Address: 1697 Corydon Avenue
Though still very much the family-run establishment that has been serving classic, home-made style pasta and pizza in River Heights for over 30 years, Mona Lisa Ristorante Italiano underwent a remarkable transformation in March 2013. A complete overhaul of the main room has seen it converted into a hip and contemporary urban dining lounge that easily keeps pace with the neighbourhood’s changing demographic and trendy new eateries.
Cream walls, dark wood and soft accent lighting create a very chic setting, while a slick fireplace and smooth jazz ensure a warm and relaxed ambiance. Exposed ceilings and brick are a stylish nod to the restaurant’s heritage and original pieces by Winnipeg’s up-and-coming artists add colour.
Not to be outdone, Mona Lisa’s kitchen has also modernized its menu. While authentic, flavour-forward southern Italian favourites – traditional pizzas, pastas, chicken, veal, and seafood – continue to please, as do all of the sauces, pastas, breads, and desserts which are still made fresh in house every day – several creative new options deliver elevated detours for curious diners.
Thick, bite-sized slices of spicy, house-made salsiccia Calabrese are fried, then sautéed in a rich tomato herb sauce with bell peppers and tender potatoes. The lean, robust sausage bursts with flavour, while delicate potatoes and crunchy crostini provide perfect platforms for sharing it all. Like its appetizers, Mona Lisa’s entrées will satisfy even the heartiest of appetites. Well known for its excellent tomato-based sauces, some new menu options have taken a decidedly different turn.
In a savoury twist on the classic porchetta e fagioli, fresh Italian beans are simmered to buttery softness with tomato, onion and herbs, then generously topped with strips of tender, slow-roasted pork. Frangelico liqueur enhances the vitello dolce’s mellow cream sauce with sweetness and subtle hazelnut flavour. Tossed with thin medallions of char-grilled veal and fresh fettuccine, this sauce enriches Mona Lisa’s repertoire of vibrant classics.
Desserts are all made in house by the owner’s “mamma Angelina,” including an impossibly airy wedge of tiramisu that is big enough for two and packs just enough punch of coffee to complete a hearty meal.
Mona Lisa Ristorante Italiano is open Mon to Thurs 11:30-11; Fri to Sat 11:30-midnight; Sundays 4:30-10.
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