Oh my, mama mia!  Last night, as I walked down the stairs from the ladies washroom of Italian Kitchen on Alberni Street, an aroma of home wafted toward me and it seemed to wrap itself around me.  I tried to identify what it was that made it so appealing (as I think back on those few moments, I remember calming down after four high-energy days at a major interior design show).  A server at the bottom of the stairs caught my eye as I surveyed the cooking going on in the very open kitchen.  I asked what the delicious smell was from; he suggested it could be the rack of lamb.  Mmmmmmm — it was a very comforting and enticing aroma.  I also noticed big chunks of parmesan on a wood tray just waiting to be freshly grated onto dinners throughout this inviting and sophisticated Italian restaurant.

How did I find this gem?  After my final educational session at the Interior Design Society (IDS) West Show at the Vancouver Convention Centre, I walked along the harbor to collect a gift tote bag I had left behind the night before at Mahoney & Sons Pub.  When I asked the hostesses where to have a fine dining experience in downtown Vancouver, they directed me to Alberni Street (sandwiched between Georgia and Robson Streets).  Just after turning onto Alberni, I saw the sign for Italian Kitchen.  Before leaving the hotel in the morning, I had seen this restaurant showcased in a city “what to do” magazine.  What appealed to me most was that   was the only restaurant to include the kitchen staff and chef in its promotional photo.  I appreciate a business that honors the back house employees.

Okay, so what about the food?  I had a great meal and with the current USD to CD exchange rate it was amazingly affordable for fine Italian cuisine.  My primi course was a tasty Beef Carpaccio — three generous slices of Alberta Province beef atop a gorgonzola polenta (4 stars!) and garnished with arugula and pea shoots, along with slivered deep fried onion rings and Asiago wedges.  My segundi course was a Duck Confit gnocchi (my first gnocchi and first entree with duck confit).  It was absolutely delicious in a light tomato cream sauce with a few plum tomatoes and olives.  I enjoyed the balance of flavors and textures in this dish.

For wine, I chose a white to start — Mission Hill Sauvignon Blanc from the Okanagan Valley, BC — and for dinner, a red — Fontanafredda Barbera.  Both were just great.  I was really happy with my choices.

I was seen taking staged food photos and the staff learned I was a blogger.  After dinner, the server who talked to me about the lamb aroma brought me a single Italian donut.   A fluffy ball of fried dough, dusted with powdered sugar, filled with cream filling and a touch of chocolate (both melty and smooth) sitting atop a drizzle of chocolate and creme fraiche (hope I got that right).  THIS is a must repeat.

The servers were attentive and knowledgeable.  The atmosphere was full-on family with lively conversations (this evening was not a “Sssshhhh, someone might hear you”night) and yet,  intimate enough for couples.  A table of twenty-somethings was having a great time just behind me in the front dining room.  The decor was tasteful (on the handsome side with dark woods and amber lighting) with a nice combination of traditional and contemporary elements.  I look forward to a return visit and highly recommend Italian Restaurant! (I peeked into the upstairs dining area and it was nicely appointed with some softer colors, a center bar and urban window views.)

My total bill with tip was around $45 USD.

Lessson re-learned:  try something new, I might just be surprised….again!

Mange bene, Cheryl

P.S.  I’ll post a video of my time there as soon I get the whole techno upload figured out for the Android to MacBook connection.

P.S.S.  I ate my gnocchi leftovers for breakfast…another first!