The Little Black Dress of Italian – A Menu of Wild Mushroom Crostini & Sicilian Muffaleta at Black Skirt, Part II

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*** (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.

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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.

Pizzeria Dining at Il Fornello! A Photo Spotlight on A Pizza Price Fixe Event

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Today is the last day of Winterlicious here in the city and my Twitter feed has been blowing up with accounts of delicious dinners, great wine, and memorable meals.  There’s been a slight change of plans here on the blog though.  Remember how I excitedly announced I would have two special Winterlicious posts in my “Bring on the Winterlicious Countdown!” post back in January?  Sadly, my two Winterlicious feasts didn’t happen; just the one.  I had my fabulous lunch of citrus cured salmon gravlax, smoked turkey and brie panini with strawberry and basil with red pepper jam, and a to-die-for lemon basil crème brûlée at Cafe Nicole at the Novotel hotel on The Esplanade downtown.  I had every intention of doing my 2nd Winterlicious lunch, but my other half of a sweetheart came down with a bad case of the winter cold complete with fever, chills, and coughing, and I didn’t have the heart to go without him. 

So, I don’t have a 2nd Winterlicious to share with you all, but I do, however, have another price fixe event to be really excited about!  This is a photo teaser post of my upcoming Il Fornello pizza price fixe write-up and I am bouncing off the walls because 1) I’ve been wanting to eat at Il Fornello’s for the longest time and now I finally have!, 2) I almost never go out for pizza dining, and 3) this is technically the first post on the blog devoted to pizza so that makes this an extra special occasion.  Several Il Fornello locations around the city are holding this fabulous pizza price fixe event where ALL of their pizzas are priced at $10 EVERY day, ALL day until the end of February and I’m here to deliver the goods!   

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Il Fornello at Yonge & St. Clair is located at 1560 Yonge Street, north of St. Clair Ave. at the corner of Yonge and Delisle.  This location is open for lunch and dinner from Monday-Friday at 11:30am and on the weekends, only for dinner (5pm on Saturday and 4pm on Sunday).  Il Fornello’s pizza price fixe event will be in effect until the end of February.  The Italian eatery has a number of locations in and around Toronto and the GTA.  Their menu, locations, and promotions can be viewed on their website here.