Secret Diners: The Open Cork Eatery and Lounge

California and Italy combine to deliver sensational seafood.

Words by Tara Pepper

Just when I thought I couldn’t be surprised by a restaurant, I find myself thunderstruck by the deliciousness that was presented to me the other night when Bobby and I ventured out to The Open Cork. I can’t wait to share another new favourite with you!

open cork 1Bobby and I were greeted the minute we entered and were shown to a lovely, romantic booth, passing a great bar as we walked to our seats. The bar looked like the perfect place for drinks after work or just as a spot to gather with friends. The dining room was lovely: modern European décor, a cozy fireplace and comfortable seating. We found the light over our table to be a bit too bright, but our servers were very accommodating and turned it down immediately. I spoke with the owner, Mark, and he shared with me that they had redecorated the restaurant just last year and I must say, it’s gorgeous and very refined—just the right spot for a first date or a family celebration. They even have a private dining room for 25 that would be a great for an event.

open cork 2Milan, our server, was excellent—very gracious and attentive without being obtrusive. He made sure we had everything we needed, starting with an amazing bottle of 2010 Hullabaloo Lodi Zinfandel ($44). It was sumptuous: fruit forward, smooth and full on the palate with a Cabernet floor and that Zin pop that I adore. The finish just kept on coming. I’m on the hunt for a case of that wine now so I can enjoy it at home. The rest of the wine list was very impressive, with bottles starting at just $32; I’m sure you’ll find something you like and at those prices, you can feel great about experimenting with something you haven’t tried before.

open cork 3The menu offered lots of choices in an excellent price range. Touted as Cal-Ital by taking the best of healthy from California and pairing it with a twist of authentic Italian, I could hardly wait to get going. For starters, there’s soup ($5), several exquisite salads ($5–11), bruschetta ($4) and lots of seafood appetizers ($8–10). I’m not sure what got into us that night, but everything we ordered had a tomato base. The interesting thing was that each tomato sauce had its own distinctive taste and flavour, and it was obvious that special attention was paid to each to make it stand on its own.

open cork 4I chose the Escargot à la Romana and was satisfyingly presented with tender snails sautéed with a ton of earthy mushrooms, garlic and fresh oregano in a tomato white wine sauce with a hint of heat that snuck up on me. I wanted to save room for my entrée but it was so good, I just couldn’t stop eating! Bobby decided on his favourite—yes, yet again!—grilled calamari with peppers, Pernod and tomatoes, topped with the mildest, creamiest feta cheese I’ve ever tasted. The calamari was flawless—tender with grill marks that you can taste, adding to the smokiness of the dish. The tomato sauce was wonderful, with a freshness that just didn’t stop.

For entrées, there were many pastas, jambalayas and risottos ($13–16), an excellent seafood menu (starting at $19) with sea bass, salmon and according to our waiter, a very popular seafood platter for two. There were also lots of different meats on the “From the Grill” menu ($14–35) with chicken, veal, lamb and pork selections. Pizzas ($10–13) and an entirely separate vegetarian section rounded out the offerings.

open cork 5Being the seafood lover that I am, I decided to give the bouillabaisse ($25) a try. Oh my, what an excellent choice that was! I was presented with an overflowing bowl of succulent seafood, each layer cooked to perfection and brought together in a fabulous Chardonnay and tomato broth: sweet scallops, plump mussels, tasty clams, shrimp and crab. The only comparable bouillabaisse I’ve had was for my 40th birthday at a restaurant right on the ocean in Seattle. The Open Cork’s version blew my mind and my taste buds!

Bobby decided on the rack of lamb ($35) and was presented with tender, juicy, mild chops (and lots of them!), distinctively young in taste. He asked for peppercorn sauce on the side and was thrilled by it. The roasted potatoes and little snips of parsnip and veggies that accompanied it were a perfect complement—and did I mention that the portions were so large, we had the leftovers for dinner the next night too? Delectable!

open cork 6For dessert, we decided to try the house-made tiramisu ($8) and one bite was all it took to know we’d made the right choice. Dense yet light (how do they do that?!), flavour-packed and creamy with an ideal chocolate/coffee mix, and surrounded by fresh fruit, it was the perfect ending to a great meal. Pair that with a Monte Cristo coffee (Grand Marnier and Kahlua with whipped cream) and my satisfaction scale went through the roof! It all added up to an amazing meal and a really, really good time.

So surprise, surprise, here’s another great restaurant we’ve uncovered and it will join our list of Mississauga favourites. You must go—I know you’ll enjoy it!

The Open Cork Eatery and Lounge
2101 Dundas St. E.

Check out my weekly blog, Tara’s Tales and Tastings, on It’s published every Monday and contains articles about food, events, recipes and even the occasional rant when the mood strikes! Enjoy!

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