If you love the pizzas at Rosso, you'll be happy at Bianco, too
'Despite some food fails, the service saved the experience,' Twyla Campbell writes
Dave Manna knows the secret to good pizza. His Rosso Pizzeria on 109th Street has been churning out expertly baked thin-crust pies since 2013.
Rosso fans will be happy to see these pies available at Bianco, the sister restaurant to Rosso that Manna opened last spring in the Phipps-McKinnon building downtown.
Bianco offers three new varieties of pizza in addition to the 10 tried and true Rosso regulars: one with tomato sauce from the rosso (red) list; the other two without, from the bianco (white) side.
The amore per le carne is a pizza with pizzazz, thanks to the spicy soppressata that accompanies pancetta and beef salami on a tomato-sauced crust.
The Dolce Emma features bacon and pancetta topped with mozzarella, Fontina and roasted garlic. After it's baked, the pizza is finished with maple syrup, house-made ricotta and crispy bits of prosciutto. When each sweet and salty bite contains some of that charred, bubbly crust? Perfecto.
Bianco offers other Rosso mainstays, too, like the cece e arugula, a salad that contains an extraordinary amount of chickpeas in an acidic mixture of sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, red onion, parsley, garlic and arugula.
A lemon vinaigrette provides even more tang and the recommendation to add goat cheese was so appreciated that I can't imagine eating this dish without it. The balance the cheese lends is absolutely necessary.
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The polpette di Pomodoro (meatballs in tomato sauce) are made with local, organic beef, which is commendable, but without the addition of ground pork — like how they're made at Cibo Bistro — these meatballs were heavy, dry and lacked flavour.
The pasta is also made with high-quality ingredients but the fact that the flour is organic and the pasta made by hand is of little value when it — like the spaghetti Pomodoro we ordered — arrives thick and pasty from sitting under the heat lamp too long.
An interminable wait for brasato al Barolo (braised local, organic beef brisket in a Barolo red wine reduction) had us hoping its eventual arrival would be worth the downtime.
Two chunks of dry, stringy beef were surrounded by wedges of cold polenta and roasted carrots. A splotch of Barolo reduction made a half-hearted attempt to bring the dish together but after a few valiant attempts to get through that beef, we put down our knives in defeat.
The server, as professional and pleasant as his co-worker on my previous visit, offered to bring another dish and took the brisket off the bill.
Bianco is a beautifully designed room with obvious attributes. Intimate and elegant, it would make a fantastic date-night venue. As well, it's in a location much appreciated by the downtown office professionals and lunchtime shoppers.
The drink list features a good selection of sparkling wines, several cocktails made with Aperol, and interesting riffs on the classic Negroni. A south-facing patio on which to enjoy those drinks will be a main selling feature come summer.
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Despite some food fails, the service saved the experience on both visits, so with that, I would recommend Bianco with this caveat: skip the spaghetti, bypass the brisket, share the salad (get the goat cheese) and pass on the polpette.
My advice is to appreciate the pizza and pour the prosecco; you can't go wrong with that.
Find Bianco on the main floor of the Phipps-McKinnon Building, 10020 101A Ave.