434 1/2 Preston St., Ottawa – Website
Date of Visit: June, 2016
What first intrigued me about this establishment when I came across their website was the curious logo consisting of a shamrock in the colors of the Italian flag; it certainly bespoke some potentially interesting cultural fusions. The other thing that captured my interest was a very comprehensive Beer menu, with draft and bottled selections both local and international. The prospect of such a wide range of choices was alone enough to make me venture there for lunch one Thursday morning…
The food menu at Pub Italia is also pretty decent. In addition to some fairly standard pub style appetizers, soups and salads, they also offer some delicious sounding sandwiches as well as a wide range of pizzas and pasta dishes. There are also a few meat and seafood entrees but what really piqued my interest was a separate category for six different Mussel platters, all of which each involve cooking with a different sort of beer.
Pub Italia features a pleasant outdoor seating area (although Preston street can be quite noisy) but the interior really needs to be seen to be believed. The place advertises itself as being ‘where Ireland meets the boot’ and where this may be true of the cuisine and drinks selection, the decor suggests neither. Rather, it seems to combine the features of a medieval cathedral with … Well, I’m not sure what. There are organ pipes on one wall, gothic arches as well stained glass windows, all along with a very eclectic mix of murals, hangings and weird bric-a-brac. There is even, in the men’s washroom, a picture which appears to represent a group of vampires watching a man pee into a sink, of all things. I don’t mean to sound critical in my attempt at description; indeed, I liked the place and can only say that it is worth visiting just to take a look.
Tasty Little Bastards – I have to confess that it was the name of this particular appetizer that drew me. It is described on the menu as ‘breaded, deep-fried cheese ravioli with cheese fried dip’ and, though this sounded a little rich for a first course, my waitress assured me it wasn’t a huge serving. In the event, it turned out to be seven ravioli alongside a dipping sauce that was a bit like a mildly spicy ‘Thousand Island’ style dressing. It wasn’t bad, on the whole, and the cheese (mozzarella, I think’) was nicely stretchy, but it wasn’t especially memorable. I would have been a bit more generous in my rating but the lemon wedge and onion that came on the side were a bit desiccated (bespeaking a lack of care in the kitchen) and I only gave this a 2 out of 5
Hefe Leffe’s Mussels – This was probably the simplest of the mussel dishes on offer and is made with Leffe Ale, red and green peppers, oil, garlic and onions. It also comes served with a side basket of bread. The platter was not huge (albeit plenty enough for me) and the whole was really delightful. I like mussels best with garlic, butter and white wine but these were nicely sweet and the juice, which I mopped up with the nutty, brown bread, was complex and tasty. I rated this at a 4 out of 5.
The service was excellent throughout my meal. I actually moved from outside to inside during my visit (it was a very hot day) and both of my servers were attentive without being overly so. I liked the food, even if the appetizer wasn’t anything special, and I give the place a 4 out of 5