Celebrated Designer Joining Industry Veterans To Open ‘Savio Volpe’ In Fraserhood

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Restaurateur Paul Grunberg (L’Abattoir), chef Mark Perrier (currently with Two Rivers, previously executive chef at CinCin), and prolific restaurant designer Craig Stanghetta (Homer St. Cafe, Revolver, Meat & Bread, Pidgin, etc.) are going into business together to open a new restaurant in the Fraserhood this autumn.

The exact address is 615 Kingsway, which puts it next to Los Cuervos and on the same stretch as Les Faux Bourgeois, Collage Collage and Matchstick Coffee Roasters. It’s the old “West Coast Vulcanizing” tire property that’s just been rebuilt all the way out to the sidewalk. I’ve known of their plans for several months now, but we’ve held off on reporting at their request. This photo was taken earlier this month, just before they took possession…

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The concept for the 2,500 space is approachable Italian, which is made obvious by the name, Osteria Savio Volpe, or Tavern of the Wise Fox. Their one-sheet reads as follows:

Why another restaurant? The answer for us was quite simple: because the perfect neighbourhood restaurant doesn’t exist in Vancouver—at least not the one we collectively daydream about. A place that is comfortable for families, friends and strangers alike, any day of the week; where the food is cooked in its simplest most flavourful way (often over wood fire or charcoal); where you can get a good square meal–una bella mangiata–and a glass of Lambrusco and be on your way without lightening your pockets too much. In other words, an osteria: the Italian predecessor to the public house.

We soon became obsessed with this idea of the Italian Country Tavern and as we learned more about this section of the Mt. Pleasant neighbourhood it became clear that there was some serendipity at play. In the past few years, the intersection at Fraser/Kingsway has emerged as one of Vancouver’s most charming and eclectic little enclaves with our neighbours doing exceptional things with French food, tacos, coffee, baking and more; meanwhile, Kingsway has acted as a trading path connecting New Westminster and Vancouver proper for over a hundred years. What better place for a wayward Tavern?

Incidentally, we began to believe we might have found ourselves in the right place at the right time. This strengthened our resolve to pursue the idea of peasant-style Italian food with vigour. Our head chef and partner Mark has been educating our group on the history and nuance of regional Italian cuisine—a pursuit to which he is singularly dedicated; furthermore, he has a unique background as one of the chefs in Vancouver to have worked extensively cooking with live wood fire and charcoal. It felt good to know that we had something that was both rare and comforting to bring to the table, quite literally.

Naturally, our conversation soon turned to how this place should look and, more importantly, how it should feel. We thought it would be disingenuous to create something that felt “Italian” or thematic in any way—simulacra runs counter to everything we were trying to do. More than anything we wanted a place that was warm and inviting: a place you’d want to walk into out of the rain. The result is a look that is simple and somewhat contemporary but has all of the cues of the traditional osteria with wood, wicker and earthen stone all figuring quite prominently. A sense of play and sprezzatura is also represented quite plainly in the use of irreverent fabrics and lighting. We want the room to age like an old Italian damerino, both classic and lighthearted.

After all, one of the most delightful qualities of the Italian culture is that fun isn’t only reserved for the young! This sensibility sums up how we’d like the place to feel and we’ve been deftly securing a service team that can manage this tightrope act of being meticulous without a hint of severity.

In a nutshell, these are our intentions; however, we all know that the proof is in the pudding and in light of that, we’re working hard to make this place truly special. We think we have the experience to challenge conventions without compromising on value and generosity. Thus far, this has resulted in some decisions that run contrary to the North American model of a restaurant. To that end, one of the first things to note upon walking in the door is that we’ve done away with the restaurant bar in the conventional sense; we’ve opted instead for a centre console—what we’re calling the “kitchen island”–an homage to the nerve centre of any great dinner party at home. From here our team will turn out a deep selection of cured items and other tinned and salty snacks as well as a whole bunch of tap beer from our pals around the city and some serious old world-style coffee. We also intend to have a rotating selection of favourite Italian pastries and cookies on display for after dinner window shoppers.

Another special offer that we hope will help our hungry neighbours in East Van is our Arrosto-GoGo “side-door deal” whereby we offer a limited amount of our Contado Chicken Dinner spit roasted over the woodfire to take out: a quick stop to get dinner on the way home when people are often more in the mood for the couch than a banquette.

Oh yeah, one last thing: the name. The name Osteria Savio Volpe, roughly translated as Tavern of the Wise Fox, came about in a roundabout way. We’d travelled down the rabbit warren during our research and had been reading about everything from the Moorish influences of Italian cooking to neorealism in Italian cinema. At one point, we even became obsessed with Italian motorcycles and thought we might just honour the building’s history as a tire shop and buy a few Moto Guzzi, park them out front, and sell sausage and peppers all day.

