Those of you who know me, know that a) I am half Italian, and b) I am not a fan of Italian food. My palate runs toward the more exotic and complex flavours of Asian and Indian cuisines. That said, this has not stopped me on my quest to find an Italian restaurant in Vancouver that I could visit when I have the very rare craving for Italian food.

I have been meaning to try Savio Volpe for a long time. Aside from loving to say the name (meaning ”clever wolf” in Italian), I had been keeping tabs on this place and heard some pretty good things about it. So, I kept my skepticism in check and my mind wide open for this family-dining style dinner.

My first impression of the space was not what I expected: high ceilings, bright lighting, pale wood tables and fixtures. It was more of a Scandinavian aesthetic than Italian one (almost as if IKEA had decided to open an Italian restaurant). This is somewhere you would go with friends and family for a boisterous meal al famiglia. It is not somewhere you would go for a romantic dinner date).

Once we settled into our cosy (read: pretty cramped) booth for six people, the meal started with a bang:

  • Burrata, aged balsamic, sea salt, bruschetta. The creamy, gooey, molten burrata with crispy chewy Italian bread coated in butter and garlic was a match made in heaven.
  • Prosciutto di Parma, apples, balsamic, miner’s lettuce, grana. The accompanying starter of prosciutto (perfectly salinated) with tart slivered apples and shaved grana padano was a nice counterbalance to the richness of the burrata.

Then, a salad intermission:

  • Kale, lemon pepper dressing, pecorino, pangrattato. While it was nice to have a green salad course to cleanse the palate and help pace ourselves, this was just your average kale salad.

Then came the pasta dishes that were the chef’s special that evening:

  • Cappattelli with squash and ricotta and finished with a sage brown butter sauce. This was an outstanding dish that I really hope makes it onto the regular menu. The pasta was cooked perfectly al dente: I could feel the tender resistance and gentle pop as I bit into the sweet and earthy center of this flavour morsel.
  • Pasta Puttanesca. This classic dish was true to form with its signature taste elements of garlic, capers, olives and anchovy paste, but it was a little too heavy on the fishy and salty side for me.

Next came the grilled meat courses (a large open fire pit is the kitchen’s signature feature). These arrived with side dishes:

  • Grass-fed veal chop, prosciutto, taleggio, sage. Cooked to perfection, the veal was tender and moist, but was a bit lacking in terms of depth of flavour.
  • Pork sausage, gorgonzola, caramelized onions. These were a bit bland and lacking in spice. Just your typical sausages.
  • Cabbage & apple, vinegar, pepe nero. I was hoping this side dish would provide an acidic twang to complement the fatty meats, but its flavours were muted and flat.
  • Polenta, velvet pioppini mushrooms, grana. Perfectly cooked, the polenta was creamy and velvety and glistening with olive oil. However, it could have used a bit more salt, perhaps by adding more grana (cheese).

Finally, dessert. I was so relieved not to be served the highly overrated and ubiquitous tiramisu. Instead, the desserts were:

  • Cannoli, ricotta, citrus, cocoa, hazelnuts. Perfectly crisped pastry cones filled with ricotta cream. The pastry was flaky and light and there was a generous amount of filling bursting from either end. I am not a cannoli fan, but those that were simply raved about it.
  • Chocolate tart, olive oil, sea salt, pinenuts. While some didn’t really like this dessert, I really enjoyed it (and I am not a big chocolate fan either). The chocolate was rich, dense and dark and slowly melted in my mouth with every bite. The key to this dessert is the sea salt – be sure to get at least a few grains in every forkful to get the full chocolate flavour experience.

Service throughout the meal ranged from absent through to indifferent. There were some long gaps between courses, and then a flurry of dishes. Water glasses remained unfilled for stretches at a time. Our waiter was hard to flag down, and when he arrived, he seemed bored and disengaged, simply running through the motions.

What was truly surprising about this meal was the price – $60 per person (6 of us dined family style). If you are still reading this review, you know that we shared 11 dishes. While some of the dishes fell short in terms of taste, others were simply knockouts. In my opinion, $60 for 11 courses is great value for money, especially in this city. I also added a glass of a very tasty Lambrusco, reasonably priced at $8.

So, would I go back? Yes, actually I would. While there were plenty of hits and misses, the dishes that did hit the mark really made an impression on me. I would like to choose my own items the next time (and forgo the family-style dining). And, perhaps, just perhaps, I might find that I like Italian food after all.

Written by:

@flygyrll is a foodie who’s had the opportunity to travel to over 60 countries. Her passion for travel and food has afforded her a palate and appreciation for world cuisine. She now resides in Vancouver and is systematically working her way through the local food scene as an epicure and hobby blogger.