Edmonton can finally welcome Chef Daniel Costa’s third restaurant to our food scene as Uccellino opened its doors last week. Located next door to its sister restaurants Corso 32 and Bar Bricco, diners shouldn’t have any problems finding the modern trattoria-style eatery.
Unlike Corso 32 and Bar Bricco (which at times must be reserved weeks in advance and high in demand with the after-work crowd, respectively), Uccellino, or “little bird” in Italian, is more laid-back and casual with half of its seating reservable online or by phone whilst the other half remains open for every dinner service. This leaves a lot of wiggle room for those who ask on the daily, “what do you feel like for dinner?” like myself. Diane and I caught up over drinks and food last Wednesday, our 6:30pm meet-up resulting in a one hour wait time. Word spreads fast. We chose to peck at a nearby establishment until our table was ready (texting service available).
The space is remarkably light and airy, a contrast to previous tenant Transcend Coffee and feels quite larger than I remembered. Clean lines, monochromatic save one or two bright orange chairs, and slanted padded seating along the wall for the perfect post-meal slump. A private dining space is available upstairs for larger groups. I’m thinking birthday dinner anybody? The music is ambient, with the only words you’ll hear are the lively conversations around you. Like Corso 32 and Bar Bricco, your neighbouring tables’ conversations are within your ears reach — it’s cozy.
The drinks selection features a fantastic selection of Italian wines, continuing her sisters’ menus next door, and a handful of cocktails. To kick off the night, Diane ordered a Bellini, made with Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco and fresh B.C strawberries — a refreshing drink for a summer’s day. I ordered the Negroni Sbagliato (Campari, Carpano Antica Vermouth, Prosecco, Orange, on the rocks).
Uccellino’s dinner menu is a taste of Central and Southern Italy, more affordable, and divided into Fritti (fried), Crostini, Antipasti (appetizers), Primi (first course, traditionally pastas), Secondi (second course, divided into meats and Contorni, vegetables), Formaggi (cheese), and Dolci (dessert). Expect to pay up to $13 for the small bites, an average of $15 for appetizers, $19 for pasta, and $30 onwards for meats. As traditional in Italy, plates are meant to be shared and I’d highly recommend ordering a selection from each category for a well-rounded meal.
I’m almost never a fan of olives but the green olives (Castelvetrano?) with a hint of orange, were brightly hued, crisp, and lovely to snack on. Our Cannellini Beans with Tuscan olive oil came shortly after, beautiful in the texture and a touch of rosemary. It would have been a shame to see the beans completely pureed into a smooth paste.
I ordered the Maccheroni for myself, a white ragu of pig’s head and prosciutto with Parmigiano. All pastas at Uccellino are imported from Italy, and the exact same product is available for purchase. Pasta Setaro and La Pasta dei Martellii are exclusive to the restaurant, something I need to buy once I clear up my pantry! The pasta itself was thicker and had a good bite, the ragu addictively delicious.
Diane chose the Mezza Maniche Cacio e Pepe made with Sardinian pecorino and fresh ground pepper. A couple bites of her plate threw me into the world of rich, creamy sauces, attributed to the Pecorino Sardo (as opposed to its more well known cousin Pecorino Romano). If you like thick and creamy, this is your kind of dish.
Our mains had actually took some time to arrive, something Diane and I hadn’t really noticed or minded as we were playing catch-up, but our server was adamant that a dessert dish was on house. Andrea had previously raved about the Amedei Chocolate Budino, and so Diane was the first to jump on this dish. A budino is described as a custard or pudding, and so a chocolatey-rich cake slice was pretty intriguing. It was described to me to be taken like a much lighter brownie that melts in your mouth. With that description, the Budino absolutely delivered — decadent from the Tuscan chocolate, hint of bitterness, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Paired with in-house whipped cream, I can see why this might be one of the most addictive desserts in Edmonton. It’s absolutely perfect for those who don’t have a sweet tooth.
I’m always a fan of something fruity for dessert, so the Almond and Pear Tart was my choice for the night. A crumbly pastry with a moderate sugar content, I was happy with my choice and a beautiful way to end the meal.
I have a feeling 2016 is going to be good year for Edmonton’s food scene and Uccellino is just of one the many highly anticipated restaurants of the year to open. No surprise then that I actually attempted to return last Friday only to find a private function sign. That’s okay though, Bar Bricco is right next door.
The weekend passed by and Joe was all up for giving Uccellino a try since it’s so close to our place. Alternatively, there was a 10-15 minute wait, so starting our dining experience at the stand-only bar made a good start. Both the ‘Fritti’ and ‘Crostini’ dishes are available on the spuntini menu, and a more intimate interaction with our bartender and staff is more my kind of meal!
We got the Polpette di Pane as per our bartender’s suggestion while waiting for our table. I loved the fritters of pecorino and fennel salami, the perfect finger food for the standing bar. The Finocchiana (fennel salami) is also served at Bar Bricco and is absolutely one of my favourites of all time. In this application, the fennel didn’t pull through as much as I’d hope but the dish was delicious nevertheless.
I was determined to try more pasta dishes, so we ordered the Gnudi Verde, gnocchi’s ricotta cousin mixed with spinach. Light, pillowy, and extremely filling, the dumplings were tossed in a sage butter and Parmigiano sauce.
Joe selected the Spaghetti, tossed with Bottarga Di Muggine, chili, lemon and pangrattato. Just stop right there and pay attention. This is my favourite pasta dish thus far and I didn’t really know why. Maybe it was the way the pasta was perfectly coated in a sauce that wasn’t too thick or too thin? Maybe because I loved the contrast in texture, the crispy bread crumbs really bringing the A game? The hint of heat from the chili? Sure, all of the above. But the real reason: the insane umami flavours coming from the cured roe of cefalo, or gray mullet and a specialty of Sardinia. There are a lot of dishes that I like in Edmonton but there are few that I love. Count this one on the list.
I don’t know what possessed us to order a secondi dish (we eat like chipmunks at times), but we also ordered the Char-Grilled Leg of Lamb which came with roasted eggplant, swiss chard, and salsa rossa. The lamb was cooked medium-well, was tender, and beautifully done. Accompanied by well seasoned and flavourful sides, I enjoyed the dish.
Joe ordered the Budino, having heard that it was the dessert to try. It’s not in me to order the same dish as my dining partner, so the Strawberry Sorbetto was my poison. Made in-house daily, fresh strawberries from the Okanagan region, mixed with a touch of lemon and sugar came out in the form of three large scoops of sorbetto. Talk about a big portion! It felt like eating a basket of strawberries, bursting with fruit flavour, and beautifully executed.
As per my previous experience, service was attentive throughout the night and I had a fantastic dining experience. Alongside the dried pastas, Uccellino also has a curated selection of Italian cookbooks and reads for sale as well. I’ll have to take a closer look to see what’s there! I’m lucky that Uccellino is so close to me and so appreciative for another option for dinner. Being open on Sundays is also a big bonus. I can’t wait to return to try the rest of the menu! What do you think Edmonton? Three for three for Daniel Costa?Uccellino
10349 Jasper Avenue