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La Tana Opens on Commercial Drive

The long awaited La Tana cafe launches at 9am this morning (Tuesday, Oct. 9). The new spot is located at 635 Commercial Drive or right next door to the 66 seat Pepino’s Spaghetti House, which opened this past summer. Both of the neighbouring businesses are owned by the same trio behind the award-winning Savio Volpe restaurant, namely Mark Perrier, Paul Grunberg and Craig Stanghetta.

I poked my head into La Tana a few times over Thanksgiving weekend to watch it come together. Staff were busily stocking shelves with everything from tomato paste and dried pasta to Italian sweets and tinned sardines. It was a bit of a shocker to see as I hadn’t set foot in there since the Savio crew first showed me around the raw space back in April. Here’s some of what I saw those six months ago…

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What was once upon a time a no-frills convenience store called “NGE Commercial” is now a very slick-looking caffe and alimentari. The attractive space has seating for about a dozen or so people. With all its beautiful green marble, wooden shelving, swell woodland wallpaper trim, seriously beautiful light fixtures, brass and gold highlights and checkered floor, it looks and feels like it’s been in place (and well cared for) since the 1930s. I’m sure that will doubly seem the case when it’s full of people lunching on vitello tonnato, getting growler fills of olive oil (the same stuff they use at Savio Volpe), and wiping cappuccino froth from their upper lips. Even before it was open it had an air of being finely-tuned and capable.

La Tana’s branding, seen here on cappuccino cups, was done by Glasfurd & Walker.

La Tana serves up drinks from a roast that Director of Coffee Shahnee Zaver tells me was developed especially for them by JJ Bean. It is now brewing in the company’s other restaurants as well. (I had a quick shot and it’s very Italian in its hot, stimulating bittersweetness.) The pastas are made fresh by hand at a glass-fronted station every day, and the rest of the menu – which is more substantial than I was expecting – is executed in the small kitchen (complete with tiny window pass pictured at top).

La Tana GM Nathaly Nairn and Director of Coffee Shahnee Zaver

Though La Tana and Pepino’s are attached to one another (I imagine the former will see plenty of “waiting room” spill-over traffic from the latter) they aren’t really on the same page thematically. If Pepino’s cleaves to the more American-Italian style, La Tana is more traditional in its Italian intentions, so in a sense it’s more related to Savio Volpe. This is best evidenced by the interior and the products, but it’s also right there in spirit, not to mention the name. Savio Volpe translates as “Wise Fox” in Italian, while La Tana means “The Den”.

I think it’s a win for the neighbourhood, sort of like an Italian Le Marche St. George. Making it all the more interesting is the idea of La Tana operating as a pop-up wine bar on Friday and Saturday nights. This is in the works, so expect some news on that front soon. But for now, today’s soft open hours are 9am to 7pm. Regular hours will be 7am to 7pm, seven days a week, beginning Wednesday, October 10. Take a look inside…

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Neighbourhood: Commercial Drive
635 Commercial Dr.

There are 5 comments

  1. What pray tell is a Director of Coffee? Hark do I hear a bell? Is death finally coming to the Drive?

  2. What’s lame is the title “Director of Coffee”. Job description, please.

  3. I was there today. The meal and the Americano I had were divine. I had a chat with the server and told her it’s the best coffee I’ve had. They are quite nerdy about the coffee. They adjust the espresso machine settings/preparation techniques etc. daily as the humidity/weather affects the end result. They have developed their own blend with a local coffee roaster. They sell bags of it there. So I suppose the “Director of Coffee” did a great job. BRAVO! I will be back!

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