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Zambri's Restaurant, Victoria

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Posted by : foodnetworkcanada, Fri, Mar 20 2009

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Peter Zambri is a genius. I don't use that word too often when it comes to chefs, but after sampling his cooking and that of the chefs he has trained at his restaurant on several occasions, I am quite happy to bestow that designation. Genius in this case doesn't mean his skill at molecular gastronomy, or artistic plate decoration, or elaborate preparations requiring two days in the kitchen and an arm's length list of ingredients. Zambri's genius lies in presenting traditional Italian food that tastes like Mama's using the best local ingredients he can find, with a technique that lets the flavour of those ingredients sing with everything that comes out of the kitchen.

Zambri's is in a non-descript location not far from downtown Victoria, plunked into a strip mall, sandwiched between the anchor businesses of London Drugs and The Market on Yates grocery store. The décor is plain, rustic wooden tables and chairs, the work of local artists rotates on the warmly painted walls and fragrant aromas of simmering sauces and roasted vegetables greet you from the open kitchen as you come through the door.

Last time I breezed through the doorway and waved at Peter from his post behind the stove, he had our server ask us if Peter could do the choosing. One does not turn down such an offer lightly, and we sat down over glasses of bubbly prosecco and awaited the first of our many delights. 

A full description of what followed would just make you jealous, but highlights included a crisp fennel and radish salad mixed with very tender chunks of marinated octopus and a few black olives tossed in to provide the proper quotient of salt; garganelli pasta was gently tossed with ricotta cheese, spinach and a dusting of pungent pecorino-romano cheese; sweetbreads (a totally underappreciated part of the cow) were battered and deep-fried, arriving at the table crunchy on the outside and smooth and creamy on the inside. I can't leave out the fennel, salt cod and poached egg sitting on a bed of roasted, ripe tomatoes or a clever combination of roasted pork belly paired with manila clams sitting on top of a garlicky crostini. We were too full to eat dessert.

The wine selection is deeply anchored in Italy and the always-pleasant service as directed by Peter's sister, Jo Zambri, is friendly and efficient with ample knowledge of what to pair with your menu selections. Prices at Zambri's are quite reasonable considering the quality of the ingredients and the final results on your plate. The fixed price dinners are worth considering, as are the lunchtime platters of pasta and antipasto that are ordered as you walk through the door and then delivered to your table in a quick and casual manner. Also, consider getting there early; Zambri's does not take reservations, with the exception of large groups.


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Zambri's Restaurant
110 911 Yates St.
Victoria, BC
(250) 360-1171

Don Genova is a BC-based food journalist.

Bazaar's Restaurant posts are featured every Friday.

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Posted: Fri, Mar 20 2009 by foodnetworkcanada

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