Alice Fazooli's Oakville

Alice Fazooli’s is one of those casual restaurants that make you feel like you’re having a fancy meal without having to pay the fancy price. I like to think of it as a step up from East Side Mario’s or other Italian chain restaurants. Since it’s a bit nicer inside than some other places, you’ll often find business lunches happening in the middle of the day.

Which is exactly why I was there today. It can get pretty busy around lunch time, so we made sure we had a noon reservation for our party of seven. The building itself is pretty, with dark hardwood floors and dim lighting inside. There are tall shelves filled with wine bottles that give it a classy style. But detracting from the atmosphere are long sheets of white paper covering the tables in a makeshift tablecloths. Surely a restaurant that is trying to be a little more upscale doesn’t need to use paper table coverings? I felt like there should have been cups of crayons on the tables for us to doodle with while we waited for our food.

The service was attentive without being overwhelming, and the actual waiting time for food and drinks was short. While we waited, our server brought out a basket of warmed focaccia and a duo of dipping choices: an olive oil with herbs or room temperature marinara sauce. I preferred the oil since I found the marinara tasted like crushed tomatoes without flavouring and I am not generally a tomato fan.

There were a few featured dishes for the day, but I opted for the Goat Cheese Portobello Mushroom Panini ($12.95) off the regular menu and upgraded my side dish to the Arugula and Spinach Salad. The salad was fresh and fantastic. Fresh arugula tossed with crispy spinach leaves are topped with grilled red peppers, yellow zucchini, thin-sliced red onions, spicy caramelized pecans, red onions and wedges of mandarin orange. I asked for the sweet onion vinaigrette on the side, and the whole salad was sprinkled with black and yellow sesame seeds. Not only did the salad look gorgeous and fresh, but the flavours all blended perfectly together. The bitterness of the arugula was countered by the sweet and juicy mandarin oranges. The fresh roasted peppers and zucchini were soft but paired with the crunch of the pecans, they made a texture combination that was out of this world. The sweet onion vinaigrette was sweet and tangy without overpowering the other flavours in the salad. A perfect combination of ingredients and presentation that I would absolutely get again – probably in an entree size next time.

Sadly, my lunch went downhill from there. The panini came out in two very large triangular wedges with beautiful grill marks on the crispy bread, and I could see the goat cheese oozing from the sides with slices of portobello mushroom peeking out from its gooey blanket. I was excited to try the sandwich because a green-olive tapenade mixed with asparagus, provolone, portobello mushroom and goat cheese sounded like it should have created a taste explosion upon first bite. Unfortunately, the description sounded much better than the actual dish tasted. The premise was fantastic and the ingredients should have made a great sandwich, but the execution was poorly handled. There was so much goat cheese and olive tapenade that all of the other flavours disappeared. Everything was overwhelmed by the smell and taste of green olives, which made the whole sandwich too salty for my taste. I opened the panini up to look at the contents and was disappointed to see that there was only one asparagus spear and a few thin slices of portobello mushroom in each half. No wonder the flavours of the goat cheese and tapenade were so strong – there was very little else there to compete with it. I’m not sure I even found provolone on the sandwich, but if it was there it was too melted and hard to pick out.

My own lunch aside, my companions all seemed to enjoy their meals and were happy with their choices. Alice Fazooli’s is a good option when you’re going out for lunch in the middle of the day and you want to relax for a bit and enjoy your meal without the hustle and bustle of a fast-food place. The service is not rushed, but you’re not left waiting endlessly for your meal either. It’s a fine balance which this restaurant seems to have mastered. It just needs to decide whether it’s going to be a casual restaurant or a more upscale one.
 
Alice Fazooli's Italian Crab Shack on Restaurantica
Alice Fazooli's on Urbanspoon
Alice Fazooli’s Oakville
2015 Winston Park Dr., Oakville
http://www.alicefazoolis.com/

2 comments:

Laura P said...
January 3, 2011 at 8:42 PM

I am always in that area but I've never tried this restaurant. I always just end up going to the Boston Pizza or the East Side Marios. Maybe I'll switch it up and try this place out, but I'll avoid what you ordered! Great review!

sweetone said...
January 3, 2011 at 9:26 PM

Although the sandwich was a disappointment, the salad was so so so good and I can't recommend it enough! So if you feel like a salad, I strongly suggest you order it!

Thanks for the comment! :)

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