Italians know how to celebrate. From masked balls to street parties with giant papier-mâché floats to (my favourite) battle reenactments that use fruits and vegetables instead of weapons, Italy has il festival down to a fine art.
While we can’t recreate a giant food fight, we can celebrate the variety of Italian food and drink available right here in Cochrane – this weekend or whenever the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie.
Steeped in tradition and made from scratch
Tony Nicastro, grandson of the owners of the historic Stromboli Inn and Villa Firenze restaurants in Calgary, has been working in the family business since he was a boy. He carries on the tradition of casual Italian dining in a welcoming atmosphere with a trio of eateries in Cochrane’s Fireside community.
This is triple trouble of the best kind, with Pza Parlour, Café Mezzo, and Stump to choose from (why choose? Visit all three!). PZA offers an eclectic selection of hand-crafted pizzas. Take a walk on the wild side and try the lobster and roasted potato pie. Or try traditional Italian cuisine with a modern twist and choose from a carefully curated wine-list. Stump, an adults-only gastro-pub, serves up a mean burger of hand-ground chuck and brisket. Mezzo features house-made desserts, fresh lunches, and perfect espresso. Don’t miss the wee Italian market in the corner where you can take home a ready-made meal.
A taste of Milan
Another homage to the casual Italian diner or trattoria, The Boot was ranked by legendary food critic, John Gilchrist in 2016 as one of the best new restaurants. Located at 205 First Street East, it’s a cosy place with only 10 tables but definitely worth the socially-distanced wait. The Pinsa Romana style pizza recipe comes straight from Milan – the dough is an intriguing mixture of rice, soy and special wheat flour matured with yeast for 10 days, making it easily digestible (and darned delicious). Save room for the house-made tiramisu, layered into a mason jar and the best I’ve had in years.
And just a few doors down is Cuore di Mamma, an Italian-style deli that imports charcuterie and cheese from Italy and makes traditional dishes to take home.
Release your inner Italian
This time of year brings an abundance of fresh tomatoes of all shapes and sizes. Pick up a kilo at the Farmers’ Market and try your hand at making bruschetta, a favourite Italian appetizer. I’ve heard it described as summer on toast. Search “bruschetta recipes” online and you’ll get 48,200,000 results in less than a minute. Easy as pie.