Polenta is an Italian staple, but it may take a back seat when there is pasta, pizza, or risotto on the menu. But humble cornmeal has been treated like royalty at Vancouver's DiBeppe in years past during the Gastown restaurant's month-long Festa della Polenta (Polenta Festival) and the tradition carries on, with some pandemic-era adjustments.
Postponed from April, when indoor dining was taken off the table in B.C., DiBeppe has bumped the traditional Lenten celebration to June this year, and it's on all month long.
A special three-course $49 menu is available, and it will leave you both pleasantly stuffed and with a newfound admiration for the versatility of the ingredient.
In the 16th century, members of the nobility fed locals in the Tuscan region a hearty polenta meal to counter a famine ravaging the area at the time. Ultimately, gathering together over a table to eat polenta together became a tradition that carries on to this day in many Italian towns on the first Sunday of Lent.
Polenta is made of boiled cornmeal, and can be savoury or sweet. The versatile dish can be done as a creamy, unctuous porridge, or made into a loaf that is cooled, sliced and either fried, grilled, or baked.
Gastown's Di Beppe restaurant held the inaugural Festa della Polenta dinner in spring 2019, and offered the special menu once again last year.
For 2021, the menu begins with your choice of antipasti - pork cheek and polenta fritters that are golden crisp on the outside but gently soft on the inside or a bright springtime salad made with bitter greens, peas, blood orange segments and light, crunchy polenta croutons.
While you can opt for a pizza of creamed corn, wild mushroom, and prosciuotto cotto for your main, there are two hearty plates starring polenta also on offer. One is tender piece of ling cod served with Brussels sprouts and porcini mushrooms in a supple base of burgundy-tinged heritage corn polenta, while the other is Tuscan black pepper shortribs with snappy broccolini, agodolce plum sugo for a hint of sweetness, and a rustic-style polenta.
For dessert, sink your fork into either an olive oil cake with red currant preserves and whipped mascarpone or a festive piece of a chocolate chestnut cake, called Castagnaccio, served with a candied orange and an honey and amaretto cream.
The meal comes with option wine or cocktail pairings at an additional charge, though if you time your visit right you can enjoy DiBeppe's happy hour pours. For those who can't commit to a full three-course feast, rest assured the items on the Polenta Festival menu are available a la carte as well.
When: Now through June 30, 2021
Where: DiBeppe - 8 W Cordova St, Vancouver
Cost: $49 per person (three-course menu); reservations available via Tock