Edmonton·Food review

Dull food at Nuovo Bistro, says Edmonton AM food critic

The awning displaying the word Nuovo — Italian for new—hung above the vacant space on Edmonton’s trendy 124 Street for months, teasing hungry patrons that something new and Italian was on the food horizon.

Cheap drinks were the only saving grace for this tasteless meal, says Twyla Campbell

The new Italian fare at Nuovo Bistro failed to impress Edmonton AM food critic Twyla Campbell. (Nuovo Bistro/Instagram )

The awning displaying the word Nuovo — Italian for new — hung above the vacant space on Edmonton's trendy 124 Street for months, teasing hungry patrons that something new and Italian was on the food horizon.

Images of Daniel Costa's successful Jasper Avenue trio and Rosario Caputo's Cibo immediately came to mind.

The high bar set for Italian food in this city is thanks to them, and anyone tossing their hat in the ring had better come well-prepared.

Nuovo Bistro is not prepared, and it certainly isn't offering anything new.

Nuovo offers Italian cuisine reminiscent of the Italian food served in Edmonton 20 years ago — understandable, as the two chefs spent almost two decades cooking at the Sicilian Pasta Kitchen.

The menu offerings, for the most part, are in terms foreign to anyone not of Italian heritage, and that's fine if the server can confidently translate those terms to the diner, but such was not the case on the evening I dined at Nuovo.

The pleasant but ill-informed server had as much information as we did, and many trips were made to the kitchen in search of explanations.

Big, lacklustre and bland

A lack of confidence guided our ordering; we stuck with what we knew: arancini and Caesar salad.

The arancini are the largest in all the land. Tennis ball-size and golden, they came stuffed with fontina cheese and basil and were perched atop a puddle of creamy mushroom sauce.

A crispy basil leaf studded the ball like a feather in a cap, except there was nothing laudable here: the balls were heavy and lackluster, the sauce bland, and the texture indicative of a rushed rice and not a nurtured, coddled risotto.

The Caesar salad could've been any Caesar salad scooped out of a food court station in a mall, complete with powder-like cheese sprinkled in abundance. The brioche croutons added nothing other than a fancy title, and the dressing, although decent enough, was too scant to impress.

The server and the manager had a difference of opinions on whether or not the pasta was made in-house. Regardless of its origin, both selections came smothered in a tomato sauce and the reigning features — octopus in one, a meat buffet in the other — were the failing features in both cases.

'A dry heap' 

The polpo in the Strozapretti Polpo was dry and tough and after trying to work through a couple of pieces, I surrendered. The bread crumbs that topped that dish soaked up every drop of sauce, leaving the pasta — three quarters of it uneaten — in a dry heap on the plate.

The Taglietelle Napoletano hardly fared better. If the sauce contained any short rib, pork and veal, as stated in the menu description, it wasn't noticeable, and we were left to wonder if these long noodles, like the shorter strozapretti, were covered in the same base.

No small salvations 

Salvation was hoped for in the crème brulee. Sadly, it didn't appear.

The hard sugar glass topping that makes crème brulee what it is, was instead thin and grainy having come out of the oven too soon.

The good news? A 9-ounce pour of wine costs $12, cocktails ring in around $11, and imported beer (Peroni, Corona and Heineken) can be had for $8. You might want to order two.

You can hear Campbell's reviews on Edmonton AM every second Friday. You can also see more of her reviews on her blog, Weird Wild and Wonderful, and can follow her on Twitter at @wanderwoman10.