Mona Lisa Ristorante Italiano
1697 Corydon Ave.
Street parking, wheelchair accessible
Lunch, dinner and take out menus
Mona Lisa Ristorante Italiano first opened its doors in 1983 but continues to reinvent itself on a continual basis, adding to its size in both directions and renewing and refreshing its concept in unique and inventive ways.
I watched with interest as the latest face lift occurred and was waiting for the perfect opportunity to visit again. When a business associate suggested that we celebrate our mutual birthdays with a lunch, I knew the time had come.
We whetted our appetites with slices of hot-from-the-oven bread which we dipped into a quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Mona Lisa’s lunch menu is quite compact, which is a good thing, as I prefer it when a few items are prepared with particular expertise, rather than many offerings being done with mediocrity. I did find it somewhat surprising that the only pasta offering was the pasta of the day: a penne with tomato sauce. But, priced so affordably at $5 with an Italian salad adding another $5, my date found it to be a satisfying lunch, especially for $10. She also said the simple sauce was very tasty and well-balanced.
I was not so easy to please. I read over the menu many times and just couldn’t make up my mind. So I decided to take a risk and asked our personable server to order whatever he thought I would like best.
When he asked if I was partial to veal, he immediately suggested that I try their version with an accompaniment of bocconcini and tomato salad. The escalopes were quickly turned with sautéed onions and accompanied by grilled eggplant, zucchini and red peppers in a simple, rustic presentation. The addition of skinny slices of red onion was a nice twist on the classic bocconcini salad recipe, but required a wee bit of salt to enhance the flavour of the abundant tomato wedges.
Proprietor Joe Grande was enjoying his own lunch at a neighbouring table.
In all the years that I have been enjoying Mona Lisa’s fare, he is a constant figure. On my last visit, he insisted that I tour the kitchen, to my delight. The fresh pasta was being lovingly prepared and was drying on massive wooden racks. The ancient process fascinates me every time I witness it.
Kathryne Grisim’s foodmusings.ca blog was named best local blog in Uptown Magazine’s Best of Winnipeg readers’ poll.