Quite a few different sources had been pointing us to Cafe Amore over the last few months – friends, associates, the blogosphere – it seemed everyone was raving about this small Italian eatery’s food and atmosphere. We finally gave it a try ourselves recently, to celebrate Mack’s birthday.
The trickiest thing about Cafe Amore is that reservations aren’t permitted for groups smaller than 6. When I called to confirm this, I also asked about the best time to avoid a long wait, but unfortunately, staff couldn’t commit to any particular time or day. So we took our chances on a Friday after work.
Cafe Amore is a small space to be sure – it resembled more of a small neighbourhood pub than a restaurant. The room was anchored by an 80s style wooden bar (with a glaringly fluorescent soda cooler), with several flat screen televisions adorning the walls. A handful of tables occupied the adjacent space, though as Mack noted, many of them looked to be comfortable four tops to which several more chairs had been added.
Because of the tight space, there wasn’t much room for a lobby. Later on, as more people piled in for the dinner rush, this became more apparent given we felt like the waiting parties were watching us eat. When we entered, there wasn’t a sign directing us to wait, so we weren’t sure if we were to hunt for a space ourselves. After a few minutes, a gregarious staff member greeted us, and told us he could squeeze us in at the bar (and eventually were fortunate enough to be moved to a table; the next couple who walked in wasn’t so lucky, and had to wait about 45 minutes).
As soon as he found out it was our first time at the restaurant, he shook our hands and introduced himself. Mack remarked later that although we weren’t impressed with the initial welcome or the close quarters, these misgivings were negated by the effort staff made to personally connect with diners (later, the patriarch of the restaurant not only made the rounds to check how our meal was going, but also thanked us on our way out).
Happy birthday, Mack!
We were told how the menu worked (no paper menus, just the chalkboard equivalent) – entree options included seven different pastas (with the pasta falling on that particular day offered at a discounted rate), prawns, and several specials. Appetizers changed on an almost daily basis. I settled on one of the pasta dishes ($14, plus $3 for chicken), while Mack opted for the crowning special of pasta pescatore ($25).
Though the server had promised our food would be delivered promptly, the swiftness exceeded both of expectations. The portion sizes also blew our minds – each of our plates could have easily fed two people. My sambucca rose was nothing special, though I enjoyed the slight sweetness of the sauce. In hindsight, I would have added the rapini ($4) for a bit of texture.
Mack’s pescatore, however, was the crown jewel at our table. Linguine and a generous amount of king crab, baby clams, mussels, jumbo prawns and baby shrimp had been tossed with a white wine sauce. Light and fresh, with perfectly prepared seafood, Mack could not be happier with his birthday dinner.
Though we did enjoy our food, our dinner really highlighted for us an instance where service can really make a meal. While we will be returning in the future, the lure of Cafe Amore is its staff, and their ability to make you feel welcomed and appreciated.
Before we left, we were told that the owners are hunting for a second location. Given the Delton storefront is bursting at the seams, this couldn’t come at a better time. But with the expansion, we do hope that they can maintain their personal touch, which sets Cafe Amore apart from other restaurants.
12118 90 Street
Sunday 12-6pm, Monday-Saturday 11am-12am