On Saturday afternoon we took the MIL to see another farcical play put on by the Upper Canada Playhouse in Morrisburg called The Amorous Ambassador by Michael Parker. My son, husband and I do bring down the average age of the audience significantly. There seems to be high appeal for UCP productions with the older crowd. We try to get out to the 4 summer plays because it is usually a good laugh and we like to support local summer theatre. More importantly, MIL just loves to go and her social outings are limited because of her reduced mobility.
On our drive home MIL announced that we needed to pick a place to go for dinner. It sounded like she was treating! (There went the plans for my Thai chicken that was marinating at home. What's another 24 hours.) We also had another guest along with an unknown palette. It was time to play it safe and also consider the budget. I seized up a bit. I do much better picking restaurants when I have my food blogs, Urbanspoon and Ottawa Foodies close to my finger tips. I did want to throw caution to the wind and go to a place that I had never been to before. I suggested that we just cruise Preston Street as it is a bit of a foodie gateway into Ottawa and parking would likely be manageable, since it was only 5:30 pm. This way we were likely to get a table too since I hear 'real' Italians don't even consider dawning the door of a restaurant until at least 8:00 pm. I have yet to properly validate this folklore.
I hastily picked Allegro Ristorante at 422 Preston Street at the corner of Beech Street, near Stoneface Dolly's. When I popped in to see if they could take us before unloading our crew, it was clear there was plenty of room since no one was there! I just hate that feeling. I want to go to a place that is packed and just happens to have a table for us in the corner. I starting to get very faint memories of going to Allegro's in the past. What I couldn't remember was if I even liked it. I hate that feeling too. But I just wanted to make a decision, so went for it.
With so much discussion in town about the Human Rights complaint against an Old Ottawa South restaurant this past week, I had a moment to reflect when we suffered the challenge of entering the restaurant up a number of stairs at the front door. This was an issue for MIL with her walker but also me with a new 'bum' knee, using a cane that day just to be safe. When inside, I saw that the access to the washrooms meant a steep ascent to the second floor. I felt in no way moved to file a complaint though. And if needed, I guess we could have made another choice. We all pitched in to help everyone make it inside okay and no one needed the washroom any time soon. It is a much older building, likely a house, that had been converted into a restaurant years ago. It is the legacy of that time. More than anything, we just wanted to enjoy a great meal together.
Our amuse-bouche was a complimentary bruschetta that seemed to arrive instantly. We also were served a substantial bun that was drizzled in an herbed infused olive oil for further dipping. Where were we going to find room for our dinner? For sure there would be a pass on doing appetizers.
Our very attentive waiter, with poetic discourse, shared with us the multitude of specials. I am sure there were at least seven. When I hear there are that many specials, I process very quickly "stay away from the menu - all the love and freshness has been directed at the specials".
I went for the 'osso bucco' lamb shanks. It came with two shanks, smothered in a braising sauce full of carrots, celery and tomato. It was fall off the bone goodness. The vegetables included steamed cauliflower, broccoli, red pepper and roast potatoes.
MIL went for the veal chop, medium well. It was gigantic. It was served with the same side of vegetables but also some Portobello mushrooms. The reason she made the pick in the first place. Her chop was grilled to perfection. And, with her wee appetite, she had plenty to take home for the next day.
Our other guest chose the rigatoni with grilled chicken and asparagus, served in a light white wine and tomato sauce. She too said it was just so delicious.
The mister was the only one to veer away from the the list of specials and he went for the Saltinbocco - a veal scallopini with prosciutto and white wine sauce. Again the same side of vegetables. He too said it was delicious.
I had every intention of passing on dessert. The mister said the same. MIL frowned in that matriarchal 'but we must have dessert' kind of way. We picked up the hint and asked to at least see the dessert menu. She quickly honed in on the Bailey's espresso cheesecake, as did our other guest. The mister faithfully went for the Tiramisu. I strategically clutched onto my small fork!
The cheesecakes were a handsome size so I didn't feel the least bit imposing for helping out. Quite tasty. As was the tiramisu.
The interior of the restaurant is in no way posh. But they like to keep it neat and presentable. I didn't feel any particular ambiance to the setting. But that was okay because the food met its expectation. Tasty, traditional, well prepared Italian food. When we left, the first floor was almost fully seated.
422 Preston Street