Benvenuto, Orto Trattoria: Refined Italian Dining Comes to The Glebe

Orto Trattoria, 151 – C Second Avenue (off Bank Street)

Open: Monday to Wednesday 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday to Saturday 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Prices: Mains from $17 to $79

Access: Sidewalk access to front door and side entrance with wheelchair ramp

Looking for a fresh spot to spend New Year’s Eve?

An Italian-inspired newcomer to The Glebe’s bustling restaurant scene is quickly gaining the respect of local foodies. Though Orto Trattoria has only been open for a little over a month, it has received accolades on Trip Advisor and Google Reviews.

The restaurant’s owner, Top Chef Canada winner René Rodriguez, is evidently as attentive to his restaurant’s aesthetic as he is to the plating of his food. From its frosted glass room dividers, to its contemporary lighting fixtures and mirrored wall, Orto Trattoria manages to make an otherwise narrow dining space feel both trendy and intimate.

I first visited the local eatery to interview Rodriguez about Ottawa’s growing culinary industry for a short documentary my team and I filmed for the Twenty-Fifth Hour. For the purpose of this review, I did my best to remain inconspicuous by waiting a few days after the interview before making a dinner reservation for my partner and me. Potential preferential treatment aside, our server was patient, knowledgeable and expeditious.

This is a view of the restaurant from its front entrance.
This is a view of the restaurant from its front entrance. | Photo by Aaron Hemens

The trattoria’s dinner menu is divided into three sections: antipasti (appetizers), primi (first courses) and secondi (second courses). The wine list, though slightly limited when ordering by the glass, has a large assortment of Italian bottles that are showcased in a large glass cellar, next to the bar. Our server recommended we try a 2014 Primitivo Di Manduria from Puglia, Italy.

We shared an order of saffron arancini as an appetizer. The breadcrumb-coated, deepfried, rice-stuffed mozarella balls would have been delicious on their own, but the basil gel, pickled broccoli stem and cured meat that accompanied them made the carb overload even more worthwhile.

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This is the elegantly plated gnudi, which is constructed around a brush stroke of white sauce on a black plate.
This is the elegantly plated gnudi.

By the time we ordered our first course, I must have had a bit too much wine, because I was daring enough to ask our server for a gnudi. Still, no regrets. The pasta was savoury, brimming with ricotta cheese and complemented by the taste of pickled pear.

The second course was the true piece de resistance – buttermilk brined confit pig cheek. The dish’s name might not do it for you, but its description might. Rodriguez marries the savoury meat slab with baby vegetables and truffled peaches for a sweet contrast. The dish is also garnished with mostarda, Italian candied fruit in mustard-flavoured syrup. For the less adventurous foodies, the saltimbocca prosciutto wrapped chicken breast might be more appealing.

The tiramisu is innovative in its construction but classic in its taste.
The tiramisu is innovative in its construction but classic in its taste.

Before heading out and braving the cold winter air, we decided to indulge in a dessert and a warm coffee. We both chose the deconstructed tiramisu. The richness of the custard was offset by the biscuits, chocolate truffles and blackberries. It was a sweet way to end our night.

As we left through the front door, we were thanked repeatedly by the restaurant’s staff. Our server even took the time to memorize the name on our reservation in order to address us directly when asking us to come back again. Every member of Orto Trattoria’s staff seemed to be invested in the small business’ success. The staff’s passion and enthusiasm might be the restaurant’s greatest asset.

Despite its novelty, Orto Trattoria is sure to see continued success amongst Ottawa’s foodies.

Glasses are stacked on the bar’s counter, facing tiers of alcohol and liquor.
Glasses are stacked on the bar’s counter, facing tiers of alcohol and liquor.
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