Halifax Italian Restaurants: Ristorante a Mano & Piatto Pizzeria & Enoteca

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During my recent vacation in Halifax, I dined at two Italian restaurants, one more high-end and one more casual. How would they compare to Italian spots in the Boston area? Check out my initial impressions, which were both largely positive, and I would definitely return to both restaurants on any future trips to Halifax. 

The high-end spot was Ristorante a Mano, part of the Bertossi Group, and it's located on the waterfront. It's an elegant, but not pretentious, restaurant, with an interesting menu and wine list. It has previously received numerous raves for their Italian cuisine. The Menu its broken down into Antipasti, Salads and Soups (14 options, $8-$19); from Gamberi In Padella to Minestra Della Sposa; Pizza (9 options, $19-$20), from Quattro Carni to Tartufata; Hand-Made Pasta (12 options, $23-$26), from Gnocchi Bolognese to Tortellini Al Prosciutto; and Entrees (7 options, $30-$40), from Piccata Di Vitello to Filetto di Manzo. (Note: All prices are in Canadian dollars.)

The wine list has plenty of Italian options, but also includes wines from all over the world, including Canada, California, France, Germany, Spain and Portugal. There are a good number of wines priced about $50-$60 per bottle. We opted for the 2020 Michele Chiarlo Il Principe Langhe Nebbiolo ($55), a tasty wine with flavors of bright red fruits, violet notes, restrained tannins, good acidity, and a lengthy finish. A very good food wine. 

We started our meal with an appetizer of Schiacciata ($8), warm handmade focaccia bianca with EVOO, roasted garlic, fresh herbs, and sea salt. It was average, tasty enough but nothing special. 

I opted for the Lasagna ($23), handmade lasagna layered with a beef & pork ragù, montasio (an Italian mountain cheese) & béchamel. This was an impressive dish, well balanced, and full of flavor. The pasta was cooked perfectly, with plenty of tender meat and melted cheese, and it was all spiced just right. It was a hearty dish but I was sure to finish my plate. Each forkful brought a delight to my palate and I'd highly recommend this dish. 

The Pan Seared Atlantic Halibut ($32), with wild Argentinian Shrimp, a lemon beurre blanc, charred tomatoes, herbed Orzo, and sautéed greens, was another impressive dish. The halibut was fresh, flaky and delicious, cooked just right, and well accented by the beurre blanc. Another nicely composed dish, with each element working well on its own although combining to create an even greater whole. 

I would definitely return to Ristorante a Mano, especially to try more of their pasta dishes. I would like to check out their pizza too. 

Piatto Pizzeria & Enoteca is a casual spot, with about eight locations in the Nova Scotia region, and it specializes in Neapolitan pizza. I actually knew almost nothing about this place when I decided to dine here. It caught my eye while wandering the city, and the menu looked appealing. The Menu includes Antipasti (6 options, $12-$24), from Bruschetta to Arancini, Insalate (4 options, $13-$15), House-Made Pasta (3 options, $15-$20), Handhelds (3 options, $16-$17), from La Dolce Vita Burger to Piadina Caprese; and Pizze Rosso & Bianche (16 options, $14-$21). 

We began our dinner with the Arancini ($14), deep-fried risotto balls, stuffed with Fior di Latte mozzarella and served over San Marzano tomato sauce and finished with Grana Padano. Nice crunchy exterior, with a creamy center, accompanied by a tasty red sauce. A very nice way to begin the meal.

We opted for an 11-inch Pizze Bianche, the Stephanie ($20), which is made with an EVOO base topped with soft goat cheese, prosciutto and sweet caramelized pears, all finished with a drizzle of balsamic reduction. An excellent and delicious pizza, with a nice blend of textures and flavors, both salty and sweet, with a fine crisp and chewy crust and slight char. They didn't skimp on the toppings and I was very pleased with our choice. I suspect their other pizzas would be equally as delicious. 

We also tried the Spaghetti + Polpette ($20), house-made spaghetti served with three meatballs, topped with San Marzano tomato sauce and Grana Padano. The meatballs were very good, firm without being too hard or too soft. A good meaty taste, enhanced by a nice red sauce, and the well-cooked pasta. It may be a simple dish, but it's a great way to judge an Italian restaurant. 

For a casual, inexpensive dinner, Piatto Pizzeria & Enoteca will fit your bill.


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