Food photos: inside Umberto Menghi's new Giardino Restaurant in Vancouver

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      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 bar is at the entrance to Giardino Restaurant.
      Carolyn Ali

      The fine-dining room is quite formal.

      Giardino has vaulted ceilings.
      Carolyn Ali

      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.

      Owner Umberto Menghi with pastry chef Maria Lauricella.
      Carolyn Ali

      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.

      Giardino's dinner menu is extensive.
      Carolyn Ali

      Here's a peek at some of the dishes.

      Panzanella salad with housemade bread and organic vegetables.
      Carolyn Ali

      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.

      Marinated swordfish with lemon balm, olive oil pearls, and balsamic dressing.
      Carolyn Ali
      Atlantic cod with mixed citrus segments, baby celery, and Northern Divine sustainable sturgeon caviar.
      Carolyn Ali
      Burrata with a carpaccio of zucchini, cherry tomato, baby arugula, and pomegranate seeds is a nice fresh dish.
      Carolyn Ali

      Deep-fried appetizers also have their place: the calamari was exquisitely cooked so the squid was just tender.

      The calamari is light and ultra-tender.
      Carolyn Ali
      Fried, breaded mozzarella di bufala with arrabiata sauce.
      Carolyn Ali

      The restaurant makes its own squid-ink pasta.

      Spaghetti al nero di seppia with Atlantic lobster medallion and cherry tomato sauce.
      Carolyn Ali

      “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.

      The signature 38-ounce Porterhouse Fiorentina steaks on the grill.
      Carolyn Ali

      Desserts include a refreshing blood-orange sorbet.

      Cannoli with blood-orange sorbet and a macaron.
      Carolyn Ali

      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.

      The patio colours keep with the Tuscan theme at Giardino.
      Carolyn Ali
      The sunny enclosed patio behind Giardino Restaurant.
      Carolyn Ali

      Giardino Restaurant is currently open for dinner from Monday to Saturday.