Isn’t Italian the best kind of comfort food? If you’re looking for love, Italian-style, start with the top five Italian restaurants across Canada from our 2017 list.
At Vancouver’s Savio Volpe (No. 40) you’ll find silky bagna cauda and retro garlic bread wrapped in tinfoil. Charred tendrils of octopus massaged in spicy ’nduja, crispy-skinned rotisserie chickens and hulking, grass-fed veal chops kissed by smoke. With polished hawk-eyed service, a well-curated yet accessible wine list and on-point aperitifs, there is much to admire about this sophisticated city slicker posing as a cheerful country cousin.
No. 33 on our list is Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill where pappardelle with four-hour braised veal cheeks and porcini never comes off the menu. Go off roading with the daily chef’s menu: finely crafted delicacies like crème caramel foie gras (which pairs stunningly well with homemade prosciutto), vibrant green spring pea soup two-ways (warm and jellied) or a meticulously butchered rack of rabbit.
At Montreal’s Nora Gray (No. 19) the cooking is highly authentic, rustic in nature but refined in execution. You’ll be served seasonally attuned dishes, and recurring classics like rabbit and leek tart and rich, Roman-style braised tripe. These classic dishes often come with a flavorsome twist—say, vitello tonnato made with veal tongue instead of loin, or ’nduja in the linguine alla vongole.
In Toronto, the Buca’s dominate. No. 16 is the original Buca. You’ll find impressive platters like the maialino da latte – an entire suckling pig with Pantelleria lentils, sunchoke, salmoriglio and red plum mostarda. O a lighter note, they also have a deft touch with fish and seafood, and produce a constantly evolving selection of crisp, light, thin-crusted Roman-style pizzas, superior to any other offering in town.
Buca Yorkville has been in the top 10 since it opened. Expect traditional and boundary-pushing coastal Italian cooking. Pork is out and fish and seafood are in—but salumi and even offal remain a big part of the show. Start with salumi di mare: choices might include octopus salami with preserved lemon, hot-smoked eel or wild Atlantic sturgeon, cured yellowfin, and scallop and lobster sausage. The show stopper here is the raw branzino, sliced tableside and dressed in Prosecco and lemon. The polipo e vongole—braised octopus with B.C. clams, veal bone marrow, cavolo nero and fregola sarda—is another must, as is the richly reduced zuppa di pesce, topped with a plump and succulent lobster claw.