Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Grosvenor Tre Visi an uneven experience

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Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press

The Pannacotta al Ciocolato at Tre Visi

There's a Tre Visi on Grosvenor, and a Tre Visi on McDermot, but, confusingly, there's no connection between the two. The downtown restaurant (according to our server at the new one) has been sold, and will eventually change its name. The one on Grosvenor is the only one connected to the original.

When I reviewed it a little over a year ago, it was a cadet branch of the downtown operation, with a more limited menu, but there have been significant changes since that review. For one thing, reservations now are accepted; for another, the downtown staff has moved to this newer venue. The menu has incorporated some of the downtown dishes, but it has also dropped a few from last year's Grosvenor menu.

Some of the downtown classics are missing -- no carpaccio, for instance; no farfalle with smoked salmon; and no beef medallions in barolo. However, I was delighted to find that they'd brought with them the panzanella bread and tomato salad that I had learned to love some years ago downtown and haven't had since ($10). But (in the "be careful what you wish for" department) my first try was a major disappointment, with not enough dressing to penetrate the focaccia, and not enough flavour in the dressing itself. Moreover, I find the bocconcini to be nothing but a bland intrusion and, for my taste, more focaccia and less (or even no) bocconcini would be a big improvement. But nothing if not stubborn in pursuit of my favourites, I gave it another shot and I was second-time lucky -- it was delicious.

The agro dolce beet salad, though, was a first-shot winner, dotted by bits of goat cheese and lightened by slices of orange and strips of fennel with the added crunch of walnuts ($11, for a huge portion). Two other starters were less successful. Polpette, baked meatballs of pork, veal and beef in tomato sauce, were tough and flavourless ($2 per meatball), and a caesar salad was a perfunctory and completely tasteless disgrace ($5 small, $9 large). Other possible starters are mixed olives, calamari, zucchini fries, and shrimp with pesto cream and sun-dried tomatoes ($5 to $15).

Most of entrées are available at dinner only but the wonderful veal scallopini boscaiola is one of the few listed on the lunch menu -- ultra-thin slices of tender veal in a glorious Marsala sauce, heady with the earthy aroma of heaps of wild mushrooms. It's also better value at lunch, when $24 also buys a choice of pasta or salad, and a basketful of the excellent house-made focaccia. At dinner, it is $21 but, like all the entrées, completely la carte. You can add a small side of pasta for $3.50 or (a better idea) a little plate of grilled mixed vegetables for $4.50, and if you want bread, it will set you back another $4.

Two other dinner entrées sampled were also excellent ($20 to $33). Succulent and expertly grilled lamb chops were slightly pink within and marvellously flavourful. The giant, flattened veal chop parmigiana comes topped by a layer of mozzarella under a blanket of delectable tomato sauce. Other, unsampled entrées include chicken in white wine, garlic and lemon; prawns with tomato, capers and olives; braised lamb shanks with risotto Milanese; and house-made pork sausages with peppers.

If our pastas had lived up to the excellence of the meats, there might have been another half-star above ($16 to $19, with gluten-free options for $3.50 extra). Although they were far from light, the gnocchi were the pasta I liked best -- my main quibble would be that a pesto cream sauce should taste more of basil. The capelli (angel hair) pasta was a tad too rich for me, but it was the star of the show for one of my bunch, who loved the plump, juicy scallops and shrimp in a saffron cream sauce.

However, we were all in agreement about the serious flaws in the other sampled pastas. We couldn't detect any "mushroom ragu" in the penne forestiera, which also needed more than a thin scattering of mushrooms to justify its name, and also more than the rare wee flecks of the promised pancetta. But the most surprising disappointment was that simplest and easiest of pastas -- spaghetti with garlic and olive oil, which was watery and (despite the garlic) tasteless.

There are a few pizzas. The Tre Visi -- thin-crusted and sparsely sprinkled with crumbled pork sausage, onions and pickled peppers -- was pretty good, but note: those peppers are very hot ($15). At lunch there are some panini as well -- the Caprese with mozzarella, tomato and pesto; the Italiano with Italian meats, cheese, tomato and lettuce; and con Polpette, with meatballs, tomato sauce and mozzarella ($14 to $15, including a salad).

Desserts are few, among them the inevitable tiramisu, cheesecake, gelati and sorbets ($6 to $7). The lemony polenta and almond cake, which I'd remembered as superb on my previous visits, was a tad stodgy this time, but the pannacotta al ciocolato -- a velvety chocolate cream topped by cherries cooked in chianti -- was sheer glory.

The decor is one of understated chic (only two attractive plaques listing daily specials adorn the off-white and raspberry walls) with a cool, cosy ambience and Italian music played at a bearable decibel level. The service was friendly, accommodating and attentive, and the wine list is fairly extensive, with several available by the glass.

marion.warhaft@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 13, 2014 C5

History

Updated on Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 5:48 AM CDT: Changes headline, changes photo, adds link, adds map

6:04 AM: Adds slideshow

March 14, 2014 at 9:12 AM: Changes headline

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