*** (This is Part II of my 2-part post series on Black Skirt’s Italian and Sicilian meats, cheeses, antipasti, pasta, and more. For Part I, click here! ***
While there are a number of fabulous Sicilian and Italian dishes to choose from in the menu, Black Skirt primarily has a focus on three things: cheeses, meats (marinated, cured, braised, and slow cooked), and pasta. In addition to their dine-in, sitdown menu, Black Skirt offers a deli meat and cheese bar where people can go in and buy by the gram. The list of meats and cheeses is HUGE and there are so many items that you just cannot get at your local supermarket. Sure, they have meats and cheeses such as genoa salami, mortadella, provolone, and havarti, but they also have Italian piave, crotonese, soppressata, and pecorino. If you don’t know which ones are cheeses and which ones are meats, I’ll let you have fun figuring that out!
Olives and antipasto such as grilled artichokes, sundried tomatoes, eggplant, and cherry hot peppers are also sold by the gram and off to the side are shelves of dry pantry items, pasta making tools, and other Sicilian specialities. And thanks to my dear friend Andrea who is Italian, I learned this all from her! The selection of specialty grocery items reminds me of Fusaro’s Kitchen on Spadina and it’s here that you can find some really special things you wouldn’t normally be able to find at other places.
This focus on cheeses, cured meats and antipasto (and pasta) also extends into their dine-in menu: marinated octopus, anchovies, and mackerel, daily cured meat panini sandwiches, braised veal shank (classic osso buco), crostini with fontina cheese, fresh ricotta, shaved parmigiano reggiano, goat cheese, rigatoni, ravioli, spaghetti, and SO MUCH MORE. Prices vary depending on the type of dish your ordering, but generally speaking, antipasti range from $4-$10.50 (with the exception of the large sharing platters), paninis from $10-$12, pastas from $10-$18, and dinner mains from $20-$27.
For my first Black Skirt Italian meal, I enjoyed a wild mushroom crostini antipasti and the muffaletta sandwich and I loved them both. The wild mushroom crostini were served on three grilled breads with oyster, portobello, and cremini mushrooms with melted fontina cheese and the pairing of the two was fantastic. The fontina cheese was so buttery and savoury with a slight nuttiness to it (a far cry from more mild cheeses like mozzarella) and it matched the intensity of the meaty, juicy portobellos and creminis perfectly.
I was really, really excited about the muffaletta though. After seeing chef Stefano Faita make a muffaletta sandwich on his cooking show months ago, I was ecstatic to have an authentic Italian one. Hailing from Sicily, the muffaletta is made with a giant round of crusty bread with a soft interior. The top portion is cut off and the insides of the bread round are scooped out, thus making somewhat of a bread bowl. Then, Italian meats, cheeses, olives, and marinated, pickled, and cured goodies are layered, spread, and added one after another until the entire round is filled. The top portion that was cut off in the beginning is then placed back on top of the round and the sandwich is then sliced like a cake. What results is a delightful sandwich with layers and layers of meats and cheese and olive goodness.
I don’t even like olives, but I love them in a muffaletta (and sometimes on pizza) and they added this wonderful briney, saltiness to it that gets completely soaked up and absorbed in the bread. The muffaletta is amazing because you get so many different flavours ping ponging all over the place it all works because none of them compete and the bread acts as the blank canvas, soaking in the flavours and allowing fresh bites to come through your mouth after every bite.
Black Skirt’s muffaletta is made with a mix of mortadella, capocollo (both of which I’ve had from my local Italian bakery and deli), hot and sweet soppressata (Italian dry salami), provolone cheese, giardiniera (Italian pickled topping of peppers), and a sundried tomato and black olive tapenade paste. Provolone is one of the best cheeses to have in a sandwich because it has this incredibly nutty, sharp taste to it that complements crusty bread and contrasts with cured, spicy meats. It’s one of those amazing thick cheeses that holds up to anything (this stuff does not melt at the drop of a hat) which makes it perfect for meatier sandwiches like the muffaletta. The muffaletta that you see in the photos is actually a half portion as I was sharing with my boyfriend, so really, a full portion is a big, half wheel sandwich with a green spring mix salad on the side.
This food experience has made me appreciate the subleties in Italian cuisine so much more and I’m even more excited now to explore this huge world of amazing food. There are some real gems around the city that I’ve had my eye on for quite some time and Black Skirt was one of them. I’m so happy that I enjoyed the food, menu, and feel of the space as much as I did and I can’t wait for my second time around.
Black Skirt is located at 974 College Street in the west end of Toronto, in between Dufferin Street and Ossington Ave. The Italian eatery is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10am-10pm. Along with their permanent menu, Black Skirt offers a dinner menu for 5pm onward and daily specials every day including a daily soup, daily special Italian meat and cheese panini sandwiches, and pasta.