Massimo’s Cucina Italiana is an extension of the south side Italian Centre. But it has its own unique personality — reminiscent of a bistro with a counter in the front and a fine dining establishment in the back. The open kitchen has a chalkboard with the daily specials, which are much more elaborate than your typical café, while romantic lighting softens the brick wall and tables at the other end.
When our stuffed chicken breast and pan-seared salmon arrive, the plates are elegant enough to feel at home on the white linens. The moist chicken breaks apart to reveal creamy spinach sitting beside garlic mashed potatoes. While the salmon dish is elegant in its simplicity, the sharp bite of capers adds flavour to a sauce that’s both sweet and sour. Portions are filling, but modest enough that we also shared the ravioli barolo beef, which (at that point) was the highlight of the meal. Covered in a rich rosé sauce, the sweetness of reduced wine complements the flavourful beef.
But in the end, our final course takes the cake or in this case, mousse, which is the dessert special of the day. It’s an item, our waitress says, that might become a regular item on the menu. There’s a surprise when we bite into the dolci pistachio mousse. The layers of textures, starting with a blackberry glaze and ending with a salted crumble, are subtly sweet but take on bursts of tart and sweet flavours, when mixed with the locally sourced Pinocchio passion fruit sorbet. (5012 104A St., 780-439-4869, massimocucina.ca)