Neighbourhood: The Exchange
Address: 339 Waterfront Dr
Italian cuisine is engrained in the food culture of Winnipeg. Pastas, pizzas, and panini appear on many contemporary menus to cater to masses and youngsters. This broad appeal is what makes well-executed Italian fare so revelatory: the notion that simple, well worn classics can become fresh and new through creative interpretation.
Cibo was added to the city’s mix of stylish table settings when it assumed its place in the restored Red River Pump House last summer. This charming exposed brick space with its soaring ceiling, hardwood floors, and enormous windows, got its start in the 1950s as a water cooling station for the steam plant across the street. Today, the space is far from industrial, with a craft-focused kitchen spinning modern hybrids of Mediterranean flavours and Canadian favourites.
Chef/Operator Stephen Pawulski, a grad of the Red River College Culinary Arts program, builds on a foundation of quality ingredients, with culinary components culled from local sources (artisanal breads supplied by Stella’s bakery) to faraway farms in Italy. Atlantic salmon pairs with French lentils, served skin side up to showcase a crispy pan sear and garnished with crunchy fried leeks. Small plates include arancini, perfect orbs of risotto, herbs, and baby bocconcino cheese rolled in breadcrumbs and fried golden brown.
While Cibo takes a modern angle on Mediterranean cuisine, interpretations are never over-wrought, and Pawulski proves equally adept at rustic Italian favourites. Slowly simmered Bolognese turns tomatoes, wine, and rich veal stock into a silky sauce that is tossed with pappardelle and brightened with peppery arugula. Caesar salad, too, needs no improvement, a tried and true blend of perky lemon and hints of anchovies.
Authentic Italian panino are also on the menu. Vegetarians can dine on a roasted vegetable variety spread with hummus, cucumber, roasted peppers, and caramelized onions. An equally delicious Spanish chicken sandwich is slightly earthy with manchego cheese and grilled red pepper, laid on a bed of aioli for a garlic kick.
A handful of desserts includes Callebaut chocolate five ways – flourless cake topped with chocolate ganache, plated on ‘soil’ made from dehydrated cake crumbs, garnished with house made chocolate candy and shredded white chocolate. An affogato offers espresso over ice cream with a shaving of Callebaut and a gluten free wafer.
The service is excellent and the ambiance is compelling. In a happy after-dinner haze, gazing at exquisite views of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and a glittering evening skyline through decades-old windows, reflective diners may be tempted to see how Cibo’s blend of old and new so perfectly mirrors our ever-changing city.