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San Remo - Suburban Italian in Calgary


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San Remo - Suburban Italian in Calgary

Gobstopper | Jun 21, 2005 03:33 PM

I've been with the family twice now to this strip mall italian restaurant. They are just off 90th avenue, south of Glenmore Reservoir. It's not my neighbourhood, but I spent my summers at the sailing school, and some of my first underage pints were at the chinese restaurant and the Point and Feather.

Nostalgia aside, the first impression is a bit underwhelming. Standard storefront doors, with a squeezed foyer and split dining rooms. Like suburban churches, suburban restaurants suffer from poorly applied Rona painting techniques, plastic ivy and no paintings.

The heart of this restaurant is in its menu. A two page monster which must have every permutation of risotto and pasta that the kitchen could create listed as an item. Typically this would sour me to no end, but at the heart of it lies a few basic structures. I think that the dining demographic for San Remo is rather unlikely to ask for something not on the menu.

They have an appetizer deal which is basically 3 for the price of 2.5 (21 dollars for three choices from about a dozen). It's nicely presented in a long rectangular dish. I've had the coconut calamari, sambuca shrimp, crab cake polenta, roasted brie with maple syrup. It's all quite decent. The polenta is pretty smooth, with a good crust, though it lacks the crab punch a bit. The brie with maple syrup.. it's a massive block of cheese, covered in sugar, but definitely a crowd pleasing item.

For dinner I've tried a seafood risotto, lobster risotto and a veal with prosciutto with a demiglace. The seafood risotto was a feature, and definitely top ranks out of the entrees I've had. It was clearly put together with a seafood broth or stock and with risotto, it's the attention to details that elevates the flavours. The lobster risotto wasn't on pair with that, and suffered from large chunks of soggy celery hanging about. I'm not sure if that's a traditional Italian addition or not. The veal demiglace wasn't too bad from a flavour standpoint. As a demi though, it lacked shine and body, more of a stock reduction with Marsala.

Service is a mixed bag. I think the split dining room makes it difficult for the low amount of front house staff to take care of business. The "feed the slaves" bread and water should undoubtedly get slammed down sooner after ordering. The features need to get printed out, even as a single sheet per table. Both times I've eaten there, the waitress has had to perform teleprompter duty with her notepad to convey the features. Features which have, generally, sounded dynamite.

Dessert was reasonably priced at around 5 bucks. I've seen the tiramisu (overpowered by a fruit coulis on top) and the brulee (not terribly crusty, and served in a cheap rammy dish). I've found dessert downtown in Calgary to be an absolute bargain, so it makes it tough for places without a dedicated pastry chef.

All in all, San Remo is a bargain with decent, mostly legit Italian food. They need some clean up to achieve "hidden gem" status, but the food usually pulls it off anyways. Sure, the wine list might not kick azz, take names, but for 9 bucks, an appetizer risotto is a bargain dinner, especially south of 17th.

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