La Favorita  (356 Preston St, Ottawa - lafavoritapreston.com)

Jay

In an ideal world, all cars would be German; all cigars would be Cuban; and all pizza would be Italian.  Considering this, it strikes me as odd that the ratio of sushi restaurants to wood fire pizzerias in Ottawa’s Little Italy is currently one to one.  La Favorita, boasting a rich history, minces no words when describing their pizza: 'the best in the nations capital'.  Although we’re not quite finished with this series, I believe there’s a good chance they’re right.

After moving twice since 1986, La Favorita has returned to its original location that started it all.  Although you would never expect it given the exterior, we were met with a modern split level dining room, romantic lighting, and a great selection of food.  The service was above and beyond, truly making it their personal goal to make sure we have a great night – even negotiating with the kitchen to prepare us an antipasto platter not offered on the menu. 

I was really tempted to try the Verona pizza (Five cheeses, red onions, tomatoes and pesto), but sacrificed my instinct to remain faithful to a true comparison by ordering the Margherita.  It was simply delicious.  I’m getting used to wood fire pizzas being served with a thin dry crust with proportional toppings, and believe me, there’s merit to that.  La Favorita takes a different direction, serving a wood fire pizza that is not exactly thin crust, but evenly cooked, crispy, covered in oil, and topped with an abundance of cheese.  Despite the heavier style, the tomato sauce and fresh basil added more than enough flavour, resulting in a quality pizza at a good price.

La Favorita does not serve the most traditional thin crust wood fire cooked pizza, but they certainly know their customers and deliver exactly what they want.  If it wasn’t for the busboy doing laps around the dining room as if it were an Olympic event, or the awkwardly placed box-like decorations exactly at head level, I would have no complaints.  

Sue

It took me a long time to figure out what exactly it was about La Favorita that didn’t impress me.  For all intents and purposes, it was a nice restaurant.  It had the high ceilings that are so popular right now, and modern lighting to set the mood.  The obligatory stone wall was present, and the in-house decorator had even placed some artsy-looking boxy shelving units into the walls and filled them with old bottles of wine and other interesting things.  And so, at first it seemed to me that maybe I was just being a bit of a snob, prematurely judging this restaurant that looked like it was just trying so hard to be relevant.  And then it hit me: that’s it!  This place was trying really, really hard.  They had the formula down, each ingredient that should combine to make it a trendy, character-filled restaurant at which the whole city is lining up to dine.  But just like a robot saying 'I love you', the mere presence of the correct elements wasn’t enough to make it believable.  In fact, with the absence of the heart needed to pull it all together, it had the effect of making me feel uncomfortable with the whole place.

Regardless, we took a seat at a table right next to the wall and checked out the menu.  They had a decent wine selection, and we each ordered a glass.  And here’s where I give our server and the kitchen kudos: although they didn’t have anything like a cheese plate or an antipasto platter on the menu, they were more than happy to oblige our request for either one, and a few minutes later we had a makeshift antipasto platter in front of us.  They managed to pull together some prosciutto, ham, two jalapeno peppers, some cubes of cheddar and mozzarella, black olives, and a bowl of some kind of blanched and ribboned vegetable that we never could identify.  It definitely wasn’t the best antipasto I’ve ever had, but for a last-minute project, it wasn’t bad. 

The pizza I ordered was called Verdura, and it had so many ingredients on it.  In fact, the menu told me that my pizza only had red peppers, artichokes, asparagus and hearts of palm on it, but in real life, it also had zucchini and onions.  Usually, the more the merrier but I hate onions, and zucchinis do not belong on a pizza.  My pizza may have been an enjoyable piece of Preston Street, but I’ll never know; I’ll always have the memory of the unwanted onions and zucchini to haunt me. 

Overall, I think La Favorita is a decent restaurant.  If the servers can keep up their exceptional work, they might just be able to instil the soul into this restaurant that I couldn’t find when I was there.

 

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