Carver is a take-out sandwich shop that’s located at Peter and Adelaide. Owned and operated by former executive chef at Marben, Rob Bragagnolo, Carver is a labour of love that draws inspiration from his grandfather’s first trattoria in Veneto, Italy dating all the way back to 1924 (you’ll notice that year on Carver’s logo). Rob operated Carver initially as a delivery only operation working via UberEats (started in August 2015) and promoted the business exclusively through social media. I actually remember being followed by the Carver account on Instagram randomly and drooling at pictures of his sandwiches. I haven’t used the UberEats app (but know people who love and swear by it) and am kinda reluctant to use it (mostly because I don’t want to pay delivery fees) so Carver was on my “I should try this but I’m probably going to wait for the bricks and mortar shop” list. Thankfully, just a couple weeks after Carver officially opened at 101 Peter St. in March, my colleague at NEWSTALK 1010, Jim Richards asked me if I’ve tried out the new shop down the street. I looked them up and remembered their Instagram account, and knew immediately I had to check them out. So here we are!
Located in a beautiful glass-covered building, you can see right into the shop from Peter St. Their logo is bright and well designed. It pops out at you, is easy to read, and is not cluttered with unnecessary bells and whistles. Inside it’s got the new concrete wall look, something you’ll find a lot more common these days if you move into a condo downtown. I like it! Simple and clean. Something I need to mention is that the doors are PUSH from the outside. *I have a funny story to tell you. I visited one day and tried to pull on the doors, and they seemed locked. I was shocked because there was no mention them being closed online or on the door. I then see somebody in the kitchen working on the porchetta, and she smiled at me. So I’m standing there confused and frustrated for a few minutes until I notice there’s a number to call if you want to order ahead. I call and someone answers, I ask if they’re open and they say yes, and I’m like, huh? I look up and she’s staring at me… and tells me to push the door. I get in and feel really dumb. So… yeah. PUSH THE DOOR.* The menu is laid out on the wall as you enter, via clipboards. Very cool. There are also paper menus you can take home with you on a clipboard to your left as you walk in. To your right is the kitchen and also where you’ll be served your sandwich/plate to go. There are no seats, as this is a strictly take-out only establishment, but in that area there are several great parks/benches for you to eat at nearby! Lastly (but not least), straight ahead as you enter is where you’ll find a friendly cashier and on the wall you’ll notice in large spray-painted letters “YOU ON POINT TIP/ALL THE TIME PHIFE”, which comes from Q-Tip and Phife Dawg’s call and response lyrics in A Tribe Called Quest’s classic “Check The Rhime“. These lyrics were posted up a week or two prior to Phife’s untimely passing on March 22, 2016. Although I’m sure it wasn’t intended as a memorial, it does serve as a fitting one.
Porchetta Sandwich ($7.99 sandwich/$13.99 meal [served with Herb Crushed Potato & Drink (choice of Brio, Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, San Pellegrino Limonata, Aranciata Rossa, Pompelmo, or water)]) — Apricot Mostarda, Pickled Red Onion, Crackle Crumble, Porchetta served on Focaccia from The Drake (add cheese or bacon for $0.99 each)
So… prior to this experience, the best porchetta sandwich I’d had was at Porchetta & Co. which I reviewed way back in Episode 6. I think that sandwich has been dethroned! To be fair, I still love the porchetta at Porchetta & Co. but the sandwich at Carver was just a notch above. If you had told me ahead of time I’d feel this way, I’d think you were lying… but the ingredients in Carver’s sandwich complement each other perfectly. The sweetness of the apricot mostarda, the lightly tart pickled red onions, the extra tender porchetta, the crunch of the crackling and the distinctly strong yet welcome flavour of the fresh rosemary are all bundled together perfectly by the buttery/oily soft on the inside, crisp on the outside focaccia bun. Looking at pictures of past porchetta sandwiches, it looks like chef Rob Bragagnolo has been tweaking the ingredients, with a change in the bun and also the flavour of the mostarda. It’s clear that he’s landed on a winner!
Herb Crushed Potato ($5.49 or as part of a meal) — Fresh Herbs & Green Onion
This is a nice side dish that is kinda like mashed potatoes meets a baked potato. It’s made with potato skins, which is wonderful. The green onions, paprika and sour cream do wonders for the potato. A great side.
Chicken Sandwich ($8.49 sandwich/13.99 meal) — Charred Lemon Aioli, Roast Tomato Pesto, Fragrant Basil (add cheese or bacon for $0.99 each)
This sandwich also uses the focaccia from The Drake, which is a great bread, nice and crisp but chewy. The chicken is very tender and the flavours all pair well with each other. The only thing going against this sandwich is the mere fact that it’s not as good as their porchetta sandwich, which is just on another level. I’d say if you can’t eat pork or if you prefer chicken, then this is a great option, otherwise, you gotta get the porchetta!
Porchetta Roast Plate ($13.99 + $1.99 for cheese & bacon) — 5oz Porchetta Roast + Crushed Potato (fresh herbs & green onion) + Avocado Caesar Salad (romaine hearts, avocado caesar dressing, bacon, parm & croutons)
This is basically the gluten-free version of their porchetta sandwich. It’s the porchetta served on their potato skin salad served with their avocado caesar salad. The porchetta is just as great without the focaccia. The avocado caesar is excellent. It’s a solid caesar with a delicious avocado dressing. The potatoes are still great, but I don’t think they replace what the bread does for the porchetta. This is a great meal though and one you should consider if you can’t eat bread.
I am really glad I got a chance to stop in to Carver. It’s a beautiful new shop down at Peter and Adelaide (on the Northeast corner) and they’ve brought competition into the sandwich world! I gotta say, it’s my new favourite porchetta sandwich in the city. I believe it’s the rosemary, the apricot mostarda and the focaccia that really put it above the rest. The textures and flavours are just married perfectly. This is one you have to check out. It’s definitely on point… R.I.P. Phife Dawg