“There’s butter, there’s cream, there’s not so much pasta, there’s more polenta. Geographically, it’s a lot more similar [to B.C.] than southern Italy. Also, there’s a whole tradition there of hunt- ing and wild mushrooms. So all of that matches up quite well.”
style wine bar. It also opened Caffe Super Veloce in the Shaw Tower, and Miantiao, a Chinese-Italian fine-dining fusion restaurant in the old Jean-Georges location at the Shangri-La. In a city with a large Asian population and an abiding love of noodles, Miantiao seemed like a sure thing. Certainly some of its dishes — especially the tajarin, a buttery ribbon-like pasta rolled into a cylinder and dusted with smoked beef heart shavings — enjoyed some Instagram popularity. But just a few months after opening in June 2021, Miantiao closed, making way for Carlino to open on December 1. After all, Vancouver diners love Italian food. While one beloved independent restaurant after another has closed — the most recent is Bishop’s, falling prey to astronomical rent hikes after 36 years in business — Italian joints are thriving and new ones are popping up like porcinis in Piedmont. Among them: Tutto in Yaletown and Aquafarina a few blocks north, Oca Pastificio on Commercial Drive, a new Robba da Matti location in Gastown, Fiorino in Chinatown and, following the resounding success of Kitchen Table’s Bacaro, Carlino. “Italian food is just the best, isn’t it?” Perrier says. “The thing with Italian food is it’s very approachable. Everybody loves pasta. Noodles are very transferable.” But don’t expect to find noodles at Carlino, because they are not true to the cuisine of Northeastern Italy. The restaurant is named for the grandfather of one of the Kitchen Table owners, Nick Rossi, and its menu is inspired by his cultural heritage. Rossi’s father hails from Friuli Venezia Giulia and his mother from the Veneto, two regions tucked between the Dolomites and the Adriatic Sea, right up against the Slovenian border. (Carlino also takes inspiration from the other regions northeast of the Po River: Trentino, Alto Adige and Lombardy.) “Nick had this idea of doing a whole restaurant around this ‘fai tu’ thing, family dining and that’s the way I like to cook,” Perrier says. “I’m a big research chef, so I did a bunch of research on the region. It’s very different from what we think of as Italian.” The Italian food Vancouverites are familiar with mostly comes from farther south down the boot. Those popular pizzas and hearty, tomato-based dishes were imported by immigrants from Naples and Calabria, while Tuscany provided its steaks, Bologna its ragus and Rome its carbonara and cacio e pepe pastas. “That northeastern pocket is quite different,” Perrier says. For instance, its cuisine features spices such as cumin and caraway that date back to the Venetian spice trade of the Middle Ages.
But are diners ready for dishes called cjarsons, toc in braide and musetto e brovade?
Fai tu, accompli The best way to experience Carlino — especially if you are new to Friulian cuisine — is to enjoy the “fai tu” menu. “Fai tu” translates as something like “you do,” and is a sort of Italian family-style omakase, where you put yourself in the hands of the chef and trust him to feed you something delicious. While Perrier is all about serving his food his way, in reality guests let the server know about any aversions or allergies, and what sort of meal they are looking for — light or rich, mostly vegetables or with plenty of meat — and the cooks will create something sure to satisfy. Each “fai tu” dinner comprises several antipasti, a couple of “primi” dishes (pasta, risotto and/ or polenta), a main, sides and dessert, all for $85 per person, served up in an airy third-floor space, with ochre banquettes and black-and-white checkerboard floors. “What I think of as Italian food, it has to be simple. So there is nowhere for ingredients to hide. It is what it is,” Perrier says. “I worry about how it tastes. I don’t fuss with the plating.” If you are not doing the fai tu menu, start your evening with any of the aperitivo-style snacks that go with bar manager Gianluigi Bosco’s juicy cocktails — olives with wild fennel, salt roasted hazelnuts or “frico,” irresistible little bites of fried cheese. Definitely order the ricotta, made fresh in-house every day from organic cow and goat milk, drizzled with wildflower honey and served with dense, nutty focaccia-like bread called piza trentina. The cheese is rich and creamy, yet fluffy as a cloud, and a refreshing alternative to the ubiquitous burrata. “I am not doing buffalo mozzarella. I am not doing burrata,” Perrier says. “I am so over it.” Follow that with one of the pasta, risotto or polenta dishes. As one would expect from a chef known for his exacting execution and obsession with sourcing only the best products, these are all painstakingly made in-house from the finest ingredients. Perrier really wants you to try the polenta, and offers a dish called “toc in braide,” heirloom polenta topped with wild mushrooms and “fonduta,” a gooey melted cheese. But if you
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