The menu for the event looked pretty decent, covering a broad range of stuff, plus platters of "chef's selections" for appetizers and desserts. It was a great chance to try many bites of their menu in the hopes that there'll be something in there Trattoria does really, really, well.
We were packed into a private meeting room, and I was super-lucky to be in the company of some of the hottest makeup and fashion bloggers in Vancouver -- Jasmine Li of The Happy Sloths (her review), Jordana of Just J, and Sheila of Maddy Loves.
The overall space, however, is really nice. Cavernous and quite beautifully laid out, though relying on darkness to help you pretend the unfinished industrial look to the ceiling doesn't exist. Upstairs dining seats about 80 and if nothing else can get you a great bird's-eye-view of the fantastic wood burning oven and bar.
You definitely pay for ambiance here, and I really have to give them bonus points for that oven/bar centerpiece. If you don't like paying money for the view, maybe go to Nosh literally next door and get salad and cheesecake for a dinner that'll probably net less than a single main at Trattoria, even with the 15% take-out discount at the latter or their various weekday offers. It's also spacious, brighter, and quieter.
The dinner-and-speaker event itself was off to a bad start after the appetizer platter. It was so noisy I could barely hear the speakers (which included the rather interesting Aji Gourmet Products).
Also, the menu initially listed for the event seemed to indicate Brussel Sprouts, Salad, and choice of main. Instead we got a shared plate of two pastas and veal. Dessert turned out to be four items to be shared among 10 people at our table. Divide a tiramisu by 10 and you've got a few bites and a few empty spoons. At least YVR Foodies weren't charging full price for this stuff, but just $25, tax and tip included.
On the other hand, IF the restaurant picked what we got, then surely this is the best they have to throw at diners, right? Let's see what Trattoria favourites and best recommendations are.
The above appetizer platter was for sharing with around 4-6 persons. That's 1-3 meatballs short. But they were big meatballs, so if your table didn't have jerks with bad math, hopefully people cut the balls in half to share.
No one really told me what they were so I'm gonna mix-and-match from the online menu for Trattoria Burnaby. From left to right:
- Forno Toast, two types of sliced meats from the antipasto platter
- One salty meat, one spicy meat. Both very flavourful. Didn't get to try the toast 'cause they all got snatched.
- Burrata & Prosciutto
- No one used the lemon wedge so I saved it for my water.
- Prosciutto is prosciutto unless you are a cured meat snob and can tell the different. That's not me.
- That burrata is stupidly tasty because it's salty. I know, right? Why is it tasty when it also looks like rubbery egg white and is sort of disgusting in texture. Anyway, it's tasty.
- Sicilian Calamari
- Normally comes with spicy tomato sauce. Might be the same sauce as on the meatballs and that's why they didn't give any sauce.
- Looks like it's tossed in some tasty mix, but that didn't really come through for me. More tasty than most calamari preparations, though, which tend to be just fried up and with sauce on the side. But nothing I'd run to order, either.
- Signature Meatballs
- I'm pretty sure these were kidnapped from their Truffled Spaghetti & Signature Meatball pasta plate.
- As meatballs go, these are actually really decent. The sauce isn't overly salty (unlike my recent Cactus Club catastrophe sauced balls). The balls themselves were nicely spiced with a touch of heat (my bias).
- Firm yet very moist and definitely not crumbly (my pet peeve). See below for close-up.
- Mystery salad
- Probably a stripped down salad from one of the selection, maybe Pear & Gorgonzola. Whatever it is, it had a refreshing vinaigrette.
The above is the plate of mains to be shared by 4-6 persons. These were thankfully identified. From left to right:
- Truffled spaghetti with herbed ricotta on top
- Obviously taken from their Truffled Spaghetti and Signature Meatballs pasta plate, minus the meatballs.
- Before I got a chance to sample the spaghetti on its own, someone thoroughly mixed in the ricotta. The spaghetti still had a wonderful truffle aroma and flavour, but also an oily/fatty aftertaste and texture, making me really conflicted about liking this dish. It does get a passing grade, however.
- The truffle aroma and flavour is very clear, and would have gone great with something to accompany it instead of just a plate of spaghetti. Obviously, in a normal order, this would be their signature meatballs.
- Veal Saltimbocca; served with brussels sprouts; topped with prosciutto
- Two persons grabbed a whole piece of veal each, leaving one piece to be divided into three less-than-a-tablespoon bites for everyone else. I got a small bite and it tasted like boring meat. Did I miss something or is this terribly boring?
- Those brussels sprouts are really good. Deep fried till obviously some of the leaves are burnt and bitter, but then tossed in some sort of mix including lemon (I think), making them tasty with the bitterness strangely growing on you. It's not easy to make bitter and burnt foods tasty, but Trattoria does it very nicely here. More complex than Nuba's Najib's Special, and more tasty than Minami's Brussels Sprout Chips (last time I had them they were too overwhelmingly bitter-burnt).
- Penne Arrabiata with a dollop of burrata on top
- Hurray for that strangely tasty burrata again.
- This has a spicy kick to it. Otherwise, despite the apparent extra ingredients, it didn't taste that much much better than penne in thick tomato paste/sauce. I think the sauce and spicy heat flattened the other flavours.
- Really nicely al dente.
This plate of presumably one full-sized order of Tiramisu (with caramel sauce and biscotti) was shared by ten (10) persons. Are these guys bad at portioning or what? (To be fair, people at our table were also bad at portioning or just plain selfish). All I got to try was one half of strawberry, and it wasn't very sweet. Not in season? No one wanted the other half.
This plate of three desserts was shared by ten (10) persons. All I got was a messy teaspoon of the cake on the far right, and a chip from the chocolate chunks on the far left. Those chocolate-covered chunks turned out to be very interesting -- and brittle. When someone tried to cut it with a spoon, it basically exploded with some goodly pieces wasted by flying off table and onto the floor (I advise against trying the three-second rule at any restaurant).
Below is a fragment salvaged:
Despite appearances, it was not overly hard and it did not stick to my molars after chewing. Instead, it felt like it melted away quickly, making it a surprisingly light dessert. I'll have to go back and figure out what this honeycomb stuff is.
Of the items I got to try, food mostly comes in at around average, with a price that outpaces it, making 3-course dining here a pretty pricey proposition for what you get. Excellent picks include the Brussels Sprouts (available as a side) and the Truffled Spaghetti (definitely worth trying with its proper signature meatballs in place). Go on Tratt Tuesday to get any pasta at just $12, which is honestly huge savings when they are typically $17-$20+.
If you allow points for ambiance, the spaciousness and decor help score this restaurant a more than merely passing grade.
Add the special offer days and this place is a winner -- on those days of the week, anyway.
The upstairs section was sadly closed when I first go there, but if you go late enough that it's dark out, try to get a choice seat upstairs overlooking the ground floor.