Brunello at 27 on Fourth

By Roberta Avery - back to list

COLLINGWOOD - After hearing several people, including On The Bay's own Publisher, Jeff Shearer, declare that the new 27 on Fourth had 'the best Italian food this side of Tuscany', I had to find out more.

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet I was quickly able to get the low down on the new owners Mario and Teresa Comegna. It turns out that he is an award winning chef whose former restaurant DiMario's in Burlington is legendary in that city's crowded Italian dining scene.

Collingwood is far from crowded with Italian restaurants and Mario saw a gap in the higher end of the market when he heard that 27 on Fourth was for sale. After running a busy city eatery for 21 years, Mario also wanted to have more time to enjoy family life.

"We wanted to slow down a little,'' he says.

Mario and Teresa opened Brunello at 27 on Fourth this spring and far from slowing down have found themselves busier than ever.

"We were told that April and May is deadly quiet up here, but we were busy right away and up until last weekend we were turning people away every night," he says.

Dinner at Brunello's doesn't come cheap – three courses and two glasses of wine can top $85 per person including tax and tip – but to Mario's surprise his customers are local people celebrating special occasions as well as the well-heeled tourists or weekenders.

"Thanks to the TV food shows people these days really know good quality food and don't mind spending," he says.

Mario also puts down his success to the menu that is based on traditional dishes of his home region of Abruzzi east of Rome.

"People who come here say they feel close to Italy," he says.

Our friend and neighbour Eshrat Arjomandi, who is a professor of computer science and engineering at York University, is also one of the best cooks I know who skillfully blends the tastes of her native Iran with western cuisine. Meanwhile her husband Don Dautovich is busy establishing a small vineyard on the slopes of their Meaford property so I was delighted when this pair of "foodies" asked if they could join my husband John and I for dinner at the new 27 on Fourth.

We had all enjoyed meals at the restaurant in its previous incarnation and had loved the setting, so we were anxious see what changes the new owners had made, so we were pleased to see that the best of 27 on Fourth is now accented with a touch of Tuscany. The dining room now features wood beams and colourful prints of the Italian countryside, which is a nice contrast to the crisp white tablecloths.

Mario is a firm believer good food should be paired with good wine so a wine cabinet with a selection of wines ranging from a Australian Sauvignon Blanc for $28 a bottle to a "Supertuscan" Antinori, Solaia IGT, 2003 for $275 a bottle is a feature of the dining room.
Teresa met us at the door and as our table wasn't quite ready, she invited us to enjoy a drink in the appealing bar, which is now decorated in hues of burgandy that give a Tuscan feel. Eshrat, Don and I shared a half litre of Pinot Grigio Italian wine ($19) served in a charming ceramic pitcher, while John was happy to enjoy a glass of his favourite Australian Shiraz for $9.
Eshrat and Don chose the smoked salmon, with lettuce, capers, scallions of parmigiano-reggiano and lemon olive oil for $12 but both agreed the portion was generous. John had the tiger prawns, which came with a delicious spicy cocktail sauce for dipping, while I tried the Tuscan country-style pasta and bean soup. The thick rich soup was hearty and was served with thick slices of some of the best bread I have ever eaten. The bread infused with fragrant rosemary had a perfect texture and a delicious crust.

Mario tells me that this soup was once a staple of the poor in Italy, but is now considered a delicacy.

For a main course Don chose the Italian Arborio rice with porcini mushrooms and was pleased to find the dish full of these delicious mushrooms. John had his favourite dish of a grilled rack of lamb, which was served with Yukon gold potato parmesan gratin and a medley of fresh vegetables. John pleased that it was a full rack enjoyed the tender, perfectly prepared meat.

 Eshrat and I had the Ossobuco alla Romana

Mario's version of this classic Italian dish is based on the tradition of the Abruzzi region so doesn't come with the usual garnish of parsley, lemon peel and garlic. Instead the veal shanks are simmered in Mario's tomato sauce until tender and bursting with flavour. In the old country this dish is served with fettucine, but Mario has modified it for the Canadian market by substituting Arborio rice and of course it still comes with the wonderful bone filled with flavourful marrow.

We found the dessert menu an interesting mix of Canadiana – pecan tarts and "wacky apple" pie - and Italian favourites. At Brunello's the Zabaglione, which is a simple Italian dessert made of egg yolks, sugar, and Marsala wine is served warm in the traditional way and was a special treat and worth the $12 price tag.

With a private room on the second floor, Brunello's is perfect for small Christmas parties and Mario is offering a pre set menu ranging from $55-$75 per person. Appetizers are Stuzzichini – which means small plates with a little bit of everything, says Mario. Next the table is served a selection of Mario's pastas and then an individually set main course followed by a selection of desserts and coffee and tea.

As word continues to spread about this "little bit of Italy in Collingwood," the winter holidays are sure to be extra busy so reservations are strongly recommended.
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