Oliver & Bonacini

December 27th, 2006 by Potato

For years my parents have raved about “Oliver’s” (Oliver & Bonacini) at Bayview Village [Sheppard & Bayview, North York]; my mom goes there for lunch so often the staff come up to her to say hi when she’s out shopping (or when they’re on their way out if she goes for dinner). Today they dragged me there for a nice family dinner (which the siblings were smart enough to duck out of at the last minute).

I have to say I wasn’t very impressed with the place. Well, the place was actually quite nice: it was quiet, well lit, and had inoffensive decor. The staff was nice and friendly, though we happened to arrive right between the lunch and dinner rush so they were short-handed and didn’t have a clean table ready for us (even though it was only about 10% full). Once seated we had to wait a long while before our waiter came onto his shift, too.

The food all looked excellent, but didn’t seem all that tasty. My dad had the halibut special, and said it was a very good piece of fish that was cooked well, but just didn’t have any outstanding flavour. It was just fish with lemon. I had spring rolls and bruscetta, usually a safe choice for my very limited palette. Both were very oily and relatively tasteless (there weren’t even any onions in the bruscetta!). I was also a little miffed at the pizza: we ordered a “Prosciutto” which has “vine ripened tomatoes, bocconcini & tomato sauce” sounded like a nice, plain pizza for me. It sounded just like the “Margherita” above it, except it also had tomato sauce (and how I hate “gourmet” pizza that just puts globs of cheese down amongst tomatoes and considers it worthy of the name “pizza”). I knew already that bocconcini is a type of soft cheese similiar to that holiest of pizza holies, mozzarella; while I tend to prefer old-fashioned mozzarella, this would probably be a type of pizza I could eat. When it came, it was absolutely smothered in ham: turns out “Prosciutto” is a type of ham. Who knew? It’s something that I’ve found annoying in the pizza world: giving pizzas names on the menu, and then just hoping that you can get the kind you want. Often people will get extra things added or something held off, and in this case what seems like a name (“Margherita”, “Roma”, “Tuscan”, “Sofia”, “Prosciutto”) is actually one of the ingredients, but not included in the list of ingredients below the name. Though I suppose it can help indecisive people put together a set of toppings, and suggest extra toppings for adventurous people to put together (which usually helps the pizza place push more toppings).

Something else that really grated me was the notice on the bottom of the menu that “for the sake of all our customers, we cannot allow substitutions”. It just seems so arrogant to me that the chefs could think that the dish they put together would be absolutely perfect for everyone, and that they aren’t willing to go to the extra work to customize it for each person. It’s like the restaurant is saying that the ego of the chefs is more important than the preference of the customer. And oddly enough, it tends to only be these hoity-toity places that have those sorts of rules. You can almost imagine one of the annoying chefs from the food network (there are lots of good hosts on TV too, don’t get me wrong, but you all know there are a few chefs on that network that just make you cringe and your stomach turn at what they throw together) coming out to lecture you about how the saltiness of the anchovies will play nicely against the bitterness of the balsamic vinegar and refuse to take no for an answer, no matter how much you try to tell them that anchovies and vinegar in pasta is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

While I’m on the subject of poor menu descriptions, I’ll talk about Symposium, a cute little place in London where you eat from these big armchairs. They have fairly good bruscetta (or they did 2 out of 3 times I was there), but you can find it in two different places in the menu. In the appetizers section, it’s billed as tomatoes and goat cheese on bread, which is sort of… ugh. Later on, with their pastas, it’s billed as garlic, tomatoes, and onions lightly covered in mozzarella and parmasean, which sounds much better. I don’t know if they have two different types, or if it’s just a mistake on the menu, or what the story is, but I’m always careful to point to the one in the pasta section, just in case.

Anyhow, to finish off my review of Oliver’s, I’d have to say that if you want to go to a swanky/trendy, downtown restaurant with decent (though not great) food, and show off big bills ($90 for the three of us) without actually having to go downtown, then Oliver’s is the place for you.

4 Responses to “Oliver & Bonacini”

  1. Ben Says:

    You obviously don’t watch enough Food Network if you didn’t know that Prosciutto is ham :o) (it’s fabulous wrapped around cantaloup or honeydew melon slices) Then again, if it wasn’t included in the ingredient listing how can you really be blamed for expecting it to not be on the pizza.

  2. Netbug Says:

    I don’t know about you guys, whether you have tried it and dislike it or have been turned off by the name, but goat cheese is fantastic. It’s like a softer form of feta with slightly less bite.

    I love it.

  3. Ben Says:

    I haven’t tried it yet, but I have been tempted on many occassions…

  4. Jen Says:

    The reason some restaurants dont substitute is because they mass make the dinners. If they were to customize each plate, the wait will be much longer for the customers.