• By: Eric Murphy

The new Industria at Lansdowne strikes a brilliant balance

Stepping into Industria Italian Brasserie for the new Lansdowne restaurant’s grand opening Wednesday night, I probably should have gone up to one of the hosts and asked about seating. Instead I spent a good few seconds staring at the building’s impressively looming ceiling, made up of painted-black pipes. The pipe-covered ceiling fit the restaurant’s overall décor theme perfectly. It was modern, rustic and very, very large.

Most of the interior seems to balance between a blue-collar aesthetic and a contemporary lounge feeling. On one side the walls are made of white brick, and it’s easy to imagine you’re sitting in a renovated mill or factory. Just beside this, the bar is slick, black and open on every side.

Although Industria has technically been open since Canada Day, Wednesday’s event really felt like an unveiling. My guest and I started the evening by each grabbing a Fresca Sangria from the bar. Industria’s most popular cocktail, the Sangria was big and yellow. Spiked with Bulleit bourbon and white wine, with Ciroc peach, gingerale and apple juice for flavour, the Sangria’s fruity boost perfectly offset the scorching day outside.

We parked ourselves at a table that looked like it was made of raw wood, and went to work on our drinks while admiring the décor. From that spot we were facing the restaurant’s more modern-looking half, and that view combined with the beat-heavy music made the open space feel like a club that was just waiting for the first people to start dancing. The only thing that seemed out of place was the giant television hanging above us. Being able to show games makes sense for a restaurant that’s so close to the TD Place stadium where the Redblacks play, but the screens didn’t really fit with Industria’s vibe.

Industria 2My second drink was a sweating glass of Peroni, an Italian beer with a flavour that’s smooth but still interesting. I love the Ottawa craft brew scene, but sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the hops for something a little more easygoing.

Food started hitting the tables around 5:30 p.m. in the form of easily-sharable sfizi. If, like me, you’ve never heard of sfizi, just imagine an Italian version of Spanish tapas. Designed for sharing, the sfizi plates are front and centre in Industria’s plan for world domination, and the chefs shared some of their best and most interesting dishes.

I made a beeline for an odd looking thin-crust pizza called the Industria that was coated in miced beef, iceburg lettuce and an orange sauce. The pizza had a maddeningly familiar taste that took me a few minutes to figure out. Finally, I realized that it tasted just like a McDonald’s Big Mac. A PR rep eventually confirmed that Industria’s Head Chef, Sergio Mattoscio, was going for that exact flavour when he created it. I thought the Industria pizza was a hit but it certainly isn’t for everyone.

Other sfizi samples included rustic-tasting meatballs in a tomato sauce, some well-executed calamari, and delicious lobster tacos served in a crispy deep-fried shell.

“Sfizi is just another way of eating,” Head Chef Mattoscio told the gathered crowd. “Trying different things and passing things.”

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Mattoscio created a menu that uses simple ingredients, brilliantly put together. Some of the dishes taste like traditional Italian home cooking, while others, like Mattoscio’s signature gnocchi poutine, are incredibly daring.

Another thing that will definitely set Industria apart is its Fat Thursday option. Named after the last Thursday before lent, the weekly special offers four market-fresh sfizi options with a drink for $28.

“The concept is full, full sharing,” Mattoscio said, occasionally looking up at his young daughter who was yelling ‘hi Daddy!’ from the level above us. “If you’re alone at the bar,” he continued, “you’re going to get four different dishes. If you’re two, if you’re 10, you’re going to get four different dishes to try.”

We ate dinner beside a chandelier that looked like a waterfall of clear baubles. Nestled into an enormous booth, I wrapped up my evening with the sort of beautifully light and flaky pizza you can only get with fresh dough cooked in an open-flame oven. Fitting the rustic theme, the pizza came on a wooden plate with a pair of scissors for cutting out slices. Apparently Mattoscio used scissors on pizzas growing up, and I was surprised to find they did a much better job than the sharp knife you’d be given at most restaurants.

Industria Italian Brasserie really is a restaurant that has a lot going on. The menu boasts traditional Italian staples that feel right at home with more experimental meals. Some guests might find the décor a bit too busy, but I thought the blue-collar bricks and pipes struck a great contrast with the sleek bar and chandeliers. Whether you’re planning a date night or searching for something new in Landsdowne Park, Industria has what you’re looking for.

Still curious about the restaurant or its menu? Find out more at industriabrasserie.com.