49 Bronte Road, Oakville
Last month I attended a media preview for a new restaurant called Yolanda’s Spuntino Casa. I ate a lot of delicious food and was excited to write an introduction for this place on my blog – that is until I looked at my photos.
I have never taken such ugly photos before. Never.
I knew the photos wouldn’t be great, because the restaurant was very dark, but I thought I might be able to save them with a bit of Photoshop work.
They were complete and utter crap.
So I did what any self-respecting blogger would do. I scrapped the post, called up my friend Mandy, and made plans for dinner. I returned to the restaurant, armed with a brand new Nikon Speedlight. Yes, I know, flash is considered the kiss of death in the food blogging world because it makes food look unappetizing, and it’s distracting to other diners. In my defence, we arrived just after opening in hopes that the restaurant would be fairly empty (it was), we sat away from the other pair of diners, and the restaurant was aware that I was shooting for a review.
Anyhow, it ended up being a blessing that my first set of photos sucked, because now I can actually write a proper review on this restaurant instead of just an introduction. So, without further ado, here’s my review of Yolanda’s Spuntino Casa.
When you walk into Yolanda’s you feel like you’re walking into a friend’s home – assuming your friends are really good cooks. This Italian snack house combines high quality food with friendly service to create a dining experience that is worth every penny.
With the help of Castor Design, the owners have created a space that feels warm, inviting and not a bit pretentious. There are two parts to this restaurant: the gorgeous bar at the entrance of the building and the intimate dining area further in. Of course, it helps that the building itself is a historical lake stone structure from the 1840’s, nestled alongside the beautiful Bronte Harbour. The restaurant is especially gorgeous during the day when natural light streams in through the windows, and starting in April patrons will be able to enjoy the view of the lake from the patio as well.
But enough about the view, what you really want to read about is the food!
Executive Chef Scott Bailey (also of Compass Restaurant) has created a menu full of classic Italian dishes with a modern twist. The restaurant also boasts an all-Italian wine list consisting of wines from various regions in Italy. It’s all private label so you’re not going to find these at the LCBO.
All of the dishes at this restaurant are served family-style, and are meant to be shared. You won’t see appetizers or main courses listed on the menu at all. Instead, you just pick what you want to eat and keep ordering if you’re still hungry. I’ve eaten at least half of the items on this menu between my two visits, which is too much to write about, so here are the highlights.
Best from the Spuntini (snacks) menu:
On this board, from the top left:
arancini, mushroom crostini, breaded olives stuffed with pork (top row)
artichokes, and fritte (bottom row)
The spuntini menu has several options, and it can be a bit overwhelming on your first visit. If you’re not sure where to start, order a spuntini board (pictured above) and the chef will choose a few dishes for you. The board might be a lot of food for two people, but Mandy and I both have a ridiculous capacity to eat, so we ordered several other dishes as well.
The arancini is served with a smoked marinara sauce and a Parmigiano black truffle cream. These delicious rice balls are much softer than other arancini that I’ve had before, and the sauces are both flavour-packed.
The crostini toast might have been a special for that day because I don’t see it on the menu (I’m looking at a photo as I write this). Anyhow, the toast was topped with roasted fennel and pickled mushrooms. This wasn’t my favourite dish, but Mandy really enjoyed it. We both recommend eating this first because it does become a bit soggy after a while.
Mandy’s favourite dish from our dinner was the fritte (which is Italian for french fries). These perfectly crisp fries are dressed with truffle oil, lemon zest, Parmigiano, oregano, and a sweet chilli sauce. I love the microgreens on there too.
My favourite dish, from both nights, was the artichokes with lemon, olive oil, Parmigiano, roasted red pepper mayo. I could easily eat an entire plate of these crispy artichoke hearts. I think they’re much more satisfying than the fries, and the hot peppers give just enough kick to keep the dish interesting.
The Parmesan focaccia (not pictured) is also really nice. This chewy bread is served with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and a decadent piece of sheep’s cheese.
Another dish that I want to point out is the gnocchi with garlic cream sauce (not pictured), which can be ordered as a small or large plate. The gnocchi at Yolanda’s is extra soft, almost cloud-like and melts in your mouth. The garlic cream sauce adds flavour but it doesn’t overpower the dish – you can still taste the potato.
I love the concept of sharing plates, but boards are so much more fun. I tried the Creamy Polenta Board with roasted mushrooms at the media launch, and it was wonderful. If you enjoy dishes with intense mushroom flavour, then you will love this. The soft polenta was the perfect backdrop for the mountain of flavourful roasted mushrooms.
The Porchetta Board is a stand-out item on the menu, so we had to order it. Owner Michael Mercanti describes this board as a deconstructed porchetta sandwich, which is such a neat idea. This board features crispy porchetta, charred peppers, pickled hot peppers, caramelized onions, 3 mustards and Italian focaccia. Diners can mix and match the ingredients from the board to create their own personalized porchetta masterpieces. Mandy said the porchetta was crispy, moist and delicious (I don’t really eat pork), and we both had fun putting various toppings on our bread and comparing our flavour combinations.
Sidenote: This photo (and the next) was shot using flash. They don’t look that bad to me… certainly much better than they would have if I had used the available light in the restaurant. Once the natural light from outside is gone, the restaurant is quite dark.
Best from the Dolce (Desserts) Menu:
I’ve now tried four desserts from Yolanda’s. The gelato is excellent, although I enjoyed the vanilla more than the chocolate. The cannoli with chocolate was just ok – the filling was a bit gritty from the cinnamon and it wasn’t sweet enough for me. I also had fried donuts with Nutella and pine nuts, which is about the most delicious combination ever. But the dessert that really knocked my socks off (well, so to speak), was the Italian Toast with cream, marscapone cheese, maple caramel and cherry sauce.
This was one of the specials that was featured when Mandy and I visited. Our server described this dish as French toast with an Italian twist. This decadent dessert had layers of flavour and textures. I loved the combination of creamy marscapone with the bright cherry sauce, and sticky-sweet maple caramel. This would have been excellent with a coffee or tea, but we were bursting at the seams by the time we ate dessert so that wasn’t an option.
I am throughly impressed with Yolanda’s Spuntino Casa, and they’ve only been open for a month. My only real complaint is how dark the restaurant is at night. I know they dim the lights to add to the ambiance, but it almost feels too dark when you’ve sat there long enough to see the light change. Every other aspect of the restaurant is stellar though. The quality of the food remained the same from my first visit to the second, and the service was excellent at both dinners as well. The only thing that changed was the presentation of the food, I actually thought everything looked much prettier on my second visit. The team at this restaurant is obviously making changes as they go, which is a great sign.
Oh, and speaking of signs, as of last Friday the restaurant still didn’t have a sign on their building. This isn’t an oversight – they had to get special permission to put a sign on this historical building. There is one coming soon (if it’s not there already), but until then just look for a brick house with white-trimmed windows, across from the harbour, when you get to 49 Bronte Road.
If you end up visiting this restaurant, please let me know what you think of it in the comments below.
Yolanda’s Spuntino Casa Review from Look Local Magazine
Disclosure: All photographs shot by March Mercanti appear with permission, courtesy of Yolanda's Spuntino Casa. All watermarked images belong to Shareba Abdul and the In Search Of Yummy-ness blog. Food at the media launch was complementary, however I paid for the our meal at the second visit. This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.