Fabbrica got a lot of buzz for being the latest brainchild of Mark McEwan, celeb chef of Bymark and North 44’s fame. I haven’t tried either but my tasting mates love his uptown restaurant, Terra, so we decided to check out Fabbrica to see if it lived up to the name attached to it.
Location: 49 Karl Fraser Rd. Toronto, ON M3C 0E5 (Shops at Don Mills)
Cost: around $170 for 5 people (shared appetizers, entrees, dessert/coffee). For a two people date, more likely to be $40-$50 per person for 3 course not including wine.
Website: http://www.fabbrica.ca/ (menus can be found here)
TL;DR: Entrees suck, don’t go.
Situated at the trendy Shops at Don Mills and across the street from McEwan’s grocery store, Fabbrica seeks in its mission statement to give an authentic Italian experience with Italian ingredients. For a midtier restaurant, the menu looks impressive on first glance with interesting ingredients and dishes like rabbit, tuna bruschetta, and quail. The kitchen also has a wood fired oven for the pizzas. The interior looks very modern and open with high ceilings and pleasing decor. When I went to the washroom, it was a bit confusing because the labels were in Italian. Later I realized the board with the text were Italian names that hinted which side was which gender.
I was with 4 other people so we ordered 3 appetizers to start for sharing. 1) Preserved tuna, bean puree, olive salsa bruschette 2) Bone marrow and horseradish gremolata bruschette 3) Selezone di salumi (4 types). The preserved tuna bruschette was the crowd favourite among the 3. The salsa provided a nice contrasting taste (sweet) to the tuna (salty) but the tuna was also very flavourful. I did not really care for the bone marrow bruschette because it tasted really oily (melted bone marrow) and I couldn’t taste the horseradish. We left the choosing for the 4 types of meat to the waiter and he brought back some really nice samples. I only remember the prosciutto (my bad). This was also a nice appetizer for sharing for a larger group like mine. You can’t go wrong with cured meat.
For the entrees, I got the Orechiette. My boyfriend and his friend’s wife got the Margherita pizza. His friends got the Strozzapretti and Agnello. When I bit into my pasta, I was a bit disappointed. Fabbrica with all its hype and buzz being Mark McEwan’s brainchild does not really deliver anything special for this pasta. The ingredients felt fancy but the combination left more to be desired. The watery sauce was a bit sour which was a nice subtle taste than what I usually prefer but the rabbit meat fell flat. Overall I felt the pasta was not that special except for the ingredients. The friend who got the Strozzapretti felt the same. I didn’t get to taste the Strozzapretti or the Agnello but I was told the sauce for the Agnello was good. The only downside of the secondi was that the portion is small and may not be enough without a primi. The Margherita pizza was tasty and filling but the mozzarella cheese overpowered the tomato sauce for the majority of the pizza. While it was good, it may not be what you’re looking for in a Margherita pizza. I prefer Queen Margherita Pizza for better value (it’s pretty big) and better diffusion of taste.
However, the meal ended on a good note with dessert. I had the Tiramisu di Fabbrica, which is a habit of mine to try tiramisu at Italian restaurants that I go to. The presentation of the tiramisu wasn’t the usual in-a-cup or container. It came like a cake on a plate rather than in a cup or container with a frappucino on the side. This tiramisu along with the tuna bruschette were my favourite parts of the dinner, especially since the pasta was such a disappointment. I really liked the crispy caramel layers in between the mousse. It was sweet but not sickening sweet with a touch of almond from the amaretto mousse. Very good tiramisu. Friend got the Torta di Ricotta which I will include the picture just so you know what it looks like but I don’t know how it tastes. He said it was all right but he was probably the harshest critic there.
VERDICT: Not worth going to except for the curiosity in the name. For the quality of the entree, you can find somewhere cheaper that delivers a decent Italian meal (like Serra on Bloor/Spadina). For around the same price range, you can go to Kit Kat that offers an outstanding, hearty Italian fanfare. Fabbrica tries to use interesting ingredients but it’s at an awkward limbo of mediocre quality (save for the tuna bruschette and the tiramisu) with a higher price tag due to Mark McEwan’s name. Even though I liked the appetizers and the dessert, they are not what makes me want to go back to a place. No one in my party felt the need to go back to Fabbrica ever again once our curiosity in the name was fulfilled. Do yourself a favour and pass on this, unless curiosity in its name really gets to you.
One caveat is if you’re uptown and don’t want to go downtown for midtier Italian food, then Fabbrica is a decent place to go for pizza and appetizers. If you’re downtown already or don’t mind traveling, then the places I suggested as alternatives would be much better in quality and in bang for buck.