Do you know what gnudi are? I didn’t, until I perused the menu of Celli’s Osteria prior to dining there on a recent Saturday evening. Gnudi and Scallops caught my eye on the list of entrees and I had to turn to google to enlighten me. I know what they are now, they are my new favourite thing, that’s what!
This particular Saturday night just happened to be my birthday and I was happy to spend it dining out in a new–to–me restaurant with some of my favourite dinner mates. You know the type, the ones who will let you boss them about regarding their menu choices (even when it isn’t your birthday) and are game for almost anything culinary. I graciously allowed a few duplications because well, no one wants to be too bossy, even me, but between us we sampled a good bit of the menu for the sake of this review.
Celli’s is in the former location of La Costa on Brant Street. It was, and still is, a lovely space that doesn’t appear to have altered much during the transition. They also have a small patio and it saw a fair bit of trade this night, as did the restaurant. Reservations are definitely required here, and can be made online via Open Table. As to the cuisine, think ‘upscale rustic Italian’. If you enjoy a few surprises on a menu, in the way of items you haven’t had before or don’t often see, but still feel familiar, this is a good choice. Everyone should be able to find something appealing on this menu.
We all started with beers or cocktails. We did have a glance at the wine list and deemed it just that wee bit pricey. The cheapest bottle was $45.00. Don’t be misled by the wine menu posted online as the actual wine list is pricier. That said, if price is not an obstacle, the wine list is very impressive, with a comprehensive and varied assortment of choice, both local and global, and prices climbing from $12.00 a glass to as high as $2000 a bottle. Yes, you read that right. I was very happy with my cocktail ($10) of Aperol & Prosecco, which suited the dinner and the lovely sunny evening perfectly.
While we waited for our starters to arrive we enjoyed the bread offering and garlicky olive oil. I had opted for arancini ($12), and these were very nice albeit predictable, served atop pomodoro sauce with lovely big bits of shaved parmesan. We also sampled two salads, a Beet Carpaccio ($13) and a Grilled Vegetable $13). These salads are substantial and beautifully plated. The beets were sliced very thinly and fanned out on the plate, as you’d expect from something called carpaccio, and appeared to be pickled, or marinated, not the roasted type one might expect. The Grilled Vegetable salad came with goat cheese formed into little cheese truffles, and a big parmesan crisp.
On to the gnudi ($27). My tablemate referred to these as ‘ big clouds of yum’, which seems as adept a description as any. As a point of reference gnudi resemble gnocchi, and the menu describes them as dumplings. They are much much lighter in texture than gnocchi, composed mainly of ricotta and a bit of flour, and in this case, spinach. Don’t confuse light in texture with light in calories. These little bits of deliciousness are very rich indeed, and were further enhanced by a brown butter and sage sauce, and don’t forget the scallops. It is quite a decadent dish. Also on our table was the special of the night, another rich dish, seafood risotto ($26), and for something completely different, hanger steak ($26), which was cooked to medium as requested. There is a decided lack of vegetables accompanying most entrees on the menu, so I had ordered a side of rapini ($7) with garlic and chili. This was a very nice addition to everyone’s meal, and one order was sufficient to satisfy our table of four.
No one planned on ordering dessert, being pretty much out of stomach space by now, but then the dessert menu was placed in front of us and we all caved. I had the most delicious dark chocolate and salted caramel tart. This is seriously good. Also sampled was the lemon cheesecake, the creme brulee and the bread pudding. The pudding seemed more like a sticky toffee or figgy pudding to me, than a traditional style bread pudding but every bit of it was consumed no matter what name you want to call it by. Coffee and cappuccino was $2.00 and $4.00 respectively.
This was by no means an inexpensive night out. There are pizzas on the menu and I’m sure you could pass a lovely summer’s evening having a beer and pizza on their patio and spend a bit less coin whilst enjoying good food and atmosphere. Otherwise, if you are looking for a venue for a dinner that’s a bit special, perhaps for a birthday celebration, and you enjoy Italian cuisine, you won’t be disappointed choosing Celli’s. V
421 Brant St.,