To cap off a gluttonous week of eating out, I took my family to the Santa Maria Goretti Centre (11050 90 Street) for their famous seven-course weekly brunch on Sunday.
With its status as a media darling (written up once in See Magazine, twice in Vue Weekly, and just recently in the Journal), attending the pranzo (lunch) feels a bit like a rite of passage for foodies in Edmonton. Their menu changes every week, but from the website (and all of the echo chamber praise), I was expecting “Italian cuisine in the Santa Maria Goretti style…based solely on the precept of superior ingredients over fancy preparation.” From the pieces I had read here and there, I knew to also anticipate a large, lively Italian crowd of regulars, family-style platters, and more food than the stomach could handle. And though it pains me to pan a non-profit that cradles repeat business and has nothing but the best intentions, this just wasn’t a good day for first timers to the Centre.
Santa Maria Goretti Centre
We drove up and parked our car in the shadow of Commonwealth Stadium. There was a bit of confusion as there were numerous functions going on that morning, but we eventually found ourselves in the correct main hall, and after paying $19 per head (cash or cheque accepted only), settled in at our table.
The hall itself is beautiful, with burnished wooden floors, majestic chandeliers, and an audiovisual setup that allowed the Euro2008 game to be broadcast and clearly viewed by all in the room. I can only imagine the glorious weddings and celebrations that have taken place here, especially with free access to a large parking lot (so long as a major event isn’t occurring next door).
Felicia and Amanda in the hall
We had been sitting idle for about fifteen minutes when I decided to approach the hostess about when the coffee and food would start being served. She assured me that our server would be taking care of us right away; I hoped so, as my Mum and I were getting pretty antsy without our morning cup of joe.
Thankfully, our waitress came by shortly after with a carafe, a basket of bread, and an antipasto platter. The latter contained scoops of potato salad, cheese, and an assortment of cold cuts. We all dug in right away, and though none of it was particularly noteworthy, we were definitely ready to eat at that point.
The second platter (also chill to the touch, not unexpected in what was essentially a banquet function) featured veal with tuna sauce and capers. I was underwhelmed, though the veal, tasting like roast beef, wasn’t bad.
Veal with Tuna Sauce
Our third dish was one that Amanda had been looking forward to all morning – pasta. This incarnation of rotini with tomato sauce and basil hit the comfort food spot, and was probably my favorite of all seven courses.
Amanda helps herself to some pasta
By the time the bulk of our mains were served, the hall had filled up to capacity, with families from the church next door taking up the remaining tables. These courses included a salad with Italian dressing, a side platter of cheddar-roasted potatoes and mixed vegetables (the frozen variety), pork rolls with gravy, and roasted chicken breasts in white sauce. Because this was the heartiest portion of food we received, it left the biggest impression on us – the potatoes, pork, and chicken had all been overcooked, rendering them dry, tough, and virtually tasteless. It’s worth noting that we were offered seconds of all entrees, but other than the pasta, we wouldn’t have wanted to have to eat any more of the disappointing mains.
Lots of food
Felicia smiles suspiciously at the camera
Dessert was a slice of cherry cake, and like the dishes that preceded it, the crumbly cake was devoid of moisture and best consumed with a cup of coffee.
Posing with the cherry cake
While I did enjoy the “family-style” way of dining, and passing around platters (instead of the accustomed ease of a Lazy Susan at Asian restaurants), I was expecting so much more from this supposed best-kept secret in Edmonton. Given the rotational menu, however, perhaps we just experienced a off-day in the kitchen, and should offer the Centre a fair second opportunity leave us with a better impression.