Jenny is a fresh food enthusiast from Ottawa, with west coast roots. You can following her cooking and photography fun at instagram.com/forevermunchies.
It’s the classic conundrum after a typical work day – you don’t want to cook, but you’re craving something delicious, fast, and cheap, but also just fresh and healthy-ish enough to be sensible as a weeknight dinner. More often than not (for me anyway), I have a hankering for Italian. In Ottawa, there are some fantastic – brand new and long-standing – Italian eateries that meet all these criteria. These eateries provide pay at the counter service, make fresh food to order, and are obviously, all satisfyingly yummy.
La Bottega Nicastro
64 George Street, Ottawa, ON
This Italian grocer is a not-very-well-kept secret, located in the Byward Market. In addition to having an amazing array of fresh produce, a self-serve olive and pickle section, coffees and chocolates, and all the balsamic vinegar and olive oil (at great prices!) that you could want… also has a small eat-in lunch counter, plus deli, sandwich, and Illy espresso bar tucked in the back of the store. It is the Italian foodies’ destination.
There is a mesmerizing and dizzying amount of colours and options in La Bottega’s grocery section. I inevitably come in for a sandwich, but leave having also picked up almond biscotti, a giant block of cheese, and some fun shaped dried pasta.
La Bottega’s sandwich counter provides a delicious bargain at $5.75 for a sandwich. I have been guilty of stopping by here two Fridays in a row, on the way home from work. Line-ups like this are typical, but don’t worry, service is super speedy. Pick up a sandwich, find a comfy bench somewhere in the Market, and chow down!
This sandwich features spicy genoa salami, with provolone, spicy eggplant (a must!), olives and veggies, on a baguette. Their foccacia bread option is also top notch.
300 Richmond Road, Ottawa, ON
This little gem opened about a year ago in Westboro, and features customizable, made-to-order pastas and panini, as well as a salad bar. also has espressos, cocktails, and other beverages depending on your mood.
Fresh pasta and sauces can be picked up to be cooked at home.
I ordered their bacon and pesto ravioli, with a half rose, half Bolognese sauce. As the chef said to me, it’s always fun to get creative with your sauce options. The pasta dish comes with a piece of focaccia. I also had a refreshing iced latte – it was a boiling hot day.
Pietro’s Corner has beautiful, modern interior décor with lots of natural light. A great place to have lunch, then sit around for a little afterwards to enjoy a coffee and cannoli.
Cannolis and other fried goodies by the counter tempting everyone walking into the store.
Di Rienzo’s sandwiches are ginormous, and just $6 with tax included. I ordered the turkey and salami. What makes it are the thick slices of cheese, and of course, mayo.
120 Earl Grey Drive – Unit# 100A, Kanata, ON
is a brand new casual dining spot that opened in Kanata this past June. Their delicious and beautiful Italian dishes are definitely not what one would typically expect from a pay-at-the-counter model of service. It is a great place to stop by for fast service, while still enjoying a typical sit-down restaurant’s atmosphere and menu selection.
At Via Cibo, customers order and pay at the counter, are handed their order number, and seat themselves. The freshly prepared dishes (made by chefs visible from behind the counter) are then brought to their table.
Polpette – a side dish of Italian meatballs. The pomodoro (aka tomato) sauce was super fresh and fragrant! Also, you can’t go wrong with their gnocchi with pancetta and gorgonzola cream sauce.
Got any other favourite casual Italian eateries in Ottawa? Comment below!