Eventually, we landed on a book: Italo Calvino’s Italian Fables which inspired the idea of a clever old fox as our hero and our namesake. Our graphic design team has been having a lot of fun with the ensuing narrative based on this fellow and we’re pretty excited about where we can go with this stuff as we tackle signage, menus and packaging. If you know Glasfurd & Walker’s work you know it will be both thoughtful and beautiful.

To say the least, we’re looking forward to opening the neighbourhood joint of our dreams: modest, inclusive, tasty…a welcoming haven of true civility and gioia di vivera. We can’t wait to break bread with you, Vancouver.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to this one. I worked with Paul for a couple of months when he first opened L’Abattoir five years ago, so I know him well. He’s good people. Totally uncompromising, but good. The guy was made for the hospitality industry and he’s always excelled at it, so I can’t imagine the execution here to be anything other than to his always exacting, customer-first code.

Considering how many well respected Vancouver rooms Craig Stanghetta has designed in recent years, it’s easy to forget that he is a floor veteran, too, having last clocked out at Bao Bei in Chinatown (which, incidentally, he also helped to design). To have him re-invest back in the industry after it invested so much in him is a really cool thing to see. And since he has own skin in the game this time around, I trust that Savio Volpe – which speaks to his own Italian heritage – will be a magnum opus of sorts that will see the full force of his company – Ste. Marie Art + Design – brought to bear, complete with input from regular collaborators Good Animal (lighting) and Glasfurd Walker (branding). It’s a safe bet that it’s going to look and feel good.

Here’s the official paper on chef Mark Perrier. With his whole animal skills and Mediterranean forno experience, this restaurant seems like it’s been made for him. I suppose it actually has. He’s been under the radar for so long that he has to be one of Vancouver’s best kept culinary secrets…

Mark Perrier brings over a dozen years of culinary experience to the table as chef and co-proprietor of Osteria Savio Volpe. He has honed his skills in some of Vancouver’s top kitchens, along with time spent in London, England.

Upon graduating first in his class from Vancouver’s Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, Perrier secured an apprenticeship position at Chef David Hawksworth’s West Restaurant. Over the next three years, he would rise through every station in the kitchen to become junior sous chef, winning Dubrulle’s Rising Star Black Box Competition along the way.

Inspired by Chef Hawksworth and assisted by CinCin pastry chef Thierry Busset (whom he would spend his day off with every week, learning to make bread), Perrier landed a position at celebrated two-star Michelin restaurant Le Gavroche in London, England. He spent the next year learning under famed Chef Michel Roux Jr. as chef de partie poissonier.

Perrier later returned to Vancouver to work as sous chef at CinCin Ristorante + Bar, eventually gaining the position of executive chef. During that time, he developed the skills to cook with live fire while running CinCin’s wood-fired grill and rotisserie. It was CinCin that sparked his interest in Italian cuisine, changing the course of his culinary career.

After years spent working in upscale mostly French kitchens, Perrier yearned for something simpler and more elemental. Over the next five years he worked as sous chef for Neil Taylor, helping to launch and run Cibo Trattoria, which would go on to win enRoute Magazine’s best new restaurant in Canada 2009. During his time there he was given the freedom to cook and serve uncomplicated rustic food, such as simply prepared vegetables and fruit picked at the height of the season, handmade pasta, cured meats, whole grilled fish, offal and other less common cuts of meat. He incorporated Italian methods into his food, using fresh, local ingredients and allowing the true nature of the ingredients to speak.

After over a decade in high-pressure restaurants and a growing young family, Perrier took a step back from kitchens and tried his hand in something new. He spent the last two and a half years at Two Rivers Specialty Meats, mastering whole animal butchery and gaining an intuitive sense of utilizing the whole beast.

But since his very first day in a professional kitchen, Chef Perrier has always beenworking towards the dream of running the kitchen in his own restaurant. Osteria Savio Volpe is the fruition of that dream.

When it opens this Fall, Savio Volpe will seat 75 people and be open nightly from 5pm until 12am with brunch served on the weekends. The take-out Arrosto-GoGo (wood-fired, spit roasted chicken to go) will be available 7 days a week from 5pm to 7pm with a limited number of birds.

It goes without saying that we’ll be reporting more on this as the project develops over the summer. As we wait, hungrily, check out these conceptual drawings/renderings and keep an eye on their website

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There are 4 comments

  1. Great article! Morrison totally gets it. This article is mouth watering!