All about food. All about Edmonton.
Ever since Sanremo at Namao Centre closed down, I’ve been searching for a new north Edmonton Italian hotspot. I’m not a huge fan of Chianti’s and there really isn’t much else to choose from, albeit a few pizza and donair places.
I found Nefeli’s on Urbanspoon and was impressed by their menu and website. Joe Jamal Eddine, one of the operating partners of Nefeli’s, was previously a maître d’ at the downtown Pazzo Pazzo before he decided to strike out and try his hand at operating his own restaurant.
And he does a great job of it. We were greeted by Joe, who was extremely friendly, comfortable, and (dare I say it) traditional in the sense of old Italian serving. He suited the style of the restaurant perfectly – the interior was classy, intimate, and had all of the cute, niche decorations you see in many small restaurants throughout Italy. One of the things I loved best about dining in Italy was the restaurateurs’ ability to keep the restaurant intimate and homey – none of these gigantic Boston Pizza-esque halls full of tables and riddled with noise.
Although not my favourite tactic, Nefeli’s has adopted a ‘Writing on the Wall’ theme that allows previous customers to write a little note or draw a little picture, depicting their good experiences at the restaurant. It’s kitschy but, of course, a little risky, since you’re leaving your wall decoration in the hands of random people. Like I said, not my favourite thing to see, but it was interesting to read some of the comments.
*My apologies for the quality of the pictures. Since the restaurant was so dim, it was difficult to capture some things without annoying other diners by using a flash. Nevertheless, hopefully what I have managed to capture is a good enough representation of the restaurant.
Nefeli’s is small and comfortable, and ran completely by Joe. He acted as host, server, and bartender, and he did an excellent job of it. The restaurant wasn’t too busy but, even then, there was a little bit of a wait. That’s to be expected when one person is managing the entire restaurant, though, and if you’re in the right company, you won’t mind the extra couple of minutes of conversation.
We started with the bruschetta served with crostini, both of which were delicious and served in abundance. Nefeli’s definitely isn’t shy about portion sizes and, if you’re planning on doing an appetizer and an entree, be sure to come hungry. The tomatoes, onions, and basil were served in a bowl and the crostini on the side, allowing you to apportion as much or as little onto the bread as you liked. The crostini was perfect; I always hate when the bread is so hard that you can barely bite it, or so crumbly that everything just falls apart, but Nefeli’s crostini hit the happy medium.
As I am wont to do in an Italian restaurant, I ordered some wine. Nefeli’s house red is the only red wine to be served by the glass, with 1/2 litres of house red or white at $18.99. This red, my dears, was absolutely fantastic. Extremely smooth and light, but with a full-bodied nose and flavour, it went well with the entire meal. I can see why they don’t need to sell other reds by the glass – their house red is a type to suit every taste and every kind of wine drinker.
I was also impressed by their wine menu. It’s rare to find tasting notes in a wine menu anymore, simply because they’re just so long that it would take up too much space. Nefeli’s wine list, while not over-extensive, has an excellent selection of both reds and whites, as well as full bar options (the gin caesars were excellent).
The dinner menu had a range of pastas, pasta specials, and entrées, including Arrabiatta, Penne Putanesca, and New Zealand Rack of Lamb. Find their full menu on the website here. We ordered the Boneless Trout, served with angel hair aglio e olio (garlic and olive oil), and the Veal Limone, served with penne aglio e olio. The choices for pasta sides also included spaghetti and fettucine, with tomato, cream, or tomato-cream sauces.
The trout was delectable, if a bit garlic-ridden. Lucky for me, I’m a garlic nut, so it was perfect. The fish was salted to perfection and was complemented nicely by the pasta, which was light and delicate. The veal was likewise seasoned extremely well and the tender, thin slices of meat were paired nicely with the penne, which gave the meal a bit more weight. Both entrées were also served with delicious roasted potatoes.
After an appetizer and an entrée, I’m afraid we couldn’t manage dessert (I was still working on, and determined to finish, my delectable second glass of red wine).
Overall, I’d recommend Nefeli’s to anyone wishing to try some traditional, classic Italian food in an intimate, cozy North side restaurant. The service was excellent and friendly, the food was delicious, and the price tag was reasonable (about $15-25 per person; the lamb and tenderloin is, understandably, more expensive).
Check it out the next time you’re on the North side, and be sure to say hi to Joe when you visit!