Who would’ve thought that the Rubino brothers, owners of the now-defunct upscale Rain and Ame, would open up a casual Italian restaurant serving up pizza and pasta? After their high-end ventures closed down several years ago, they’ve gone back to their roots with Southern Italian cooking.
Strada 241 (@Strada241) is located in the heart of Chinatown buried amongst little Chinese shops on Spadina. The restaurant occupies a large and gorgeous loft space with exposed brick and extremely high ceilings.
The front portion of the restaurant operates as a café, serving up paninis and pizzas while the back of the space contains the dining room. You’ll find communal seating down the centre of the dining room with some wooden booths along the side.
In need of a drink, I started off with a Bellini ($9) and Strada makes a darn good one with real peach puree.
Since I was starving, I decided to start off with the Strada 241 Caesar Salad ($9). This certainly isn’t your run-of-the-mill Caesar salad. Knowing the Rubino brothers, it didn’t come as a surprise.
Romaine lettuce and radicchio comes lightly grilled with the leaves still crisp and juicy. The salad was lightly dressed with a creamy dressing which had a subtle lemon flavour to it and was all topped with bits of fried guanciale. My only complaint would have to be the “croutons” which came out a little burnt. I also would’ve preferred them bite-size as I had to eat them with my hands like a cracker.
Strada has a mouth-watering selection of pizzas to choose from. They use fior di latte on all pizzas but mozzarella di bufala can be substituted for an extra $3. After much deliberation, I ordered the Zia Rita Pizza – tomato, nduja sausage, fire roasted onions, rapini, parmigiano ($15).
I really enjoyed their tomato sauce and their nduja sausage was a stand-out for me. The spiciness of the sausage was balanced out by the slight bitterness of the rapini. As for their crust, while it was chewier than I would’ve preferred, it was not bad. Overall, a pretty solid pizza!
My friend Megan went with a classic, the Margherita Pizza – tomato & basil ($12). I didn’t try any of it but she was quite pleased with it.
Since I had the Caesar salad to start, I was too full for dessert. Megan skipped the appetizers as she had her eye on the Panna Cotta ($7). It arrived in a mason jar with the top half filled with a citrus sorbet and some sort of foam. She said that the texture of the panna cotta was just right – nice and light but she also mentioned that it didn’t really need all the extra foam on top.
Overall, I had a great experience at Strada 241. Sure, I still think Libretto does a better pizza but Strada’s Italian fare is pretty solid. I can only hope that it doesn’t suffer the same fate as the Rubino brothers’ previous ventures.
At a glance:
• Brought to you by Michael and Guy Rubino (previously of Rain and Ame)
• Serving up solid Italian cuisine in the heart of Chinatown
• Front portion of the restaurant operates as a café; dining room in the back
• Large, gorgeous loft space
• Takes reservations
Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 4 stars
• Service: 4 stars
• Atmosphere: 4 stars