After a couple of dull years, 17th Avenue S.W. seems to be livening up again. Una was the first to bring a much-needed new concept to the avenue, followed by Model Milk, Borgo, Clive, National and now Cibo. Clearly, the drag is undergoing a major reinvention.
Located in the old Roger’s Video building on 10th Street and 17th Avenue S.W., Cibo features a casual Italian menu brought to us by the folks behind Bonterra. (I love the new trend of casual eateries popping up in town — I just hope the ride doesn’t stop if we hit another economic downturn.)
Making a reservation for 9 p.m. on a Friday night, my regular dinner companion and I are meeting a friend for dinner and drinks. As we wait for our table, we check out the expansive renos. The two-storey space has been gutted and refurbished with a rustic, warehouse feel. Brick and ductwork is exposed, refinished hardwood floors run throughout the space and reclaimed wood is everywhere. The main floor features a large, open kitchen equipped with a pizza oven and grill and a full bar at the restaurant’s entrance. As we make our way upstairs, I note that the 200-plus seat restaurant is at capacity — peppered with many large groups, families and couples.
Once seated, we commence ordering — the only problem is that we are yelling at each other. If loud restaurants aren’t your thing, you might want to come on a quieter night.
To start, we order from the scodellina section of the menu, which features many small starter bowls for sharing. We decide on an assortment of five bowls for $18, which arrives accompanied by a small tin of crostinis. Our top picks are the ricotta, pine nuts and fennel honey, and the lamb meatballs with spinach and pecorino. This is a great platter for sharing, and the size we chose was perfect for three people to get a bite of everything.
For our mains, we take our friendly server’s advice and order three dishes to share family-style. The first is the pear salad ($11). It’s a nice medley of fresh ingredients, including large pear wedges, endive, fennel, small chunks of cauliflower, crisp prosciutto, walnuts and a date vinaigrette. It’s a nice take on a chopped salad chock full of ingredients, where the pear takes centre stage and nice pops of grano padano come through.
For our pasta course, we try the pappardelle ($17). It’s my favourite dish of the night. Featuring long ribbons of perfect al dente pasta topped with sumptuous stewed lamb, fresh mushrooms, tomatoes, olives and mint — this dish has big flavour and every ingredient manages to shine.
The pizza is our least favourite dish of the night. We order a radicchio, prosciutto, scallion, fig and arugula pie ($19), and though we expect the radicchio to be leafy, when it arrives we realize it’s been grilled and spread on the pizza crust before the rest of the toppings are added and drizzled with port. While the flavours are interesting, it tastes too much of sweet spices for me to have any real interest in it.
Ending on a high note, we try three of Cibo’s desserts. First up is the delectable white chocolate and goat cheese panna cotta ($5). Served with fresh strawberries and almond brittle, the addition of goat cheese thickens the panna cotta into a cheesecake-like consistency. It’s a fantastic take on this Italian classic. My friend has the dark chocolate date budini ($5), a brownie-sized slice of chocolate cake with a tasty caramel sauce. And lastly, the Nutella calzone ($5) is a dish that incorporates Cibo’s pizza crust into a calzone stuffed with hazelnuts, Nutella and a side of sour cherry compote. I love the compote and the hazelnuts — and all three desserts are a steal at $5 a pop.
Cibo is a fun place to go to with a group — it might not be my top pick for a date night, but it’s casual enough to stop in for a bite any time. The next time you find yourself waiting for a seat on 17th, you may want to remember that Cibo is just down the way and there’s plenty of seating to go around.