Edmonton is home to more than 20 Italian restaurants, but the traditional trattorias are outnumbered by a new type of pseudo-Italian restaurant that gift-wraps spaghetti-and-meatballs and prosciutto-anything as authentic Italian cuisine. As such, dabbling in the realm of the Italian restaurant becomes a perilous move. But Bar Bricco, the latest endeavour from Daniel Costa of the acclaimed Corso 32, infuses the concepts of Italian salumerias and spuntini venues in a 28-seat bar located beside Corso on Jasper Avenue.
Where Corso 32 offers traditional Italian dining, Bar Bricco offers the art of Italian snacking—that is, by means of cured meat, cheese, and grissini (thin, crisp bread sticks). Bar Bricco comes as phase two of a three-phase plan in which Costa plans to open a trio of distinct Italian restaurants side by side. The third will be a traditional trattoria that’s set to open in the next six to seven months.
“Bar Bricco is the polar opposite of Corso 32,” says Costa of his newest addition. “At Corso, people have to book in advance and here, we just want people to come in. We wanted to make it really accessible for people. … The service is more casual, the room is more casual and the whole experience is more casual.”
The casual-cool atmosphere of Bar Bricco is achieved through its fare as much as its esthetic, achieved through a collaboration with Connect Architecture that blends modesty with functionality. The wood bar easily seats 15, which invites conversation with the employees as well as other Bricco diners. A large mural, created by Vanguard Works, frames the wall adjacent to the bar, which fuses 250 Bosch paintings together to create one-of-a-kind scenery.
In contrast to Corso’s lengthy wait list, Bar Bricco’s maxim of “no reservations” and the concept of late-night snacking and sharing further emphasizes the establishment’s casual vibe. To encourage snacking, the menu is comprised of five sections: pane (bread), spuntini (snacks), salumi (plural for cured meat), formaggi (cheese) and condimenti (condiments that pair well with the cheese, such as housemade pear marmalade, chestnut honey and balsamico vecchio).
“The intention is not to have a full dinner menu,” says Costa of the Bar Bricco menu. “It’s not for people to come for dinner necessarily, but to have some small bites, a plate of cured meat, and have a glass of sparkling wine—and then be on your way.”
Within the menu is the fonduta agnolotti dal plin ($14), morsels of homemade pasta stuffed with prosciutto, spinach and ricotta cheese served with a sage butter and shaved parmigiano cheese as well as the increasingly popular egg yolk ravioli ($13), an egg-infused pasta. Each has been developed as a snack-size pasta dish, ideal for sharing or solo dining.
The salumi section offers cured meats from Italy, Spain and Uruguay. For those feeling a bit adventurous, Bricco offers a tasting salumi plate ($26), which samples five meats including speck (smoked prosciutto), finocchiona (Tuscan salami), an aged 16-month-old prosciutto di parma, mortadella and Bricco’s housemade porchetta. Within the formaggi section are several Italian cheeses from different regions of Italy including Sardinia, Tuscany and Emilia Romagna. As well, diners can enjoy a sample of Bricco’s popular cheeses with the formaggi tasting plate ($28).
Hard spirits such as vodka and rum are absent from the drink menu and replaced with wines (sparkling, white and red), beers, digestifs (after dinner bitters) and three classic Italian cocktails such as the pear bellini ($13) that have been carefully selected to compliment the intense flavours of the salumi and formaggi. Using the Coravin system, Costa is able to serve higher-end bottles of wine by the glass yet still keep the bottle intact.
“I think Corso 32 and Bricco are something that stays very true to the tradition of Italian cuisine,” Costa explains. “I think that there are restaurants in Edmonton that are Italian inspired, and can be very delicious, but are not actually Italian in such a way where people are surprised when they go to Italy and they don’t see every plate of pasta has a tomato sauce or meatballs. Italian cuisine is much deeper than that and I think we explore that as much as we can.”
For Costa, the methods used to make and cook pasta, the way the food is served and not over-complicating the dish need to be considered in making authentic Italian fare.
“The true mentality of Italian cooking is keep everything very simple and focus on high-quality ingredients. We try not to mess with them too much but instead highlight them.”
10347 Jasper Ave