Until six months ago, Rosso Pizzeria was home to da capo’s, an Italian coffee shop with a bit of an identity crisis. The three-part signage displayed the words “gelato biscotti caffè” on one awning, “birra vino martini” on the middle awning, and “Italian artisan pizza” on the third. But those who made the effort to find parking – around the corner, down an alley, through a dental office’s parking lot and finally to a few spaces reserved for da capo’s patrons – knew that once you got through the doors, there was some molto bene fare to be had.
In the spring of 2013, da capo underwent a transformation. Antonio Bilotta brought in Dave Manna as a partner to manage the re-branded and newly renovated pizzeria, allowing Antonio to focus on his new da capo caffe in the Roots on Whyte building (8135 102 Street).
The space is still split in two by the oversized u-shaped bar. On one side patrons can sit close to the kitchen that offers a view (and residual heat) of the new wood fire oven. The opposite side, although larger, is still cozy and patrons can either sit at small tables made of reclaimed wine casks, or at the long, high table with a view of bustling 109 Street.
But enough of the aesthetics, let’s eat.
The dinner menu offers an impressive variety of foods without going overboard. The one page menu lists zuppa (soup), antipasti (plates to share), insalate (rabbit food), and pizza: rosso style (with tomato sauce and hence the restaurant’s name) and bianca (without tomato sauce).
We started with the antipasto misto (cured meats, cheese, vegetables, bread) and a bowl of warm castelvetrano olives from Sicily. These bright green, crunchy orbs have a wonderful buttery flavour and are served warm with a few slices of inhouse-made bread. A glass of nero d’avola and a bowl of castelvetrano olives is all I would’ve needed to make me happy, but you don’t go to a pizzeria to pass on the pie.
Good pizza starts with good dough, and at Rosso they use “00” organic flour to make their crusts. “00” flour is ground finer than regular floor and results in a smoothly textured dough. Sixteen types of pizza are available, each delicious-sounding in their own right, but each pizza can also be ramped up with additional meats, cheeses, veg, seafood, and even an egg (or two).
To establish a baseline, we started with the margherita: San marzano tomato sauce, mozzarella fior di latte (mozzarella), pecorino romano cheese and fresh basil. The rule of Italian food is to keep it simple, and use quality ingredients. As soon as the pizza was placed on our table, we knew it was going to be good. You didn’t even have to taste it to know it. (p.s. it was magnificent.)
Next up was the funghi misti – Roasted wild mushrooms, fior di latte, taleggio cheese, roasted garlic, fresh parsley and drizzled with white truffle oil. There are some big players there: taleggio is not a shy cheese by any means, garlic that’s roasted still makes a statement, and truffle oil has never been for lightweights, but regardless, the overall flavour played with the palate instead of sucker punching it like you think it might.
For dessert, you have five options including house made gelato. We chose the caffe affogato, a scoop of vanilla gelato drowned in a shot of espresso, and the chocolate cake filled with warm ganache. More please.
Our experience that night was so pleasing that we returned a couple of days later for breakfast. Put an egg on anything and I’m all over it. At Rosso they put eggs on pizzas.
They also put perfectly poached eggs on top of skillet dishes cooked in that wood fired oven. They offer granola and fruit as well, and they have, in my opinion, some of the best coffee in the city. Try the Americano. I’m still thinking of it and six days have passed.
Rosso reminds me of Italy, and that makes me molto felice. Happy happy happy.
To hear more of Rosso, listen to my review on CBC Edmonton AM here.