When they nail the soup and the bread, I relax into my evening. These are not trifles. Soup and bread speak volumes. This deep, shallow bowl in front of me, steam rising from its surface, is a pebbly, earthy chickpea purée, piqued and prettied with tomato oil, perfectly seasoned. Rising out of its centre is a standout fritter of eggplant sharpened with parmigiano. Bread is crusty, flavourful, served with green oil and black vinegar with kick. It sops up the last puddle of soup.
Casa Domenico, a downtown-Kingston Italian restaurant with the unfussy look of a sophisticated trattoria boasts an outside view of the Market Square skating rink and of a blazing fire inside. On this day it is my refuge after a brutal day of high school basketball trouncings and driving a van full of outsized, stinky, dejected boys from a medieval gym in suburban Kingston. And it suits me like a hot bath on a January day.
I might even have been happy with just the soup and bread by the fire. But we sample more because we must, and it is exceptionally good.
After soup, there is grilled calamari, where the almost shocking bitterness of arugula is relief from an oily broth, strewn with roasted tomatoes and capers, chillies and garlic. Oversized shrimp are grilled and bathed in an apricot curry sauce. (It’s not all Italian, this Casa.)
We move on to gnocchi, a dish that’s more often all wrong than right, but Casa Domenico’s potato dumplings are satin pillows – soft and yielding, cuddled in a truffled cheese sauce strewn with rich, meaty honey mushrooms and pungent porcinis.
The most appealing main dish is pork. “Maiale alla Siciliana” is a slow-roasted pork tenderloin set in a walnut sauce strewn with smoked bacon and dates. It is excellent.
The standard Italian restaurant dessert is polished and luscious. Tiramisu may bore us much of the time, but when it’s done well, it’s a dreamy thing.
Add to these assets a wine list that seems lovingly assembled and servers who know what they’re doing, and the sum is an extraordinarily satisfying restaurant. If you live in Kingston, or have occasion to sit in its gymnasiums, do drop by.