It was Disco Mary’s birthday on Saturday. Vintage Girl organized this gathering and she picked Chianti Cafe. She and Mindy comes to this location often and Mindy knows one of the servers.
When Vintage Girl booked the reservations, I thought of a restaurant I am dying to try called Garden of Italy. A couple of weeks ago, I saw Mayor Nenshi tweet about his meal there. I send the girls an email suggesting we go, thus hinting we change the original plans. I guess I’m not as subtle as I think. Vintage Girl asked me straight out just when and for what occasion we should go to Garden of Italy? I sheepishly said, “Whoever has a birthday after Disco Mary.” I’m a beta, not an alpha. Oh well, we are going to Garden of Italy for Vintage Girl’s birthday in May, though that’s months away.
I use to go to the Crowfoot location with my friends for the $8.99 pasta specials when I was in grad school. The only thing that’s changed is the parmesan cheese is no longer grated fresh at your table. Instead, there’s a shaker. Mindy told me it’s the same cheese. Apparently, management discovered that grating the cheese led to greater waste.
Mindy ordered the spinach and bacon salad ($6). It tasted pretty much like I remembered. The bacon tasted like bacon bits and there was a generous amount of mushrooms. Mindy prefers the salad with more dressing. I agree, it helps mask the flavour of spinach.
We shared a couple of appetizers: Ravioli Bites Trio ($9) and Fonduta ($10). Mindy dug into the dip before I could take a picture. She apologized profusely as Disco Mary reprimanded her, “She’s got to take a picture first!” No worries girls, I can improvise.
The crab dip was cheesy and warm, with chunks of crab and artichoke. The bread was toasted and smeared with a delicious pesto spread. Chianti’s version is better than my past attempts making crab dip.
The trio of pasta wasn’t as yummy as the crab dip. The filling was sparse and the pasta itself was hard. The sauce was a smokey chipotle. Taste wise, there was little difference between the three types of stuffed pasta.
I couldn’t decide which pasta to pick for my entree. Mindy told me that Chianti’s is very accommodating, and they will let you switch the sauces, noodles or you can pick two and have both. I ordered the Mare e Monte Fettucine ($12.50) and the Mediterranean Ravioli ($12.50). I’m not sure if Chianti charges extra for making changes or requesting a split order because Mindy treated me out for my belated birthday.
The mare e monte sauce was a light cream sauce mixed with scallops, peas and mushrooms. The scallops were plump and tender. I found the Mediterranean sauce bland. The lemon garlic wine oregano sauce was watery and I could just taste the individual components of the dish, boiled ravioli, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, feta cheese, spinach and artichokes. Again, the ravioli was hard.
One of the many reasons I love going out with these girls is because they give me so much food. I tried Disco Mary’s Salmon Con Gamberoni ($18.50). The baked salmon was moist and tender. The mascarpone cheese sauce was heavy and swirled around my ravioli, made it taste a lot better.
Mindy’s Pollo Alla Parmigiana ($16.50) was a good choice. The breaded chicken was crispy, covered in ham and bubbling with cheese. She opted for the shrimp fettucine, which was loaded with cheese and garlic. I found out from our server that the spaghetti, linguine and fettucine is homemade, but the other pastas are not.
I didn’t take pictures of Vintage Girl or Jeanette’s food because their plates were far away from me and I was too lazy to get up. I tried Jeanette’s veal and I thought it was tasty.
Our server brought out a piece of chocolate cake with a candle for the birthday girl. I took a couple of bites. Drizzled with caramel sauce and dotted with whip cream, with lots of layers of dense chocolate cake and sweet icing, it did the trick.
Chianti in Willow Park was busy, filled with mostly families and groups of friends. I can see why. Service was friendly and attentive throughout our meal. I also appreciate how accommodating the restaurant was when it comes to changing the dishes based on your preference. Chianti’s is a good option for family with kids. There’s something for all ages and the food is affordable, more so on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays.