Italian Comfort Food in the Junction

The Junction was unusually hopping on a coolish, windy October Tuesday

and sans reservation, we walked into NODO, Sicilian-born chef Roberto Marotta’s (@ChefRobMarotta) Italian-inspired take on the old country’s comfort food and are quickly greeted by a smiling staff and a selection of tables for four. I am always a bit concerned when I arrive after seven on a weeknight and find empty tables in a trendy neighbourhood like the Junction that offers a vast selection of venue and food choices. My fears were quickly relieved as the Italian shabby-chic, rustic room began to fill up. NODO (Italian for knot or knob and referring to those lovely, warm gnarly loops of bread served by your Italian Nona) is a bright spot on the Junction Food scene and considering it’s location (right next door the always busy and bustling Playa Cabana Cantina) is doing quite well for itself, thank you very much.

A Junction Catch Up

We have a catch-up dinner with John’s cousin Jim and lovely wife Joanne and wine and water ordered, we quickly dive into gabbing. Our stellar wait-person (those who know me and follow followsummer know I almost NEVER praise Toronto’s wait staff), politely and knowledgeably walk us through the menu, offering recommendations, many of which we consider. We order several nibbles to go with our sips: of course the namesake Olive Calde E Nodini, those bright olives gently nestled against warm knobby knots of bread. While yummy, I prefer Bar Buca’s nodini: smaller, more garlic and lightly dusted with rosemary and salt. Additional helpings of the lovely Involtini di Melanzane are ordered: eggplant wrapped caciocavallo, sitting in a bright, light tomato sugo, the slightly tangy, slightly salty cheese an excellent counter to the rich tomato sauce. And of course, a side of the recommended and apparently popular Arancini, the meat ragu a warm and comforting addition to our catch up conversation.

Sicilian Comfort in The Junction
We skip the pizza menu and all decide on pasta, looking for additional Sicilian comfort for an already crazy busy week. Joanne opts for the Orecchiette: the tiny pillows finished with bites of garlic barese sausage, garlic rapini and mascarpone with a sprinkling of chilli. I choose the same pasta but upon consultation with above-mentioned wait-person, substitute in (a very accommodating kitchen!) a San Marzano sweet tomato sauce with some spicy fresh basil to finish. Jim enjoys his ‘Old School’ gnocchi: hand rolled (light just like Nona made ’em) with truffle oil, Reggiano, nestled in some rich wild boar ragu.

Junction First Timers

The room continues its Tuesday night, trendy Junction ebb and flow: locals and out of neighbourhood first timers enjoying the chatty ambience. Our Italian maitre d’, personally thanks us for our patronage and we wander to a cab and say our good nights. Kudos to the kitchen for their flexibility with substitutions and the wait, front of house and bussing staff for their personable, knowledgeable yet unobtrusive service. If you are looking for a casual, fresh take on Italian comfort food, then hop on over to The Junction and dream of a warm Sicilian vacation. Tell them your Nona sent you.

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