Umberto Menghi's long-awaited Giardino Restaurant is now open on Hornby Street, just steps from his former Il Giardino Restaurant. As a guest at a recent media gathering, I had a chance to check out the room and the menu. Here's a look inside.
Menghi explained that while Il Giardino was modelled on an Italian country home and garden, Giardino was inspired by an Italian grainery.
“We brought in some of the DNA from Il Giardino," Menghi said. "Most of it is the staff,” he added, explaining that some longtime members have been hired back.
Inside, the 160-seat room is expansive, with vaulted ceilings and wooden beams.
The fine-dining room is quite formal.
Near the back of the restaurant, the dining room opens onto an open kitchen. A small crudo (raw) bar, with seats for four people, faces the kitchen where diners can watch the action over seafood carpaccio and oysters on the half shell.
The kitchen also features a fiery pizza oven.
Chef Giovanni Trigona, who originally hails from Sicily, is the food and beverage director; he was most recently at Fairmont Pacific Rim's Giovane Wine Bar.
The menu focuses on Tuscan cuisine from pizzas to pastas to meat and seafood dishes. “The menu is larger than the other [former] Giardino because of the crudo bar,” explained Menghi.
For dinner, starters range from $12.95 to $22.95; pastas and risottos are $20.95 to $36.95.
Main dishes like veal chops, osso bucco, and Tuscan-style chicken run $36.95 to $44.95. A 38-ounce Porterhouse Fiorentina for two people is $98.95.
Here's a peek at some of the dishes.
The panzanella salad is "very light" Menghi said. "It’s a bread salad but very little bread: there's a lot of crunchy fresh vegetables.”
Seafood carpaccio figures highly on the menu. “In the summertime, those are dishes that are eaten in Italy, especially on the Mediterranean side near the coastline,” he explained.
Deep-fried appetizers also have their place: the calamari was exquisitely cooked so the squid was just tender.
The restaurant makes its own squid-ink pasta.
“We like to be known and respected for the classic steak Fiorentina," Menghi said. "It’s a very large steak. It’s organic beef, aged properly. Salt and pepper are the only spices. It's properly grilled and rested."
The steak is served sliced off the bone with arugula.
Desserts include a refreshing blood-orange sorbet.
While there are a few patio tables at the restaurant's entrance on Hornby Street, if you want to dine outside I'd walk through to the hidden courtyard at the back instead.
Here, there's room for 80 on the enclosed, Tuscan-inspired patio.
Giardino Restaurant is currently open for dinner from Monday to Saturday.