Italian Centre Shop
10878 — 95 St.

Rating: ****
Signature Dish: Torpedo Panino ($7)
Signature Drink: Cappuccino ($3)

The plan: a four-course dinner to surprise my bride.

The place: the Italian Centre, of course!

I browsed through the aisles of the packed little supermarket (Who needs that many brands of imported water, let alone olive oil?!) and left with $75 worth of everything I needed.

I had about an hour to prepare before my wife returned, which was just enough time. I sliced a huge ring of pagnotta bread ($3.49) and scooped fresh, sweet bruschetta mix ($3.10) on top of each slice. I paired this with romanello-peperonato cheese, which tasted like a firm gouda with a spicy kick. Served with smooth, rounded Acqua Panna spring water ($1.69) from Florence, I had a killer first course.

Second and third courses required a bit more prep time. The locally-made beef ravioli ($4.49), topped with locally-made tomato-basil sauce ($3.49), took about ten minutes and was a complete success. The delicious frozen cannelloni ($15.49) and sweet, slender Italian sausage ($4.91) turned out less visually appealing after an hour of cooking.

Finally, we sat down in the living room for an international buffet. We sipped dark, rich medium-roast coffee from Italy ($14.98), tasted Peruvian satsumas ($0.99) and Mexican watermelon, and shared a bottle of mineral water from Slovenia ($0.98). The finest discovery of the evening, however, were the unassuming Italian biscuits called “pizzelle”. Topped with French apricot-raspberry jam, these caramel-flavoured cookies were like a gift from the Olympian gods.

The dinner party went off flawlessly, the bride was surprised and the fare was a delight — thanks, Italian Centre.

Dining out

Sushi Speaking of favourites, despite the explosion of sushi restaurants in the past decade or so, there is still one that rises above the rest: if you’re craving anything from aji to uni, Furusato is the place to go.

Cupcakes I want to pick up cupcakes for a work party, but I am overwhelmed with choices. Flirt, Fuss and Whimsical are all within blocks of each other on Whyte Avenue or up 109th Street.

In brief

Padmanadi Did you miss last Wednesday’s final buffet at Padmanadi, our fave vegetarian spot? Don’t fret, the new, improved Padmanadi opens next Saturday on 101 Street and 107 Avenue.