Downtown Vancouver is now home to a new destination for Venetian-inspired snacks and dishes, cocktails, wine, and seriously chic Euro vibes - and it happens to be in a space you might already be familiar with.
Giovane Bacaro is the re-imagined cafe/bar/restaurant hybrid located at the base of the Fairmont Pacific Rim. Now under the savvy ownership of Kitchen Table Restaurants (we can thank them for favourite local haunts like Ask For Luigi and Pourhouse, among others), the room has been revamped as has the entire food and drink program, giving Vancouverites and visitors alike a standout new option for elegant bites and sips, day to night.
To get that "just ducked into a bar in Venice" feel, Giovane Bacaro's main dining room floor has been raised and outfitted with tall tables. What had been the grab-and-go counter is now an elegant bar with seating with the backdrop of an impressive 20-bottle Enomatic wine bottle system.
When it comes to wine, expect to be wowed by the curated list by Wine Director Cassandra Mosher, who has assembled bottles and glasses ideal featuring varietals from small, family-run wineries in Northern Italy along with some on-point picks from right here in British Columbia. The knowledgable staff can handily recommend pours to pair with your meal or nibbles, like an unsung Italian rosé, or a lush B.C. Sangiovese that stands up to richer plates among those on the pasta or "hot" menus.
A daytime aperitivo menu focuses on "snack" items, cicchetti, as well as cured meat selections, salumi. Incidentally, you will spy a display case in the centre of the room featuring those same meats. Both the lunch and dinner menus have multiple sections, including cicchetti, meat and cheese (salumi and formaggio), as well as Italy's take on grilled cheese sandwiches (en Carrozza), cold entrees, pasta, and dessert. The dinner menu features hot entrees as well, like a dish called Manzo: skewers of tender, succulent wagyu beef with fresh local greens and a balsamic drizzle (have that glass of Sangiovese with it).
The food at Giovane Bacaro is from talented Vancouver chef Scott Korzak, who has worked at Ask For Luigi, Autostrada, and L'Abattoir. Korzak drew inspiration from Venice to create the multipurpose menu that is easily experienced as a post-work drink and snack stop to a more indulgent night out with friends. Working closely with local farmers and suppliers, the Bacaro menu will change based on seasonality and availability.
Right now at Bacaro you'll find things like anchovies on crostini with a generous slab of herb-infused butter and baccala mantecato (whipped salt cod on polenta squares) to nibble on, along with bowls of house-made potato chips with crispy herbs that satisfy mightily on their own teamed up with a cocktail like the bitter, bubbly, and sweet Lambrusco Spritz. (Let's make "Spritz and Chips" a thing, Vancouver.)
Lest we take Bacaro too seriously, a dish like an endive salad with fried soft shell crab is dressed with what's nicknamed "Italian Big Mac sauce." What gives this condiment its Italian pedigree? Swapping the ketchup for real tomato paste, of course.
A main like halibut cheeks wrapped in Swiss chard with lentils is a sleeper hit; I've dined indoors at so few restaurants this year but twice have found occasion to say "these are the best lentils I've ever eaten" and at Bacaro was one such time. If you manage to save room for just one dessert, go with the semi freddo.
Fans of the original Giovane will be heartened to know they can still visit the cafe side in the morning and afternoon for coffee. Bacaro opens daily from 11:30 a.m. for dine-in restaurant and bar service. Aperitivo hour is 3 to 5 p.m., and lunch (starting June 21) is 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner is served daily from 5 p.m. Reservations can now be made online.
Giovane Bacaro is located at the Fairmont Pacifc Rim, 1029 W. Cordova St. Vancouver