The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 02.08.02


Il Mezzogiorno - tempting Italian indulgence

A little trip to Italy can't hurt at this time of the year, Got a craving for simple food that will banish those winter blues? Il Mezzogiorno in Kirkland just might have the solution.

Self-described as a Ristorante Tipico Italiano; this west island oasis serves up simple, no-nonsense regional fare. The menu includes familiar items such as pasta, pizza, veal scaloppini, and seafood. Chicken and beef dishes compliment the menu as do a variety of salads and soups, all prepared to order and with a focus on freshness.

Service is good and friendly here as well. I enjoyed the dialogue with staff and owner. Others obviously feel the same as the dining room was peppered with people who seemed to be regulars. I could hear laughter and good conversation, which is always a good sign.

An appetizer of rustic pizza arrived to carry us through our wine selection process. It was thin and simple. A touch of oil, tomato, rosemary and a hint of anchovy allowed us to choose a good Italian bottle of red. Casal Thaurelo at just under than thirty dollars proved that this was a wise choice to pair with our main selections and antipasti.

My partner chose Escargots a la Provencal while I chose more traditional antipasti. She ogled my selection with envy and I graciously shared. After all, sharing is what good Italian cuisine is all about.

My platter of goodies included all the right delicacies. Hearts of palm, Melon, Prosciutto, Olives, and Provolone. Lots of it. The dry ham from the Parma region is world-renowned and often the thin slices offered at local eateries are sparse. Not here. There was more than enough for two.

Italians have a certain way with salads and we chose simple versions. Tomato, red onion and good greens arrived with just a dash of quality oil and vinegar. A healthy grinding of pepper was offered by our waiter and we accepted. Interestingly, he arrived with a grinder that shone a light down on the plate as it delivered. It caught my attention and is now on my wish list. This grinder would make an appearance throughout the evening and served to accent each and every dish. It was a nice touch. My partner's snails were plump and garlicky. Crusty bread sopped up the butter and parsley bath.

We selected a la carte, although there is good value in the table d'hôte that is all-inclusive. Prices range from $17.95 for pasta with creamed clams flavored with shrimp to $35.95 for lobster tail Florentine.

A tempting Trio Del Chef at $19 struck me. This allowed me to sample veal in three different ways. Casanova, Tiberti and cream and Cognac.

One portion arrived adorned with cheese, eggplant and tomato, while one was enhanced by peppers and capers. The other was creamy and loaded with mushrooms. All were paper thin and tender. A choice of vegetables and potato or fresh pasta is offered with most main meat and fish dishes. I sampled the linguine with meat sauce. A large serving saw me swirling and twirling. I enjoyed its no-nonsense flavor.

My partner chose a pasta classic. Penne Puttanesca priced at $12.50. Tomato's, capers, anchovies and olives combine to make this simple dish both attractive and good. A huge serving of perfectly cooked pasta done to order shows that simple ingredients can shine. A sprinkling of fresh Parmesan tied it all together.

We were almost too full to sample the dessert. But who can resist Crème Caramel? No sane person will pass on this restaurant's version. Fortunately, it is of a size that will allow you to finish every sweet, creamy bite. My opinion is that this dessert item is the natural cousin of coffee. A steamy Cappuccino allows a beautiful union in the mouth. What better way to end the evening?

Il Mezzogiorno offers a lunch menu as well as a children's menu. I will be visiting again to sample the array of simple traditional pizza offered. That's if I can avoid the other great offerings on the menu. A little taste of Italian magic can be had at 3565 Saint Charles Boulevard in Kirkland. (Place Grilli). 426-9288.