Executive Chef/Owner Julio Gonzalez Perini has returned to the house he calls home at 896 Hamilton Street. While the shuttered elegance of Villa de Lupo saw the sun set some time ago, for the love of Lupo, he seems to have his teeth fixed firmly in the realities of the new marketplace.
The frills are gone, but the thrill remains in a menu rooted in a more relaxed approach and favoured Italian dishes. Unchanged at its heart, Lupo is once more graced by the partnering of Perini with wine director Michael Mameli, along with Takeo Hiroi who originally joined the duo directly out of cooking school. As for everything else – Lupo has opted for lean.
“It’s not your parents’ Villa del Lupo,” says Mameli.
Perini could not be happier. “We were a definite romantic destination in the past, but wanted something different, a place that the neighbourhood could fall in love with several nights a week.”
In redefining the romance of Lupo, Perini and crew lifted the linens, lowered the price points and removed the trappings of elegance that once made Villa del Lup the sort of room you whispered in whether you meant to or not. Now, with walls creamily white washed and wooden floors laid bare, the atmosphere is at once clean, casual and comforting. The menu is much alike: adjusted for affordability, but adhering to its original ethos: sourcing the best local, seasonal ingredients with all accoutrement created in-house. Quality ingredients, prepared well.
Perini quips that the small touches that define each dish come at a cost, but not one passed on to the guest. “These little details are my advertising budget. If I feed my guests well, they come back for more.”
It is a truism that has been taken to heart by many top restaurateurs in the province as of late. With Fresco flipping to Raudz Regional Bar in Kelowna, Gastropod leaving the glitz for Maenam’s top Thai and Fuel dropping the high-octane fine dining to Refuel more sensibly, the move to redefine dining destinations is afoot.
Mameli is thrilled by refreshed call for a simplified “great night out” and also looks forward to Lupo shortly opening its doors for lunch. “It’s simple really – guests expect nice food in a comfortable place. We know what we like and how we want to be treated so we re-created this for our guests when we built Lupo.”
Showcased alongside the rustic yet refined Mediterranean mains is a wine list that reflects Mameli’s love for Italian and BC bottles, while Pastry Chef Jeff Salzsauler, an alum of Thomas Haas, assures the final bites are amongst the most memorable.
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