Location: 107-2515 90 Ave. SW, Calgary
Cuisine: Contemporary Italian.
Atmosphere: Elegant and inviting.
Best bets: Maltagliati, wild boar pizette, bianco (cocktail), tiramisu.
Vegetarian friendly? Yes.
Additional information: Open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner.
After living in central Calgary for the majority of my adult life, I bit the bullet and receded (somewhat) into the suburban outer ring of the city. There are so many things I do enjoy about being a bit further out from the Calgary core, such as having a house with a decent yard, street parking with no passes required (or time limits) and the general calmness an older neighbourhood can offer. The lack of dynamic independent restaurants, though, is something I do not enjoy in the least.
It’s with this mentality that I whole-heartedly appreciate the cleverly named group that is Sub/urban Hospitality. After opening the French bistro concept Purlieu in the Oakridge neighbourhood in 2019 to much praise, the owners expanded in 2021 with Trullo Trattoria.
Located a two-minute drive from Purlieu, the contemporary Italian eatery is nestled into a strip mall at the tail end of 90 Ave. SW. At first glance, Trullo is quite striking. Even its exterior, with proudly backlit capital lettering, makes an impact as you approach it. This is not your “regular” neighbourhood restaurant, it seems to scream, or at least it does in my mind.
Inside, things feel thoughtfully designed and inviting. There’s warm wicker light fixtures, tan leather booths and grey felt-covered banquettes. A muted green-and-white palm-patterned wallpaper graces portions of the restaurant’s dividing wall that separates a slightly more quiet main dining section from the entryway and bar area.
Where Trullo wins points immediately is with its cocktail offerings. There’s plenty of Italian-leaning options to choose from in addition to other classics such as old fashioneds and boulevardiers. A selection of Negronis all pack an expectedly pleasant punch, but a standout is the bianco – a somewhat lesser known “white” Negroni made with Cocchi Americano and Maraschino Originale in lieu of Campari, as well as vermouth and gin.
Food-wise, the menu of executive chef Chris Barton is peppered with hits and misses. The baccala, a salt cod and potato mixture, comes peculiarly plated, spooned into three small piles topped with broccolini and minced preserved lemon, separated by focaccia crostini standing on end.
Preserved lemon is a tricky item to work with; use a bit too much and it overpowers everything. Sadly, that’s what happened here.
One of the burrata variations (the sott’olio), served with pickled eggplant, artichokes and roasted red bell pepper in olive oil, fares a bit better. It’s hard not to enjoy burrata, especially when served with acidity accoutrements, but the same ever-crisp focaccia crostinis appear alongside it, leaving us to wish for something with a bit more chew.
Pasta should be the pinnacle of most Italian restaurant menus and the chef’s offerings do a decent job of hitting the spot, though many are not made in-house. The mezze rigatoni boasts a delicious veal bolognese with a nice hint of nutmeg, topped with grated parmesan. It’s a perfect plate of pasta on a chilly night as winter temperatures continue to linger into March.
The maltagliati, which is made in-house, is even more comforting, studded with a delicious lamb ragu and mushrooms along with sage and walnuts for a little added texture. Definitely order this dish.
Another hit is the wild boar pizette. Calgary’s pizza options have increased tenfold throughout the pandemic, so it’s hard to bite into a new-to-me crust and feel satiated, but this crunchy-on-the-outside-chewy-on-the-inside dough does just that. Pear slices, punchy fennel seeds, ground boar and fior di latte cheese make for a perfectly balanced foursome on top.
We close things out with a tiramisu verrine, layered, naturally, with house-made coffee-soaked ladyfingers and whipped mascarpone cream. It’s a bit heavy-handed with the cocoa-nib topping that leads to some unexpected bitterness in some spoonfuls, but no massive qualms here.
As an aside: It feels ill-fated to have drafted this review shortly after dining at Whistler’s Il Caminetto. Dining at an extraordinary Italian restaurant several nights after dining for a second time at Trullo makes it difficult not to compare the two. Known as one of the best Italian restaurants in British Columbia, if not all of Western Canada, and with a menu chock-full of house-made pastas and refined takes on classics such as carpaccio, Il Caminetto is a place that helps set the bar for contemporary Italian.
It’s a bar that Trullo hasn’t quite reached, but as far as Italian options go in south Calgary, it’s a small win having this eatery in Oakridge.
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