1016 8th St. S.W., Calgary
Brunch & drinks for two: $70
The rear downtown patio of Bonterra is legendary, but in colder months, the restaurant shouldn’t be overlooked for transporting you to an Italian terrazza, with its smooth red wines and fine hospitality.
The restaurant is elegant without being snooty, comfortable without slipping into indifference.
Oh, and the food. Bonterra’s kitchen doesn’t fuss with anything, letting ingredients speak for themselves, and adding a little pizzazz when needed. It’s also very generous in its portions.
A simple starter of marinated mushrooms ($9) is sprinkled with grana padana, rosemary, sea salt and white truffle oil. Beef carpaccio ($15) gets a kick with fried capers and a whole anchovy. Calamari ($14) is lightly grilled with a curious but delicious partner of currants, almonds, sundried tomatoes, olives and an Asian-inspired spice mix.
The kitchen knows its way not only with meat — a pistachio-encrusted rack of lamb ($44) is perfectly cooked with pumpkin puree and crunchy snap peas — but also with fish, cooking a lovely trout ($27) with green beans, fingerling potatoes and olives.
No respectable Italian establishment can get away with anything but perfect pasta and Bonterra delivers. The menu changes seasonally but one mainstay is its linguine carbonara ($16), yet another simple, but indulgent dish made with wild boar bacon, fresh egg, chiles and grana padano.
Dessert matches the rest of the evening with a pleasing panna cotta, flecked with vanilla bean seeds and some light strawberry sauce.