Guelph Mercury November 6th 2015

By Travis Oke

Friday nights for a family in Guelph can be a tough thing to organize. Some of us want a Marvel movie, some a nice glass of wine, and others comfort food or a sports event. But we're a discerning family too, in need of culture and entertainment — so a night of pizza and jazz music was decided upon. We called up Manhattans Pizza Bistro and Music Club and made a reservation to eat and listen to the night's live entertainment, the smooth sounds of Gary Beck on the guitar, and his Sideways trio.

It was a good thing we called ahead. When we arrived we were informed that 40 people had already been turned away that evening. We sat near the bar for short time while they prepared our table. The dining room is elegant: a tasteful bar, dim lights, a very cool metal tree in the middle of it all, paintings, and, of course, music. The atmosphere is quite lovely. It felt like a special evening instantly. People are dressed up and dressed casually and there is a buzz in the joint that makes you glad you got to be one of the people who got a table.

With that feel of a martini lounge in our minds, the adults started with a couple of martinis (one so dirty that it repickled the olives) and of course a Manhattan. What a nice way to slow down a busy week — looking at the menu and listening to some easy jazz. We started with the Traditional Bruschetta ($7) and the Grilled Portobello Mushrooms ($9), which bought us some time to decide what we were going to put on our pizzas. When your family loves food as much as mine does, that can take some time. The bruschetta was very traditional — fresh tomato, fresh basil, garlic and Parmesan. Those flavours were prominent, and good, but the top of the baguette got soft pretty quickly and lost some of the crunch that I like in a bruschetta. The grilled portobellos were excellent. It was served with a red onion marmalade and mozzarella over a bed of greens with the house vinaigrette. The kitchen even accommodated with mozzarella on half for our two vegan diners.

At this point the room was quieted as Thomas Aldridge, the proprietor, thanked everyone for coming, introduced the tip jar (with all proceeds going to the artists), and bid us an evening of relaxation and enjoyment. The house gave him a round of applause amid some "Thank you, Thomas" cheers. I like this place.

We finally agreed on our pizza order — two pizzas for the five of us, plus a pasta dish for one extra hungry teenager. Our large tomato based pizzas ($29 each) came with combinations of artichokes, basil, black olives, mozzarella, and mushrooms. Good solid combinations for toppings. The Mediterranean fusilli pasta ($18) was full of artichoke hearts, red onions, sun-dried tomatoes, and tossed with feta and olive oil. Honestly, nothing stood out as exceptional or even very good in our main courses. The pasta wasn't coated evenly, the pizzas crusts were thin but not crisp, and I think that if I was strictly dining out for the food I might have been slightly disappointed. However, our family was having a wonderful evening.

Even though we were stuffed, the teenagers wouldn't think of letting us go without a dessert or two. The Lemon Bundt Cake ($9) was a delicious dairy-free lemon cake topped with berry compote, and the Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée ($8), with its crunchy exterior, was a classic way to finish a meal. Good call, kids.

Manhattans is more than a pizza place — it's a quality music club, a destination, an event, and an entertaining good time.

 

Assessing food, atmosphere, service and prices, Dining Out restaurant reviews are based on anonymous visits to the establishments. Restaurants do not pay for any portion of the reviewer’s meal. Travis Oke can be reached at oke.travis@gmail.com .

© 2015 by Steve Lester for GarysGuitar.ca