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
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
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110 911 Yates St.
is a BC-based food journalist.
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Posted: Fri, Mar 20 2009
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