When owners Giuseppe and Alfina Grande call Mona Lisa Ristorante Italiano a family restaurant, they’re not just talking about the clientele they welcome. On most days, their daughters greet guests at the door, their Uncle Franco mans the wine selection, Mamma Angelina whips up the desserts, and Chef Chris keeps the kitchen humming with activity and filled with the scents of Southern Italy. Today’s Reserve selection invites you into the family dining room with an Italian dinner for two, which includes the following choices from the menu:
- Shared antipasti
- Two entrees
You’ll have a hard time spotting any jars or boxes if you peek back into Chef Chris’ kitchen. Every element of the meal is prepared in-house, starting with the spicy Calabrese sausage found on the antipasti menu and the plum tomato and vodka saffron sauces that cover a starter of fresh Atlantic mussels. Also house-made is the pasta, which stands up for itself even under meaty, zippy mains such as chicken parmesan or gamberi al limone, a dish of tiger prawns in white-wine lemon sauce. Veal is another specialty, milk-fed and sourced from Montreal.
Much like the menu, the decor comes backed by three decades of tradition. As Style Manitoba reported in 2004, the dining patio that sidles up to Mona Lisa was the first built in the city of Winnipeg. (The local government wasn’t even sure what kind of permit to issue at first.) It’s also been a fixture of the art community, showcasing local painters’ work on exposed-brick walls. After dinner, some guests adjourn to the more-casual La Cantina wine bar in the other room, or, on Tuesday evenings, linger to play bocce with balls of fresh gelato.