Steakhouse Elegance: Bistecca

Four months ago, my friend Janice relocated to Toronto. She came back to visit last week, and, craving some good ol’ Alberta Beef, asked for a steakhouse recommendation for our gathering. As the group had yet to try Bistecca, the newest addition to the Sorrentino’s family, it seemed like a good choice.

We met there on Wednesday night. It was a quiet evening in the restaurant, with only half a dozen tables occupied over our entire stay. I was the first of our party to arrive, which gave me some time to admire the décor and soak up the ambiance. The black/white/red colour palate reminded me of Caffe Sorrentino interiors, but with the addition of carpet, plush banquets and high-mounted mirrors, the space had a modern sophistication a cut above its coffee house cousins. The floor-to-ceiling windows also helped dispel the myth that steakhouses must be cavernous and dimly lit. I really appreciated the interior, and had high hopes for the food.


The menu provided better range than a typical steakhouse as well, with Italian-inspired dishes such as panzanella and seafood fritters, which would satisfy even those not wishing to partake in heavier entrees. Annie ended up going that route, ordering a risotto cake and bison Carpaccio, while the rest of us chose dishes from the steak menu (most which are accompanied with the day’s potato and vegetable). It is worth noting that Bistecca sources some of their meat from local farms – Spring Creek Ranch and Crystal Creek – and prices were more reasonable than I expected, ranging from $26 for a duo of flank and flat iron steaks to $85 for a 32 ounce Porterhouse for two.

Parmigiano-Reggiano risotto cake with shaved smoked duck, Morello cherry, berry peppercorn oil

While none of us were floored by our selections, most of us enjoyed our meals. My order of braised Spring Creek Ranch short ribs ($28) was pretty generous, fully de-boned, and necessarily tender. The fat-to-meat ratio was also less than I’ve usually encountered, without significant detriment to flavour. I didn’t take to the polenta cake underneath, however – stringy and tasteless, I could have done without it.

Short ribs

Beef tenderloin (6 ounces, $32)

Marinated steak duo (flank and flat iron steaks, $26)

The only really egregious error that occurred that night was with one companion’s “Bistecca” (a 14 ounce rib-eye, $37), which had been prepared medium-well instead of the requested rare. The server apologized for the error, and had a replacement steak prepared promptly.

The “Bistecca”

Service wavered a bit, as our waiter had a tendency to disappear when we needed him most (such as informing him about the overcooked dish). Still, our experience was mostly positive, and as a result, I wouldn’t mind returning to Bistecca in the future if I had a craving for steak served in an elegant but comfortable dining room.

2345 111 Street
(780) 439-7335
Monday-Thursday 3-10pm, Friday-Saturday 3-11pm, Sunday 4-9pm

Forgettable and Generic: That’s Aroma

Neither Mack or myself had any particular craving in need of relief on Wednesday evening, so we resorted to ruffling through my mess of coupons to determine our dinner destination that night. We ended up at the nearby That’s Aroma (11010 101 Street) located in the Hys Centre building just north of the core. A member of the Sorrentino’s Group , That’s Aroma is known for their pervasive use of garlic in their dishes. I had heard mixed reviews from friends who had been here in the past, with comments mainly emphasizing the poor value of the food served. As this was our first time to the restaurant, I was open to seeing what they had to offer.

It was still relatively early, so it was no surprise that the restaurant was empty save for two tables. The décor reminded me of the Little Italy location of Sorrentino’s – warm cream walls, wood accents, and homey touches here and there – a garlic wreath, and several garlic clove-themed paintings. The one-page paper menu was nicely presented and easy to read, but I found that their descriptions could have used better language.


After some discussion, we decided to order the shrimp-stuffed mushrooms ($9.50), and one pasta entree each. Being on a shrimp kick, he chose the Capellini Oriental ($17), while I opted for the Garlic Pasta ($16), in the hopes of tasting a dish that would utilize their ingredient claim to fame. Also, the “Asian touch” was of interest to me – what did it mean? A dash of soy sauce? Having been cooked by an Asian chef?

I would have appreciated the bread course prior to receiving our appetizer, but in any case, they arrived at the same time. Focaccia triangles were served with an entire bulb of roasted garlic, while our stuffed mushrooms were served on an escargot plate, covered with a layer of baked mozzarella. I eagerly spread several cloves of the garlic onto my slightly stale piece of bread, but I found the resulting flavour to be less than pleasant – the musky, guttural nature of the roasted cloves didn’t appeal to me. Mack liked the shrimp-stuffed mushrooms (which weren’t actually “stuffed” as much as placed on top), but I wasn’t feeling the combination.

Focaccia with Roasted Garlic

Stuffed Mushrooms

Service was consistent throughout, but by the end of the night, our waitress’s peppy-fake “Absolutely!” response to everything crossed the border of tolerable to cloying. And though we likely shouldn’t have high expectations for proper tabletop arrangements from a chain, she should have removed our wine glasses and side plates without request.

Our entrees were delivered not too long after we completed our starter, presented on whimsically-bordered plates I have seen used at other Sorrentino’s restaurants. Both of us thought the portion sizes were good (and resulted in enough left over for a small lunch the next day). The quality, on the other hand, was variable. Mack was happy with his dish as a whole – the creamy rich sauce with garlic essence was quite nice, and he liked the presence of both large and small shrimp. My pasta itself was tasty – the sauce agreeably married heat from chili flakes with the husky undertones of garlic, but the chicken was another story – dry to the point where I needed more water to wash it down. Besides the chili, I also couldn’t figure out the supposed “Asian” twist to my dish.


Garlic Pasta

We were tempted to try the garlic ice cream (served with lady finger biscotti), but ended up skipping dessert to be sure we wouldn’t miss Sarah Palin’s primetime debut. Sadly for That’s Aroma, halfway through the RNC coverage that night, we had already forgotten what we had for dinner.

That’s Aroma
11010 101 Street
(780) 425-7335
Lunch: Monday-Friday 11am-2pm; Dinner daily 5-10pm