“Buon giorno,” he bellows into the phone and my ear. I’m trying, for the fourth time, to snag a table at his restaurant. Once more, I’m told, 9:30 p.m. or else not tonight. Perhaps the bar? He’s sorry, no, even the bar is reserved.
The guy on the phone, the one they call “pocopazzo,” is Sicilian-born chef Emanuele Leonforte. The word means, literally, “a little crazy,” which, according to his restaurant’s website and his staff, fits chef Emanuele just fine. He owns the restaurant with his Ottawa-born wife Angela. At lunch Angela’s dad waits on tables. It’s a family affair.
Other than the passionate phone greeting, and the few times he’s come out of the kitchen to offer some advice on a veal dish (sound advice, thank you) or to assure me his salmon was fresh (indeed, and nicely cooked too), I have little evidence the name fits. The guy seems enthusiastic, but otherwise quite sane.
He’s certainly quite sane about his pricing. No dish is over $20, including veal or fish. Which may well explain why you might go pocopazzo trying to get a table here.
First impressions don’t impress too much. The bread basket tastes of supermarket focaccia and comes with whipped butter packages. Surely not Sicilian, this?
We ordered the Pocopazzo sharing platter one visit and found a display of fried brown food – greasy calamari, so-what zucchini sticks with bottled dressings, and boring bruschetta with a paucity of basil. Mussels were fishy and oversteamed one night. The tortellini in the tortellini soup were tough and tasteless.
But one lunch was thoroughly satisfying – a hearty chicken soup, followed by orechiette (little ears) with rapini, a nice cannoli filled with sweetened ricotta and chocolate chips, then a fine espresso. A second lunch was disappointing – a spinach salad that featured tough strips of grey beef coated in a gorgonzola sauce. With the lunch special (manicotti) came a side salad drenched in what tasted like bottled dressing.
The only distinctive starter was the stuffed melanzane – roasted eggplant that boasted a solid tomato sauce, sharp cheese, herbs and toasted pine nuts for crunch. For $8, this was a steal of a light meal.
Main dishes generally stand up well. Pocopazzo’s tomato sauce is a robust one. It graces the properly al dente pasta dishes – dishes like the well-flavoured gemelli with sausages and roasted peppers, the linguine with a generous amount of seafood, the house lasagna.
Ignoring the jarring garlic that ruins the spinach beneath the salmon, the fish itself is delicious – handsomely cross-hatched, the outside crusty, the flesh moist and with a ruby centre.
Veal has been tender, sauces appropriately rich and the selection of side vegetables, including some lovely herby roast potatoes, has been just fine.
Pocopazzo is a pleasant place to spend some time, with a young, hard-working staff anxious to please.
There aren’t many good, locally owned restaurants in Kanata or Stittsville, and Pocopazzo is trying hard to be one of the few. I won’t cross town for dinner here, but this little place is doing enough right to keep the local diners happy, including pricing itself attractively for the suburban market in which it seems to thrive. Book well in advance.