Italian nostalgia

Thank you to everyone who participated in my first Let’s Do Lunch Downtown contest this month.

The winners of the gift certificates were:

$50 to East India Company: Shael

$50 to 4Play Sports Bar: Chrystal Friesen

Congratulations!

If you didn’t win this round, don’t fret. I’ve got more stuff to give away.

This time I’ve got a $50 gift card to Old Spaghetti Factory and a $25 gift card to Dessert Sinsations.

To enter, leave a comment below telling me which one you’d like to try along with a way to contact you. (You can leave your email address in the form–it will be kept private.)

You’ve got until Friday at 9am to enter this one.

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Old Spaghetti Factory
The Johnston Terminal, 957-1319

I can remember going to the Old Spaghetti Factory for pretty much my entire life. It’s the kind of place you can go with mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, kids and everyone else and their dog in tow, and everyone will find something they like. (Please note: they don’t allow dogs… I assume.)

I always love revisiting these places as an adult and realizing how much bigger they seemed when you were a kid. Although in the case of OSF, it’s still huge. My favourite room has always been the one surrounded by windows that looks out into the wilderness of The Forks site. After a day spent skating on the river, it’s the perfect place to warm up.

I am addicted to the bread and whipped garlicky butter they bring before your meal and always have to restrain myself from overdoing it before the food even comes.

I really love the sauteed mushrooms for an appetizer. They come swimming in a wine and butter sauce and it’s just the right size for two people to share.

One of the things OSF prides itself on is value, and they do that aspect extremely well. It’s hard to find a meal complete with salad or soup, entree and dessert for under $15 these days. Another reason this is a great option for families.

Of course you can’t go wrong with any of their pastas and I’ve always been partial to the classic spaghetti and meatballs and the spicy chorizo penne.

Last time I went, I thought I’d try something new with the spaghetti tossed in brown butter sauce and topped with shredded mizithra cheese–apparently it was a favourite of Homer’s while he was composing the Iliad. (We’re talking the Greek dude, not Simpson.) It was delicious and I’d definitely recommend it for someone who wants something a little different from the norm.

I also really like that you can opt for half sizes of the pasta in case you’re not feeling extremely hungry that day. (It’s never happened to me, but I assume it happens to other people.)

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Dessert Sinsations
505 St. Mary’s Avenue, 284-4661

One of my very favourite get-together-with-the-girls places in the city is Dessert Sinsations. From creative and innovative menu items to a sparkling dessert case that kind of makes me want to cry with joy, it offers the most delectable combination of sweet and savoury.

The menu is packed with so many things to choose from. If you’re a regular reader at Downtown Peggy, you’ll know I’ve got a thing for poutine and Dessert Sinsations’ is one of my favourites. It’s made with a combination of regular and sweet potato fries and topped with a beautiful velvety gravy. You can even make it vegetarian and then it comes with an equally delectable mushroom gravy.

The moist and juicy portabella mushroom white cheddar burger is a can’t-miss menu item (currently featuring as a top contender in the Downtown Magazine best burger in downtown search). I also love the pulled roast turkey sandwich topped with tangy cranberry sauce and sweet red onion chutney.

For an entree choice, chèvre stuffed chicken breast is a good bet. It comes with an amazing strawberry rhubarb red onion compote and a creamy, buttery pistachio risotto. And for a local hit of flavour, I love the spiced pickerel that comes wrapped in a banana leaf (neat) and topped with blueberry siracha sauce (really neat). It too comes with risotto, but this time a corn one. It’s all to die for.

Once you’ve had your fill of dinner, that’s when the fun really begins. After all, in a place named after desserts, it would be a sin not to save room for some… see what I did there? Oh never mind.

The dessert case has got it all–tortes, cheesecakes, cookies, squares and cupcakes–and I’ve never gone away anything less than completely delighted. I’m always partial to lemon and chocolate desserts so I often go for the very citrusy lemon torte or the chocolate mint cheesecake. Along with poutine, I’ve also got a thing for cupcakes so I’ve been known to take one or two (or six) home with me after dinner to save for later.

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On another note:

I also wanted to let you know about a promotion happening at Portage Place.

Purchase a $60 Portage Place Gift Card and get an additional $10 Gift Card free! Plus enter to win a $500 Portage Place Shopping Spree!

Offer valid from March 16 – 27.

I’ve also got a $100 gift card to give away to one lucky winner! To enter, go to the Downtown BIZ Facebook page and like us. If you’re already a fan, then you’re automatically entered! The draw will take place March 16.