I usually avoid eating in the Byward Market because some of Ottawa’s worse restaurants operate there, and because food can be pricey and mediocre. I always feel for tourists who end up there and pay big bucks for bad food.
But sometimes, there are nice surprises.
One of my foodie friends and I hesitated forever before heading to the Byward Market. She had been to Vittoria Trattoria before and had liked it. I was in the mood for pizza, but not the Pizza Pizza kind with five-inch thick dough, and I hoped this Italian restaurant wouldn’t disappoint.
We headed there around 7:30 p.m. on a rainy Tuesday night, and we joked that we would probably be the only customers in the restaurant. Ottawa can be very quiet during the week, and people here typically eat much earlier. Oh, we were wrong!
We showed up and immediately noticed the restaurant was busier than we had though. The first contact with the hostess was brutal. No “hello”, just “got a reservation?” I admitted we didn’t and she shrugged. “It’s gonna be like… I don’t know, fifteen minutes?” “Fifteen minutes, roughly?” I repeated for the benefit of my friend who was standing behind, and for my own. “Well, I don’t know. I can’t guess. Wait or not, it’s up to you,” she replied, walking away.
I was really put off by her attitude and actually stepped out of the restaurant, but the menu looked good and we figured we would give it a chance.
Twenty minutes later, we were lead to one of the dining rooms upstairs and greeted by a much friendlier waiter, who apologized for the wait and immediately brought us some fresh bread (delicious!).
We ordered an appetizer—the spinach and artichoke dip—because the place was packed, and we figured it would be a while before we’d get the main, two pizzas.
The appetizer turned out to be one of the best I had in a restaurant. Usually, when you order a “dip”, you get the same kind of dips you buy at the supermarket, along with some bread. This one was a work of art. It was fresh out of the oven and creamy, and was served with enough pita bread and toasts for two. We actually didn’t even finish for fear of not being able to eat the pizzas!
I had the salmon, leeks and tomatoes pizza, and my friend got the special of the night, pancetta and tomatoes. The dough was perfect: thin enough, with plenty of ingredients on top. They weren’t cheap on the salmon! I couldn’t finish and brought the last slice home.
Finally, we shared the apple crumble with cinnamon ice cream. I usually skip dessert in restaurants unless they are homemade (what’s the point of paying $7 for some frozen pie or cake?) but this one turned out to be pretty good, although a tad too sweet for my taste.
Except for the grumpy hostess downstairs, the service was excellent and fairly fast considering how busy it was. We said from the beginning we weren’t in a rush (we stayed over two hours!) and the waiters mostly left us eat at our own pace, but our glasses of water were always refilled promptly.
The bill came to $30 each (splitting the appetizer and the dessert)—pretty good for a three-course meal in the Byward Market.
- Great pizza
- Good bread (although I would have loved some butter rather than oil)
- Friendly service
- Grumpy hostess welcoming customers
- Long wait on busy nights
- The dining rooms can be very noisy
At a glance
Sunday 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM, 2:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Mon – Fri 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM, 3:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Saturday 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM, 2:00 PM – 10:00 PM