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Victoria Canada Restaurants

Savio Volpe Restaurant WallSavio Volpe calls itself an osteria. I believe that’s Italian for “place that makes the eyes bigger than the stomach.” My friend has just returned from Tuscany, and he spots a bistecca fiorentina – a bone-in steak big enough to feed a family of six – passing by. “Oh, let’s get that. I haven’t had one in days, ” he says. Instead, we compromise on a tenderloin special for two that’s as big as a softball, smoky and crusty on the outside and barbera-red on the inside. The sauce is an umami bomb of butter, garlic and anchovy, and we sponge up every last ounce of shrapnel.

A trio of restaurant vets combined their disparate talents to update old-school Italian hospitality for a designer-eyewear crowd in Vancouver’s Fraserhood. Studio Ste Marie’s Craig Stanghetta deployed hanging creepers and ribbed oak panelling to instill a laid-back 1970s West Coast vibe. Steely Dan jams on the stereo as Paul Grunberg of L’Abattoir leads a front-of-house staff pouring batch-made Beefeater negroni from repurposed wine bottles and decanting Michele Chiarlo’s barbera-nebbiolo from Piedmont.

The third amico, chef Mark Perrier, works an open kitchen anchored by a wood-fired grill and shelves full of olive oil canisters and old cookbooks. He tucks new potato and garlic into tortellini and dresses thin strips of kale with lemon pepper vinaigrette, crunchy bread crumbs and pecorino romano. A dish of radishes, white anchovy and torn sourdough lays soft-cooked egg over salsa verde for colour and richness. Over cappuccinos and crisped cannoli stuffed with orange-hazelnut cream, we resolve to return with enough friends to take down that entire bistecca.

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Craig Stanghetta from Savio VolpeOn Design

I started out thinking about the fairy-tale fox who tricks Pinocchio into dining with him at the Osteria del Gambero Rosso. Savio Volpe means “wise fox, ” and the name came to personify this patriarch of our restaurant, an Italian dandy who is playful and disarming. He embodies the design tension between a classical family-style osteria and this more contemporary space, a remodelled tire shop. I set modern light sconces next to art pieces full of religious iconography. The pleated oak wall panelling feels very engineered, but also projects comfort and warmth. Our antique rotary telephone at the host desk actually works to call a cab – if it didn’t, it would be phony.

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