3296 East 1st Avenue, Vancouver, BC
BY PAUL REID
It was just over three years ago that the old Choppers Diner disappeared from this Rupert and First location and a sign went up that said “Poor Italian.”
And you thought, “Hmm, Poor Italian, maybe this is going to be kind of like Choppers, but like cheap spaghetti and pizza (for us poor Italians).” But then you saw and maybe heard that “no, there ain’t nothing poor about the Poor Italian―this is one fine dining place, valet parking–oh my God! Tony Parsons?” What?
Yes folks, it’s all true. This is one classy dining establishment owned by Tony and the Musconis, an extremely fine addition to the area―if not the finest. The service, I found, was top shelf, the room itself―finely appointed, and the food … well, even this gourmand knows gourmet when he tastes it.
Folks, I am talking about ravioli like no other ravioli that you ever imagined. Silky smooth, melt-in-your-mouth pasta containing the most delicious gems. Choose from porcini and truffle with veal; Italian fennel with sausage, or ricotta and spinach. During Poor Italian’s Lobster Festival starting February 21, there is also sure to be some lobster ravioli.
Makes you say mmmm.
And that mmmm is largely in part to executive head chef Greg Turgeon. Born and bred here in Vancouver, Greg has 31 years of chefery under his hat. He started out in high school, briefly strayed from the path to become a police officer, but thankfully, returned to cooking school.
“I was classically French trained in the beginning,” says Greg, “but then I switched to Italian cooking.” He prefers Italian cooking, he explains, in that it is more simple, more clean. “With just three ingredients, we can make an amazing uncomplicated dish where the flavours really stand out.”
Everything at Poor Italian is made in house, including their famous pasta. Thanks to an expensive commercial-grade pasta machine, Poor Italian is able to make beautiful fresh pasta unlike most can. Their sauces and everything else, too, are high quality, fresh and made in house.
Also in Poor Italian’s arsenal, helping everything to run smoothly and comfortably for everyone, is manager Christian Gaudreault. Christian, who grew up in a small town in Quebec, the eighth of 10 children, grew up in the restaurant industry. “My parents had this large restaurant, 150 seats, that we all worked at. Beginning at about age 10, Christian soon learned through his father how to manage multiple tables and to do it well. “Teamwork is so important. I need my staff to work as a team. I see it like producing a play at a theatre. Everyone needs to know what to do and to work together as a team.”
“As manager, I am always looking to see that the customer is happy. At the end of the day, customer satisfaction is what is important, so I try to make their experience comfortable, like an extension of their home.”
And Christian does just that, making the rounds, making sure everything is perfect, catching up with the regulars and greeting the new folks. “This is my passion. I love food, and I love people.” I believe that. And, I believe that Poor Italian’s reputation will catch up with the reality that it is a restaurant that is accessible and comfortable for 90% of the population.
So don’t be fooled by the white table cloths and the valet parking (Friday and Saturday nights); Poor Italian is as affordable as, say, the White Spot. Sure, you can spend up to say $34 for the Costata di Vitello (10 ounces of grilled grain-fed veal chop, rosemary, garlic and lemon, and seasonal vegetables), but you might also spend $15 on a linguini. My hearty gourmet lunch, with coffee, water and the most delicious bread you ever tasted, was just $20. I know, I know, you could buy two Big Macs and fries for that, but really folks.
Wish I had more space. Don’t forget about Poor Italian’s Valentine’s Day special, followed by their Lobster Festival starting February 21. Bon appetit.
Copyright (c) 2013 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News