Il Giardino — CLOSED

November 15th, 2011

Location: 1382 Hornby Street, Vancouver, BC  View Google Map
Website: Click Here

After my parents moved to Vancouver, Il Giardino — or ‘The Garden’ as my sister and I affectionately refer to it — was the first restaurant they took me to straight from the airport when my plane landed from Toronto so I’ll admit it holds fond memories.  At dinner that night, I saw a gentleman dining in a white dinner jacket and black bow tie.  Although you’re just as likely to find diners in jeans, Il Giardino is something of an institution in Vancouver and one of the few restaurants in the city with any old world charm.  Be forewarned, there is nothing cool or hip about this place and that’s exactly why I like it.  So if you’re after ironic glasses and guys in skinny jeans, this is not the place for you.  Founded in 1973, by Umberto Menghi in a yellow house with a patio that’s hopping all summer, Il Giardino is a playground for bankers and families alike.  Despite the kitschy feel of the room, I go for one reason:  the food is tasty.  The menu is West Coast Italian – that is, Italian, but tempered with West Coast ingredients like their soft shell crab salad which consists of a battered and deep-fried crispy and tender soft shell crab over greens, which is excellent.  In the arena of the traditional, the kitchen shines:  the flavourful and nutty pesto linguine, the fiery penne arrabiata, and the melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi (I asked to substitute the gorgonzola sauce for a red sauce and they happily obliged) are all simple but perfectly prepared.  Their pasta specials involving seafood are less successful – perhaps a bit too fussy and not as well integrated.  Other favourites include the creamy, thick Tuscan bean soup and fish dishes, like the black cod, which the chefs manage to execute flawlessly every time (every cooks knows an extra 30 seconds can turn a juicy piece of fish into a dry lump).  Finish with the most traditional of Italian desserts:  the rich but light (can this be?) tiramisu which is not too sweet, just sweet enough.  (EL)

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