Il Caminetto di Umberto
Whistler is a mecca of astonishingly expensive meals, a place where mediocre pub food will set you back $50. While there are a number of high-end restaurants in the Village serving contemporary west coast fare, sometimes I feel like avoiding fancy foams and bizarre reductions in favour of simple, classic fare. Umberto Menghi is well known in Vancouver for his popular Il Giardino (see our review here), but he also has two establishments in Whistler, having anticipated the boom that befell the mountain town in the 1990s. He opened his first restaurant, Il Caminetto, in 1981, long before the city became a family-friendly ski destination by day and playground for the wealthy by night. I hadn’t been to Il Caminetto for years before heading there for dinner the other night and I was pleased to see that very little had changed since my last visit; the space, which is reminiscent of a Tuscan villa, may not be the most contemporary or stylish place in Whistler but it’s cozy, traditional environment is part of its charm. And besides, you come to an Umberto restaurant for expertly prepared traditional Italian food, not some hip scene. And the food did not disappoint. My warm, crusted goat cheese salad was divine and the butter lettuce and fresh heirloom tomatoes paired perfectly with the tart, gooey cheese. For my main, I ordered an extremely simple dish, linguine pesto, yet it’s remarkable how often I’ve been disappointed with this at other establishments. At Il Caminetto, however, it was perfection, with perfectly cooked pasta that was al dente without being chewy smothered in a decadent basil and pine nut sauce. The olive oil was flavourful without drowning the pasta or overpowering the basil and garlic. While it may not have been the most adventurous or innovative meal, sometimes simplicity is what I’m looking for.
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