A few friends and I headed to Ottawa Street to check out Caro, the new Italian restaurant that sprung up in the East end. Right at the corner of Ottawa and Main, this bright restaurant adds to the eclectic collection of shops over there. Sunlight beams in from the two street-side windows of this classically modern space, fantastic lighting for photos. The first thing you’ll notice is the red tiled back splash behind the bar. The huge typographic mural that says “Beloved” and the living wall are also instant eye-catchers. You can also find a shelf of sprouts and herbs by the kitchen window soaking up the Vitamin D.
The menu is concise; shareables, pastas, pizzas, and drinks – no more than 10 items in each section. Makes it easy for us indecisive eaters to quickly choose our items.
Onto the food! We collectively decided to order as many different dishes as possible. We started with some popular items, calamari and polenta fries. The calamari came stacked up with dipping sauces at the base. The focaccia fried squid had an excellent crunchy crust with marinara and roasted garlic aioli to dip. What I also loved were the exploded deep fried capers. As my first time eating polenta fries, I went in with an open mind. Just like how the calamari was presented, the polenta fries also came stacked on top of sauces. These fries had a thinner crunch yet still tasty. As our appetizers were cleared, our mains touched down.
The Caro Spaghetti and Meatball caught all of our attention because of the massive single meatball sitting on top. The beast easily crumbled with the stab of a fork. It sat on an al dente bed of beautifully coated spaghetti. I’m 90% sure this pasta was house-made because it tasted way better than any dried spaghetti I’ve cooked at home.
My Tuscan Rigatoni was massive. Again, any rigatoni I’ve had were straight tubes but these were elbow-shaped and thicker. The pasta was tossed in grilled sausage (my love), arrabiatta sauce, rapini, pepperonata, and topped with pecorino. The chef read my personality and hit the nail on the head with the sauce level. I like it saucy and saucy he made it. Unfortunately, Sid‘s dish was less saucy.
Heather‘s Gnudi was the prettiest out of all the dishes. Each ingredient was definitely artistically placed on the dish. The bright, roasted veggies paired with the gnudi also made the dish stand out.
Henry’s Papardelle was my favourite. Simple and vegetarian, even I surprised myself with loving the dish. Deliciously meaty woodland mushrooms, tossed in truffle butter, peas, sage, pecorino, and blood orange reduction. The wide noodles were nicely coated in the balanced and addicting sauce with a lot of mushrooms scattered throughout. I’m usually a tomato sauce fan but a simple tossed pasta will also steal my heart.
Lastly, Heejoo took one for the team and ordered the mushroom pizza (even though she was eyeing the papardelle). This pizza was basically the papardelle on dough! It had similar ingredients other than the pickled onion and arugula.
I usually stop here after an app and a main dish but when we get together, we somehow just go all out and order a lot. We continued onto dessert! Caro has daily flavours for gelato, so ask about them. That day, they had mango, raspberry, and chocolate. So, obviously we ordered all of them. The others tried the cannoli and tiramisu. Mango flavoured anything is usually subtle yet this one, oh man, it was a bangin’ explosion of bold and strong mango flavour. The most mango-y-infused food I’ve ever tasted. Almost like dried mangoes. Same with the other flavours, strong and all up in your taste buds.
The cannolis looked great on the plate. The small, crunchy, blistered shells housed a light and perfectly sweet custard. The sizing was just right too. Lastly, the tiramisu came in a clear jar with little pieces of lady fingers swimming in a custardy-textured mascarpone with a towering topping of whipped cream and powdered cocoa.
After all of this, I was ready to take a nap or sleep forever. Yes, I was stuff out of my mind. At least I was stuffed with tasty food. Overall, we had a relaxing dinner in a comforting and clean environment. The staff were all friendly, inviting, and attentive. They’re always floating around, so waving them down for questions/requests is no biggie. The presentation of the dishes was enticing and they tasted as good as they looked. But you be the judge of that. Give them a try and let me know!
Thanks Caro for deducting 25% off our meal. Opinions are my own.