In Italy, an Osteria is a humble tavern with a short menu of wine and local specialty dishes served at shared tables. However, Osteria Savio Volpe, the latest establishment at Kingsway and Fraser, sharing the same block with other local foodie favourites like Les Faux Bourgeois, Matchstick, and Los Cuervos, is far beyond simple and ordinary.
Through a wall of dashing glass windows with a painting of the ‘Savio Volpe’, aka the Wise Fox, I thought I was at a showcase of a classy restaurant space. In a blend of natural day light and elegant light fixtures hanging from the high ceiling, the dining room is modern and spacious, and filled with tasteful details such as the handsome wooden furniture. I was so distracted by the beauty of the space, walking right past the tall dark wooden door, a door so tall that I thought it was another wall in the front.
I found my dining companions, Foodgressing, Food Wench of Drunken Noms (Food Wench), and Nosh and Nibble (Nosh), sitting in the front of the restaurant and right by the window, bathed in the early evening sun – they definitely picked the best table in the house. It was only 10 minutes past 6pm, and the dining room was already fully packed with food lovers. And I suddenly spotted Chef Michael Robbins, executive chef of AnnaLenna, who appeared to be waiting for a table. This is just a glimpse of how popular this place is – even the top chefs in the city eat here!
The Drinks for The Warm Evening
Summer came early this year. Having walked almost 15 minutes to reach the restaurant, I was all hot and thirsty for a cold pint. My Four Wings West Coast IPA ($6.5) and Food Wench’s Adami ‘Garbel’ Prosecco ($10) were among the summery choices on Savio Volpe’s very well designed drink menu, featuring a list of carefully selected local craft beers and a comprehensive Italian wine program. And even their Latte, was such a piece of art!
Our waitress was super lovely and passionate about what they served at the restaurant. With her assistance, we were able to sample dishes from different sections on the menu.
SALUMI & CONSERVA / CURED & PRESERVED
This section features cured and preserved meats, such as Salumi, Anchovy, and Prosciutto, with techniques used for generations but incorporated with modern twists.
We ordered the Ox Tongue Tonnato ($14), a spin on a classic Italian appetizer of thinly sliced veal topped with mayonnaise. While ox tongue came across a tougher meat but with a lot of flavour, the treatment made it quite the opposite here. Each slice was so thin that it was very delicate, almost too delicate to be eaten on its own. The tuna mayonnaise sauce itself was absolutely delicious, with the right ratio of creaminess and acidity, a very subtle sweetness from tuna, and a bit of a kick from cracked pepper. The use of capers was a nice refreshing touch too. But I was not quite sure about the intention of the dish. As the sauce was much more flavourful, the texture and the flavour of the beef tongue was not very obvious.
LE VERDURE / VEGETABLES
The next dish, the Bagna Cauda ($17) with a hot anchovy & garlic bath ($17) was visually pleasing with the choices and arrangement of colourful vegetables, and a few bread slices. And the star was this buttery liquid flavoured with anchovy and garlic, kept warm on a tea light burning ceramic bowl, where we would dip our food in like eating a fondue. The liquid had a ton of flavour, but posed a small issue – the liquid slipped off most of the veggie pieces, except the leafy ones and the bread slices. And I hated to see quite a bit of that yummy levitra over the counter liquid went to waste after we finished all the veggies.
SALTATO IN PADELLA / FROM THE SKILLET & STEWING POT
I’d like to think that the Italians’ love for meatballs almost rival the North Americans’ for burgers. And I’m sure every food-loving Italian family must have their own recipe of meatballs. The version here, the Meatballs in Neck Bone Gravy ($14) is definitely special. There was not too much fat in the meat they had chosen, and the meat seemed to be finely chopped instead of processed through a grinder, for there was a nice bite to it, totally satisfying a texture guy like me. And the amount of tomato sauce was adequate and added acidity to the flavourful neck bone gravy.
PER LA TAVOLA / FOR THE TABLE
Our waitress told us the story about the Garlic Bread “All’Americano” ($6) that playfully came in tin foil, and how it was created from an inspiration by the chef’s nostalgic memory of shopping at Safeway. I certainly remembered buying that super buttery garlic bread from the store myself years ago, and with this version, even more butter was found in the centre of the bread, but the crunchy exterior was definitely the best part.
We also had their house-made bread, the Pane Rustico ($3), which was indeed rustic looking, but also incredibly delicious.
DAL FUOCO / FROM THE WOOD FIRE
Our waitress was definitely proud of their griglia in the kitchen, the wood-fired grill that produced amazing smoky flavour on their chicken and salmon dishes, as well as the Octopus ($19) that we ordered, and she even invited us to check out the grill after dinner if we were interested. And of course we said YES. The Octopus was served with chick peas, cherry tomato, and spicy salami, and all the flavours and textures together were such a harmony. Some might say there was too much olive oil on the p1late, but to me, it had added fruitiness to the flavour and lusciousness to other components – it was just fantastic!
PASTA FRESCA FATTA IN CASA / IN HOUSE HANDMADE PASTA
The star of the evening had to be the house handmade pasta, recommended by our waitress, who claimed this Mezzaluna with Spinach, Dandelion and Wild Onion ($18) as her most favourite pasta dish here. And I could see why she loved it so much. To me this dish was absolutely perfect – the delicate fresh pasta texture, the impeccable flavour of the pasta filling, the exquisite sauce that’s creamy yet so soft and subtle, and the aroma and texture contrast from the fried sage leaves. While the quality of the ingredients really shined in this dish, the precision of execution was the key to put everything together and wow me.
Osteria Savio Volpe is easily one of the most beautiful restaurants I have visited in the city. The design of the spacious dining room is timeless. And the creator’s passion also shows in their food. Thanks to our enthusiastic waitress, we had terrific dish choices from almost all the sections on the menu, from rustic table bread, scrumptious meatballs, wood-fire grilled octopus, to fresh house-made pasta. My favourite dish of the evening was hands down the Mezzaluna, the exquisite hand-crafted stuffed pasta dish that would be remembered for a long time. The only section we did not get to try was the Steak Over-the-Coals, which I am looking forward to trying next time.