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Foodie Friday: Dinner for TWO. Resos at SIX. Happy we {ATE}.

By Ashley on February 8, 2013

What springs to mind when someone mentions eating on Preston Street? Somerset most certainly equals pho, but Preston is a mélange of pricey Italian restaurants, beer-focused pubs and a few non-Italian ethnic eateries. One of the latter was the Lindenhof, an institution for those who love spatzle and meat, which closed its doors last summer to much sadness. However the space didn’t stay empty for long. Late September brought us two six {ATE}, an Italian-inspired tapas restaurant (speaking of mixed ethnicity). Regardless of how you would classify it, eat at two six {ATE} and you’ll forget you ever liked spatzle.

Even without seeing the menu, the atmosphere will likely draw you in. As you enter the ground floor with its handful of tables and rich wood finish, you’ll instantly feel transported to some hip Hintonburg joint. Not surprising really, since two six {ATE}’s designer also worked on the Hintonburg Public House and the Westboro Fratelli. The lack of tables on the first level may cause panic if you head there with a crew, so be sure to wander up to the second floor. With more seating and a well-thought-out second bar, it’s perfectly suited for large groups or private parties.

Since it’s meant to be more a social space than a place to stuff your face, the pages on the alcohol menu outnumbers those listing the food options. The cocktail menu alone boasts fifteen choices, each a little on the pricey side with approximately $10 price tags. They are fully worth the splurge, though. Two six {ATE}’s concoctions boast house-brandied cherries, homemade syrups and Pascale’s all natural sorbet.  You’ve also got lots of other options, as both the red and white wine lists feature Ontario and international bottles and each selection is available by the glass. If you’re the beer drinkin’ kind you’ll find enough craft to keep you happy (Beau’s, Kichesippi, and Broadhead on tap), alongside quarts of 50 and tall boys of PBR for the particularly ironic hipster.

It’s a cool place to grab a drink and catch up, but two six {ATE} is a restaurant first and foremost. The food evokes a terrezza overlooking the Adriatic, but don’t expect to find heaping servings of pizza and pasta. This is a small plates restaurant (what the Spanish like to call tapas). Be prepared to order a few things if you’re especially famished. Plates start as low as $5 and nothing is over $20, so don’t worry too much about breaking the bank. It’s such a lovely way of eating, allowing you to taste lots of different things without getting a belly ache! Things are also perfectly portioned for sharing, which you’ll certainly want to do. Even vegetarians will have a hard time choosing just one thing.

What sort of food are you actually getting? The menu changes frequently, but expect to find a mix of modernized Italian classics like calzones, arancino, and a pasta special each night. These are offset with glorified junk foods like chicken wings, pogos and poutine. Sometimes there will be crudo, sometimes an Italian version of the Vietnamese bánh mì. The food will always be delicious.

Don’t know where to start? The chicken wings. Other things on the menu change, but these seem to stay the course. Smoked to glorious perfection, just-crisp-enough on the outside yet juicy and tender on the inside, these will ruin you for wing nights from now on. Served alongside a delightfully spicy dipping sauce that you’d be hard pressed to not lick off of your fingers. Please, please, please do yourself some good and order the chicken wings.

Just want a little snack? The arancino is gooey and tasty, with a nicely dressed handful of arugula as an accompaniment (warning: the dressing is salty – like yummy salty, not a mistake salty – but isn’t going to be for everyone). The batter on the shrimp pogos is oh-so-tender, and the sweet shrimp themselves are cooked to perfection. Know that the ratio on this pogo is a little different from the frozen kind: lots more batter than meat. The gravy on the confit chicken poutine is like manna from heaven, and if you can manage, this dish is best shared since it’s suuuuuuper rich. The confit chicken was moist, but unnecessary. The classic fries/gravy/curds is more than enough. Vegetarians will revel in the piadinas, an Italian street food similar to a soft-taco. Oozing with yummy bean puree, stuffed with hearty roasted vegetables and dusted with cheese, even meat eaters will be pleased. If they still have room after the chicken wings…

two six {ATE} is located at 268 Preston, open Wednesday to Monday from 4pm until 2am. Same day reservations can be made by calling 613-695-8200.