Il Terrazzo

555 Johnson St. Victoria BC Tel: ( 250 )-361-0028

Without a doubt, Il Terrazzo has one of the coolest patios in town - warm, even in the off season, with loads of character. The restaurant has long been a Victoria and out-of-towner favourite for their rich food and consistent service.

Part success, part liability, they're ability to attract both a local and tourist clientele is a mixed blessing for diners. The prices, while not atrocious, are priced in the tourist range and portion sizes inflated to satisfy the appetites of value conscious Americans (this implication may be a myth, but Victoria restaurateurs don't seem to think so).

Located at the rear of Waddington Alley, the space oozes charm. It's a well designed restaurant with lots interesting uses of space and attractive furnishings and details.

I've been dinning at Il Terrazzo for over a decade and I like it. However, it's becoming increasingly evident that their menu is in desperate need of an overhaul. Everything on the menu is good, but screams out mid-90s. I joked to Patty about the goat cheese salad. I've had it several times over the years and enjoyed it, but once a dish is easily available at the local pub, elegant restaurants need to remove it from their menu. Same goes for the Linguine Marco Polo - I know it's popular, but it's so far out of fashion, I'm pained to see it on the menu. Il Terrazzo customers should be able to get over the loss, since they've been able to order it along side the goat cheese at the pub for a number of years.   

Bottom line, I like the food at Il Terrazzo, but we were reduced to ordering everything off the special list, because the rest of the menu is tired. We started with the mussels ($12.95. As it is not the season for local mussels, we were delighted that the server was able to explain that they were from PEI and why they were importing them (local mussels are in their reproductive cycle for the next month or so). The mussels were plump and fresh, but I thought the garnishes were a bit uninspired - banana pepper, cilantro, sun-dried tomato, garlic and cream. It tasted good, but wasn't well thought out.

For our mains, Patty had the Osso Bucco ($25.95). The meat was cooked perfectly and was served with nicely cooked vegetables and a saffron risotto. The only problem with this dish was the portion. The meat and vegetable portions were generous, but acceptable - it was the risotto that turned the tide. Had you eaten all the risotto, you would never have been able to eat all the meat and veg.

I had the Halibut special ($26.95), served with a blackberry sauce, with three cheese pasta and vegetables. I find the food at Il Terrazo rich, so I always order the fish, hoping for a lighter execution. This approach never works. The fish is always heavy - when will I learn? The approach seems to be to treat fish like meat. I like the concept, but scale down the portion. The flavours were great. The treatment of the fish was lovely and the pasta and veg cooked perfectly. However, with such rich ingredients I would have been happy with half the serving.

The service throughout the evening was very good and notably professional. Our server knew the menu, knew the origin of the products and knew the wine list fairly well. The ball did drop at one point with regard to our wine selection. We were looking to order a somewhat unconventional wine of a particular vintage. I gave her the details and she told me what she knew, but confessed to not having all the information. She said she would defer to the sommelier, but he never arrived. As a result, we ordered a much cheaper bottle of wine. Granted everyone was busy, but considering the frequency with which sommeliers get called to give legitimate advice, I expected an appearance.  Otherwise, the wine list is great, I especially like the user-friendly design that highlights the specific varietals in sections featuring blends. I would have liked to talk about it with someone.

Neither Patty or I finished our food. When the bus boy arrived, we apologetically gave him permission to remove our plates. He responded that we shouldn't worry, he removes very few empty plates.

Obviously, dessert was out. It always perplexes when a restaurant serves so much food, that there is no way we can eat dessert. Don't you want to sell us dessert? If I had a restaurant, I'd want to sell dessert. The dessert menu looked good, I would have liked to try the lemon tart in particular, but couldn't.

Often we criticise the balance between quality and portion. That is not the case with Il Terrazzo. They have good quality, so by scaling back the portions, they could split the price difference with the consumer and we'd all win. The menu satisfies the clientele, but tota

reviewed May 28, 2006