Eataliano Panini & Pasta Ristorante

I wonder why so many Italian places use the Italian flag colours as part of their restaurant signage. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a China flag or Japanese flag or Canadian flag (and the list goes on) on restaurants…?

Pro – it allows customer to quickly realize that they specialize in Italian cuisine.

Con – it reminds me of Sbarro, the huge Italian-American food chain.

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The Grill Burger Kitchen recently took over the previous Ausanda Chocolate Cafe at the little plaza beside Starbucks on King Street.

Our newest location continues with our freshness philosophy providing customers with a fast food experience but with an Italian menu. EATALIANO’s approach is simply to provide fresh quality food for a reasonable price. 

I was extremely surprised when Ausanda only lasted a couple of months. I thought the concept of a chocolate cafe was a sure winner. Located close to the universities, they will definitely enjoy a good student crowd. I guess I was wrong since Eataliano soon took over. They have been offering coupons for buy-one-get-one-half-off (with purchase of two beverages) so I decided to try it.

First Impression:

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Eataliano has a very simple fast-food type setting – open concept kitchen with a very small menu. Tons of pop/juice/milk but no coffee/tea/hot beverages offered. I think the BOGO deal only applies to pop or water. I do not drink pop, they make me burp through my nose and it hurts.

It always amazes me how a sandwich – random things stuffed between two pieces of breadvaries so much from countries/cultures.

ITALIAN SANDWICH
There are two definitions for Italian sandwich, both concepts brought from Italy. The first is the hero sandwich, on an oblong roll. The second is the panino, on a round roll, often grilled.

Eataliano’s sandwiches are not grilled or pressed, so I am assuming theirs fall in the category of… hero sandwiches? Then again, I guess panini does not have to be grilled? Since the restaurant’s name is Panini & Pasta, those sandwiches are probably panini(s).

Okay, I am still confused.

Another confusing thing is… who is that man on the menu?

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I asked the owner and he chuckled saying “let’s just call him my Uncle Seth”.

Cute, but a little creepy when Uncle Seth is everywhere.

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On the walls…

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… even on the way to the bathroom.

With our BOGO coupon, Y decided to go for their most popular item while I decided for the classic.

On the Table for Maple:

  1. Veal Sandwich ($7.58) – Toppings of provolone cheese ($1), roasted peppers ($0.50) and sautéed onions (free)
  2. Steak & Onions Sandwich ($7.08) – Toppings of sautéed onions (free) & hot peppers (free) & sautéed mushrooms (free)

I noticed that their sandwich prices have odd decimals. Makes me wonder how restaurants come up with those prices. Also, I wonder why roasted peppers are not free while mushrooms/onions/hot peppers are free.

Ah, so many questions!

The owner asked if I wanted mild, medium or hot for the peppers. I chose hot. On hindsight, I probably should have taken medium. Heh heh.

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Complimentary olives, that’s sweet.

Despite all the odd things I noted about this restaurant on first impression (limited menu, slightly creepy poster, strange pricing etc.), Y and I actually really enjoyed the meal. The sandwich was huge – probably a characteristic of Italian sandwiches. Plentiful meat and toppings. The buns were poofy and intimidating but very soft and squishable.

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Y was pleased with the crunch of the veal and the strong contrasting texture of the soft bread.

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My sandwich had a double patty, which was way too much for me. I managed to finish 3/4 of it and Y happily took the remaining 1/4 despite mushrooms in them (he hates mushrooms with a passion). The hot peppers were oh-so-good-and-way-too-spicy. It was a very wet sandwich compared to Y’s. The bottom layer of bun was soaked by the time I unwrapped it. I did not mind though, it was hearty Italian fare.

The place was really quiet though. Having the owner stare at us eat feels a little awkward. Having the owner laugh at me take photos of his food feels even more awkward!

A week later, I decided to bring godmother & Friend A to try this place again since the first experience was really good. This time, the owner was not in store so we were served by someone else.

On the Table for Maple #2:

  1. Meatball Sandwich ($6.79)
  2. Veal Sandwich ($7.58)
  3. Sal’s Feature – Mushroom Ricotta Lasagna ($5 daily deal)

When the food arrived, I was shocked by how huge the difference between owner/staff preparation was.

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The meatballs were huge and good, but the construction of this lopsided sandwich was absolutely terrible!

Friend A did not enjoy her veal sandwich as it was too dry for her. I think the add-on toppings really helped since Y loved his sandwich.

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I snagged the last piece of the daily feature lasagna. Lucky me but unfortunately, this piece probably sat in the baking tray for way too long. The upper layer was stale and slightly hardened. The portion was generous but the lukewarm lasagna was not appealing. I did enjoy the mushroom-ricotta combination and was so tempted to request them to heat it up for me. However, the lasagna was served on a disposable plastic tray (probably not microwavable) so I did not make that request. I managed to finish it. However, the presentation, taste, and texture of this lukewarm last piece of lasagna was not a winner.

Y was quite surprised when I told him about my subpar experience.. He suggested visiting again to try their spaghetti and meatballs, since the meatballs from the sandwich looked promising. This is what is offered on their menu:

Spaghetti – $6

Spaghetti with marinara sauce – $7

Spaghetti with meat sauce – $7.99

To add meatballs – $3

So… if I am to order just the $6 spaghetti, it will be a bowl of plain pasta?

Although I feel as though the prices/menu have not been well-developed, their fast-food style provides the nearby office crowd with a quick-lunch option. The owner said that business has been slightly slower but hopefully will pick up given the coupons. I hope that with time, the standard and quality of food offered at Eataliano will improve. It is probably worth giving them a third chance.

Verdict:

1) Price – all items below $10 but add-ons may be expensive
2) Ambiance – Nothing fancy, similar to a burger joint
3) Service – Less than 10 minute wait for food, self-serve
4) Taste – Standard of food varies, depending on the staff

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Eataliano Panini & Pasta Ristorante on Urbanspoon

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