A ghost will follow you home

Don’t be fooled by the strange title, this is actually just my latest Toronto Eats post. Still, we’ll get to the ghost part soon enough.

Here’s the thing: I hate paying for pasta. There are some great Italian joints out there but it’s frustrating to me to pay $20-25 for a dish I could make at home for under $10 (and that’s with leftovers). It’s one of those meals that doesn’t seem worth the markup to me because it is so simple to make. I have a few exceptions of course: there’s an eatery in Orillia called Theo’s that has the best chicken parmesan, and there’s Tony’s at Disney World which is a family fave, even though it’s sort of just average. I’m also a big fan of some of the spaghetti combos at The Old Spaghetti Factory in Toronto but it’s one we usually avoid for the mark-up as well.

With that all being said, I think I found a restaurant that was worth the crazy price, and it’s the most expensive of all I’ve tried.

Terroni is an Italian chain that boasts a few locations in Toronto and Los Angeles. I had no idea it even existed until I started giving ghost tours with The Haunted Walk. You see, one of Terroni’s locations in Toronto sits inside the old courthouse. There’s some interesting history about the building, and some spooky stories that you can hear on The Original Haunted Walk of Toronto if you ever decide to come along. In fact, if you go sometime tonight or tomorrow, you may even hear the stories from me personally.

While I’m used to seeing Terroni from the backside in Courthouse Square, last month I decided it was time to venture into the old courthouse to check it out. Matt and I’s anniversary was at the end of the month and so a special dinner treat to somewhere that’s a little out of our normal price range seemed like a great idea.

I will admit, I was more excited to just see the inside of the restaurant than I was about the actual food. The fact that Terroni has maintained much of the old courthouse made the venture into this unique dining establishment a special one. Terroni is quite a grande space, as it turns out, with bars and tables on all four levels of the old historic building. Not every space was in use the evening we went but we did get the chance to look around every floor.

Upstairs features two additional bars separate from the main one downstairs, one which was open and the other closed. They rent out the spaces for private events sometimes or they open it up on busier nights. It was on a Tuesday, after all, and the place was still pretty packed, with people on three out of the four levels. We ventured upstairs after dinner to take a look around, peering into rooms I had heard some interesting stories about from my tours. It’s a beautiful place, and dining in any of the rooms would have been lovely.

But I do kind of wish we had been seated in the basement.

That’s not something I would normally say about a restaurant but Terroni’s basement is quite unique. They have beautiful wine cellars lit by crystal chandeliers that are locked up by cell bars. Yes, you read that right. They’ve maintained some of the courthouse’s old jail cells in the basement, filling them with expensive bottles of wine. The other cells are used as the lavish men and women’s bathrooms.

In addition to this, they have a smaller dining room in the basement that appears to be used for larger groups or private affairs. The ambiance was very different down there, as it seemed little had been done to renovate much of the space. It had the vibe of a winery with dim lighting, wooden barrels, and dark wood features.

In our ventures through the old courthouse there were no ghostly sightings, though we did jump a little when we caught something moving in one of the closed dining rooms from a reflection in the mirror. It turned out to be just another staff member.

While I could write on and on about the unique architecture and decor of Terroni, I think most of you are probably more interested in the food. You’re in luck, because I have quite a bit to share. A lacking lunch led to a rumbling stomach which demanded an appetizer, dinner, and dessert for both Matt and I. My bank account would’ve liked if I exercised an ounce of control but what fun would that be? Besides, it was a special occasion: six years is a long time to put up with my craziness.

Terroni’s dinner menu is split into four main sections and there was a seasonal menu presented for the evening as well. The main sections are as follows; apristomaco (starters), insalate (salads), primi (pasta), pizza (pizza). At lunch time they also offer a selection of paninis which are served until 5pm. It was around six o’clock when we arrived so that helped narrow our choices a little.

It’s funny because charcuterie boards are another thing I often refrain from ordering because of the mark-up. Plus, we make meat and cheese boards for meals at home all the time. But I’d seen pictures of Terroni’s boards online and I was incredibly intrigued. Terroni’s boards claim a selection of local and Italian meats and cheeses. You can order just the cheeses or just the meats, or you could go overboard like we did and get the Tagliere Mezzo e Mezzo which is a selection of both.

I wish I had taken notes on what selection of foods we had received that evening but I was simply too hungry to care. I know the darkest and smallest of the meats was a cured salami and it was not surprising that it was my favourite. There was fresh parmesan amongst the cheeses and one with shaved truffles. Overall, everything was delicious and the honey was a particularly unique addition to the board which was allowed for some unique flavour combinations. This, plus a small basket of fresh bread with oil put off those hunger pangs that I had coming into the restaurant.

For dinner, Matt ordered off the seasonal menu. He picked the Tris di Carne which was a trio of beef tenderloin, lamb sirloin chop, and a house maid duck and pork sausage that was served with oyster mushrooms, peppers and potatoes. It came out as quite a small dish but it was very delectable. The steak was the best steak I’ve ever tasted, Matt could almost cut it with the dull side of his knife, that’s just how tender it was. The lamb and the sausage were tasty as well, and I even enjoyed my taste of the oyster mushrooms.

For myself, I ordered off the pasta menu, which is a surprise given the big blurb I gave at the beginning. But I do have a main caveat when it comes to ordering pasta: if truffles are involved, you will likely rope me in. My obsession with truffles began on my first venture onto a Disney cruise boat. The truffle pasta that was served as an appetizer at Animator’s Palate remains one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.

The Tonnarelli alla Norcina from Terroni is pretty high up there as well.

When the pasta comes to the table it really doesn’t look like much, which only affirmed my hatred for ordering the overpriced dish. I worried I would still be hungry afterwards. But the way Terroni serves their pasta is very deceiving. This meal was incredibly filling and I would say I only ate half of it before handing the bowl of perfectly cooked al dente pasta to Matt. There was a generous amount of black truffle shavings and tons of their homemade spicy sausage. It was definitely one of the best pastas I’ve ever had, and it’s not something I think I could make at home.

I was honestly stuffed enough after the pasta that I could have just left Terroni perfectly satisfied but we asked for a dessert menu anyway. Special occasion, remember? As suspected, with any good Italian joint, Terroni offered up a tiramisu, which is my prompt that I have just a bit more space in my tummy. It is probably my favourite dessert on the planet and this one did not disappoint. Served in a unique little pot with circular lady fingers that were drenched in coffee, the tiramisu was light and very tasty.

Matt opted for a unique dessert which consisted of a butterscotch pudding like base with a caramel sauce. But it was markedly different from regular pudding, though we’re not sure why. I failed to take note of what it really was and no google search had provided me with Terroni’s dessert menu unfortunately so we will be left wondering. Unfortunately, at $10 a dish, their dessert was a bit pricey in my opinion, especially for the small sizes, but I’m still glad we ordered them. What’s a celebration without something sweet?

Overall, it was a beautiful way to celebrate our anniversary. I won’t be making Terroni a regular stop any time soon but I’m glad we went. Service could have been a bit more attentive, especially with the volume of servers around the restaurant, but we weren’t in a rush to get out of there and it was nice to just enjoy each other’s company.

So that is another Toronto restaurant in the books. We’ve had some great luck this year and I still have lots to share. I think the food is one of my favourite parts of living in the city; there is always something different to try. So what have you been eating lately?

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