St. Clair Avenue West is home to many neighborhood restaurants. A new one in the area is Nodo Hillcrest, located at 794 St. Clair Avenue West. This is Nodo’s second location. The first one is in the Junction on Dundas Street West. A side note, Roberto Morotta was the original chef at the first Nodo, before he went on to open one of my favourite places, Ardo on King St. East. The new one recently opened and specializes in pizzas and pastas and is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. The restaurant holds 72 people inside and in warm weather there is an additional thirty seats in a patio out back. The decor is pleasant, with distressed floors, brick walls covered in a mix of mirrors, silver/grey and tan tufted leatherette banquets with mismatched vintage chairs. There is a nice mural on the opposite wall. The restaurant is made up of two rooms, that are bright and airy as light streams in from the front windows. The kitchen is glassed in and you can see them busily working. I would call the restaurant casually chic, an old world charm but also with an, “of the moment” feel to it.
Nodo means knot, and this could symbolize the tight connection between the original three owners who are high-school friends and buddies. Gianmarco Dezoni, Vito Tomasicchio, and Charlie Giordano. There is an additional forth partner at this new location, Tony Rubino.
We first visited on a Sunday for brunch. The place was packed with families. The menu has a few pizzas, egg dishes, and pancakes. The restaurant is warm and welcoming.
The lemon ricotta pancakes were a lovely presentation. Were they memorable or outstanding, no? But they were nevertheless enjoyable. Our kiddies liked the Nutella pizza with strawberries, although they scraped off the pistachios. I guess that topping is more appealing for the adults. We had a pizza, and to be honest I was not blown away. I know how fantastic Ardo‘s pizzas are, so let’s just say I am spoiled. There was an egg dish with tomatoes that reminded me of a shashouka, and that was good. The egg frittata was bland tasting. It would have been improved with some fresh herbs and perhaps some cheese. But all in all not a bad place for a family Sunday brunch. A few days later I returned for dinner. There was no hostess to greet us and we stood waiting for 5 minutes, while staff stared at us but did not approach us. Finally, a girl behind the bar came to seat us. Maybe there was no host or hostess because they don’t take reservations!!! This is a real pet peeve of mine. This is not a diner but a restaurant. When people make plans they want to be assured they will have a seat when having an evening out.
Our waiter was very friendly, actually extremely friendly to the point of annoying. And I am afraid everything was downhill from there.
The bread: anemic. The wine by the glass: taste like it was made yesterday (and we ordered the most expensive one). We asked for low salt, but everything was overly salted. The arugula and mushroom salad was a disappointment, the beef carpaccio was underdressed except for salt. The gnocchi “old school” done with wild boar: tough, extremely dry, overcooked and tasteless, truffle oil: non existent, and reggiano: okay if you say so. The waiter said this was one of his favourite dishes: oy. The waiter also mentioned that the Cornish hen was a standout, but it was dry and overcooked. The accompanying vegetables of Brussel sprouts, rapini and rustic herb potatoes tasted only of salt and way too much overpowering garlic, otherwise there was no other discerning flavours. Let’s just say we didn’t stick around for dessert.
I liken the restaurant to a generic chain restaurant you might find in a mall.
I really had no expectations when I came and I was hoping for a great new find. What I found was an average, mediocre and unappealing meal.