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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Viva Italia!

Noelle Chorney
Published Wednesday November 12, 05:19 pm
Saskatoon now has a superbly simple pasta and pizza spot

EUFORIA

1222 Alberta Ave.

306-952-2181

I’ve never really understood those people who consider going out for pasta to be a fancy dining experience. Don’t get me wrong: pasta, done right, is a beautiful thing. It’s just not really “impress a date” food, for example. (I have a hard enough time keeping food off my shirt at any point, much less than when slurping spaghetti Bolognese.)

My favourite pasta dining experiences have involved dinner out on a whim, for no special reason, at a tiny hole in the wall where an Italian chef (almost always a total character) slings out fantastic dishes from his tiny kitchen. These types of restaurants almost always seem to have only a few tables, and they’re always packed.

I frequented just such a place back when I lived in Vancouver, called Presto Panini. It’s gone now (boo!), but I still remember many informal dinners for two there, and their house salad is one that I still try to recreate at home — it was that good.

Since roughly forever, Saskatonians have only been able to find really good pasta dishes at “fancier” restaurants like Bottega or Taverna. But now, with the opening of an awesome little hole in the wall run by not one but two Italian men (and yes, they’re total characters), the Presto Panini-style experience is finally available in this city.

Euforia Pizza & Gourmet Catering has opened on Alberta Avenue, in the building that houses the Western Academy of Broadcasting. They serve lunch Monday through Friday, they’ve just opened for dinners Monday through Thursday, and they sell their homemade Italian bread at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market on the weekends.

The restaurant has a bit of an al fresco feel, with a sky-lighted area and furniture reminiscent of picnic tables. But you’re not there for the décor; you’re there to carb-load. There’s no menu — only a blackboard with the daily offerings, which include various pastas (carbonara, alfredo with ham and peas, pasta Bolognese, calzone, pizza and panini). You can ask for salad as well, and everything is priced around $10.

On my first visit, I tried penne with sausage and tomato sauce, while my lunch date opted for ravioli with rosé (creamy tomato) sauce. While we were waiting, the charming and friendly manager brought us out some bruschetta and thinly sliced ham on fresh bread. The chef came out once in a while to talk to customers as well.

These guys are the real deal. It’s completely worth it to come for the sole purpose of watching them work the room — I defy you to keep from smiling in the face of their ebullient and enthusiastic manner. They couldn’t be happier than they are, cooking the food of their homeland and making customers happy.

When our pasta arrived, I was immediately transported back to my visits to Presto Panini. (I’ve never been to Italy so I wasn’t transported there, although I might have been were it in my realm of experience.) It was a perfectly simple plate of penne, cooked al dente and topped with a fresh marinara sauce and fresh Italian sausage. The manager brought a bowl full of Parmesan cheese to the table and spooned it over my pasta himself. My friend’s ravioli caused her to completely bliss out. They were lovely, filled with ricotta and Parmesan cheese and herbs, just slightly chewy and swimming in just enough creamy tomato sauce. And all for a reasonable $10.50!

I had hoped to check out the place for dinner once they started opening in the evening, but my plans were thwarted by a kid with a virus. Instead, I asked them to surprise me with a collection of dishes for three adults and two kids, and we took it to-go.

The food was wonderful: real bacon and homemade croutons (from their homemade bread of course) on the Caesar salad, three kinds of pasta — including the ravioli, which is fast becoming my favourite (although I’ve heard reports that the gnocchi is also to-die-for, so I’ll have to try that too) — and spaghetti and meatballs that had my four-year-old positively swooning.

They also provided two calzones (homemade pizza pops), which I would definitely eat again. While they were packed with “Italian style” deli meats, they were of a quality that you don’t often see in this city. I’m not a big fan of deli meats in general, but I wanted one of those calzones all to myself. When I discovered that my husband had eaten the leftovers before I could get to them, there was trouble in paradise.

If their calzones are that good, I can’t wait to try their pizza. You can get your own pizza for $8.50, or a “pizza for two” for $15. At that price, you may as well get one of each kind.

In my perfect world, brilliant pasta and pizza isn’t fancy, it’s comfort food. These guys clearly know that, and they serve it up right. I’m going to be visiting Euforia a lot more in the near future. 

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