Hey you. Yes, you. The ones who told me that I HAD to try Lil’ Baci because it was SO amazing. You are going to pay for ruining my birthday dinner.
My family typically ends up at Baldini’s Italian restaurant for birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations, which is just across the street from us. It’s so close, I could throw a piece of penne and hit the front window (seriously). But noooo…I dragged Keith’s family and my own four blocks down Queen St. East to eat at this “must-try” Italian restaurant. I feel really bad for saying this but I can’t lie – Lil’ Baci was a lil’ disappointing.
I have no qualms admitting that I can get a little (or should I say lil’) nitpicky when it comes to restaurants – I want good food AND good service. This time I wasn’t the only one who thought Lil’ Baci fell short in some areas. At the end of the meal, I asked all 8 of our guests to rank their overall dining experience. The consensus was a solid 6.5 out of 10. Not terrible. But not “amazing”.
THE LOCATION: 892 Queen Street East (Leslieville, Toronto)
THE MENU: 90% pizza, 5% pasta, 5% salads (Note: This is a rough weighting. Just in case someone decides to validate my math). Lil’ Baci is a pizza place through and through. Oddly enough, there was only one pizza that caught my eye out of fifteen or so (it was the Nonna). Just personal preference as I like my pizza the western way…loaded with toppings. These were limited to just a few items, which might be your thang. I also love the eclectic feel of chalkboards that double as menus in restaurants like this. I dig it even more when the menu items they feature on those chalkboards are accurate. After scanning the “Antipasti” menu board, I had my heart set on 2 items: rapini and squash. That’s when the waitress unapologetically stated, “Those are wrong”. [Um...I don't think Lil' Baci got the memo that chalkboards are meant to be erased and updated.] She then looked irritated when I requested the real options and ignored those at the end of the table when they asked her to repeat them.
OUR ORDER: There were 8 entrees and 7 apps ordered, mostly duplicates. So I’ll cover the ones that were closest to me. Note: not everything you see here is Paleo but I’m using the “It’s my birthday and I can eat whatever I want” card.
- Beet Salad - Oh how I love the sweetness of roasted beets paired with salty, smooth goat cheese (my first bite of cheese since the 30-day Paleo challenge ended). It was all served on a bed of arugula. You know how I feel about arugula! This salad hit the spot. But Keith’s basic salad was just that. Basic. Dressing wasn’t that flavourful and there was nothing more than a pile of lettuce leaves on a plate for $7 or so.
- Chicken Leg Special - I was in a restaurant that clearly specialized in pizza, but I decided to go gluten-free and get their only non-pizza or pasta dish – the roasted chicken-leg special with grilled dandelions and lentils. What an idiotic and amateur move for a foodie. The chicken dish wasn’t even on their printed menu so it likely wasn’t something they make everyday nor had perfected. That was clear when it arrived at the table. I would use these words to describe my meal…dry, blah and blah.
- Polpettina Pizza – According to Keith, his order was a dud. Sparse toppings, low-profile flavour. BUT the crust was perfectly crusty. Not so thin that the dough gets soggy.
- Nonna Pizza – If I wasn’t trying to be “good” I would have been all over this – eggplant, onions, goat cheese and a mound of my new favourite leaf, arugula. Instead, I convinced my father that this was the pizza for him. I knew he would share the love (being the generous, selfless father that he is) if my dish was a flop. Based on the above review, I took advantage of his offer with a couple bites. Then, when he was full and distracted, I snuck a few more nibbles (enough to devour a whole slice). I learned later that those extra slices were intentional, and were supposed to be his lunch. Oops.
- Tiramisu - Aah, Tiramisu. The Italian go-to dessert that can go wrong. This version had just the right amount of mascarpone (if you love mascarpone) vs coffee-drenched biscuits (if you dislike coffee). It also turned out to be the only dessert menu item (out of 3 featured) that was available. Again…they didn’t get the memo about the chalkboards. Although, nice of them to serve it with candles while my family embarrased me singing Happy Birthday. As good as the Tiramisu was, it didn’t fit the bill as a “birthday cake”. So I ordered another dessert (the only other option).
- Ricotta Cake - We all jumped to conclusions when we heard ricotta. Our minds went like this… Ricotta = cheese. Therefore Ricotta Cake = Cheesecake. Wrong. This was way more cake than it was cheesecake. It had a few sparse blueberries tucked inside and was covered in whipped cream. This was not worth the calories, insulin spike and Paleo-cheat. No one seemed to be eating it so I kept picking away mindlessly. At one point, I realized there were just a few bites left and stated “I don’t even like this, so why am I eating it all”. I kept picking until it was gone.
THE DAMAGE: Our wonderful parents treated us to dinner so can’t really comment here; however, given our order (2 bottles of wine, an appetizer and main each, plus 2 desserts) I’m sure it was a pretty penny. Thanks mom, dad, mother-in-law-to-be and father-in-law-to-be!
THE SCENE: Loved the rustic feel of this little space. In part due to the walls adorned with chalkboard menus (albeit, inaccurate) and exposed brick. You could walk in here with jeans and a tee, and noone would look twice. My kind of place:) The service on the other hand, that’s where where things gets a lil’ less impressive. We’re a fun-loving crowd but the waitress was a hard nut to crack. Maybe her dog died or she was PMS-ing, because she hardly cracked a smile the whole time we were there. When we had questions about the inaccurate menu she looked a lil’ annoyed which made us feel a lil’ uncomfortable. You’d think she at least fake it for my birthday! Thanks to the gentleman assisting her, there was some reprieve.
YOU SHOULD GO IF:
- I haven’t tainted your view of this place (sorry!) and if you’re not on a Paleo diet.
- You like minimalistic thin crust pizzas (they do it well)
- It’s noon and you’re in the mood for some Italian. I hear they have an awesome $10 pizza, panino or pasta + salad deal. What do you have to lose?
Now I’m feeling really bad about all of my lil’ criticisms. Maybe I’m being uber sensitive because it was my birthday and had high expectations. You should go and see for yourself. Afterall, the chances are pretty good that this was an off night for them since I seem to be the only person who had complaints. I’ll give it another shot too.