J: New Year’s day offers very few places for people to dine. Many of the city’s restaurants, cafés and bistros are closed up tight because there is probably very little money to be made in the tourist off-season. And they are probably correct, at least where downtown Victoria is concerned. After Christmas and Boxing Day, who really has money to dine? And what about those New Year’s hangovers?
But neither that or empty wallets appeared to deter people from going to Pagliacci’s. They are a local landmark on the restaurant scene for the last 34 years. Artists like Jim Byrnes (Highlander the Series, Beast Wars) have eaten here and even the great Etta James performed at Pag’s for their tenth anniversary. Even the owner, Howie Siegel is still a local celebrity. Originally, he was a Jewish kid from the Big Apple. Here at Pag’s, Howie brought a little of what makes New York City desirable into a little corner of the Inner Harbour.
The painting of New York’s famous silhouette looms overhead for the diners’ viewing pleasure and old photographs (many autographed) give Pag’s a historical ambience. Now let’s not forget that when in New York, it’s all about the Yankees. The Babe would’ve been proud to know he was represented in a little slice of the Big Apple.
E: This place is where I can sing soprano to anytime. Well, in my case, that’s baritone. I like the ambience here. Not having been to New York City yet, I wonder if the intention was to bring a bit of Little Italy to Victoria—or should that be Greenwich Village? One day, I’ll figure it out.
For now, I agree that this operation is part of the Victoria institution. I’d visit this place a bit more often if it was not for the high prices come dinner-time. On a cold day like this, I was hoping for some tomato soup to warm the old soul in me. That’s what I had the first time I visited this establishment, and secretly hoped for as the soup of the day on this particular visit. On the day James and I visited, they were serving lentil.
I guess James didn’t need any fibre, and neither did I. So we decided to pitch a two-course meal instead. That’s unusual when considering our appetites are usually bigger. What we requested had Mr. Roberts coming after we were served Bill Murray’s Balls.
J: Ed means meatballs. Three of them to be exact, in a marinara sauce and with such heat to them I wanted to announce proudly “Mama mia that’s a spicy meatball!”
Yeah, I think Jack Somack said it better. But if he were here he would agree with me.
E: I’m glad they aren’t salty, like some of Murray’s performances. I’m kind of thinking of his latest film, St. Vincent than Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. He’s enduring and like fine wine, he’s certainly getting better with age. When the marinara is teamed with the focaccia-like bread and the veal used here, the taste is exquisite. With the fine cheese grated on top of our lasagnas to come, the food porn can not arrive fast enough.
J: And we went from strength to strength just like Pag’s customer service. The Mr. Roberts had to be the best lasagna I have ever tasted. With the sound of Howie’s collection of vintage jazz (he has very good taste by the way) playing in the restaurant, I was in heaven. With almost every mouthful I had to close my eyes and savour it. The lasagna had depth and yet so many intricate layers. I was enjoying a new discovery with every bite. The cilantro was very fresh. Maybe it was cultivated that morning perhaps?
E: Probably. Normally I don’t find strength in dishes that depends on a fancy literary or cinematic tie-in to draw the curious connoisseur in. I’m sure this operation will do fine with proper Italian names for their dishes. It would not distract from the excellent dishes I had before, past or present. To sample this pasta that was made with Dungeness crab and baby shrimp was certainly delectable. The added sauces were over-the-top and the firmness of the lasagne sheets was just right.
I suspect that fondue was actually used in this dish and in between all the layers, the extra cheesiness really worked to its favour. James could not stop eating, and I was feeling ready to roll over with still one-third of the dish left. I tried picking up the pieces with the bread, but I was close to full. I did wish that the loaf could’ve retained its warmth, but even when its first brought out, it was barely heated. Much of the crisp was tucked to one side like it was sitting near a toaster but not actually heated. We ate so much of that while waiting for our meals and I could see James wanting to burst at the seams. I recommend gently nibbling on one slice of this free side as it can quickly fill you up before any meals get served. Any more can be too much.
J: It is not the filling up we have to contend with, it’s the filling out. With our unusual size, its difficult to find accommodation even to just to sit in a restaurant. Ed’s the lighter one of us, but together, we took a whole booth meant for four people and reduced its capacity. To us, fixed tables are like rear view mirrors. The objects are always closer than they are.
4 blokes out of 5