed it to me, she insisted: “Put this on a microwave-safe plate, and microwave it for 45 seconds. That’s how to get it all warm and gooey!” Warm and gooey, indeed! Eating this outstanding dessert at home in my pajamas, I felt relaxed, satisfied, and above all cozy: an atmosphere that Go Italian succeeds in cultivating, both in the dining room itself and at a distance.
Leaving you with that image of rich and gooey Sticky Toffee Pudding, I highly recommend Go Italian as your new favourite West End dinner spot, potluck helper, caterer, and general purveyor of hot, melty, comfort foods. Stay warm, Kingston, and happy holidays!