Neighbourhood: St Vital
Address: 1 – 980 St Anne’s Rd
Entrees: $18 – $36
Suburbs are not a huge draw for the culinary elite seeking chef forward menus. Yet, in St. Vital’s extreme far south, a beacon for eaters with high standards emerged this year. Locals from near and far are beating a path to Harth, drawn by the promise of stylish and forward-thinking food.
Owners Greg Gagliardi and Greg Masi, and new partner Chef Brent Genyk, are not exactly new to the hospitality game. “The Gregs” brought culinary excitement to Lindenwoods nearly 20 years ago with Bellissimo. Modern décor, smart staff and light versions of Italian dishes won us over.
Harth is poised to do the same. A few meals, and we are smitten. The menu wears its Italian heart on its sleeve, encouraging sharing familia style. It’s the Italian way. Pacing is important when the selections start with boards piled with house cured meats and Italian cheeses, and tastebud-awakening starters to share. A small bowl of warm olives are hit with a bright splash of citrus, and a pop of spicy chili. Chicken liver mousse is delectably creamy and finished with earthy mushrooms and slightly sweet pickled onions. Burrata–a softer, creamier buffalo mozzarella–is drizzled with herby olive oil and aged balsamic, and paired with roasted tomato bruschetta. Grilled bread adds a charred smokiness to both dishes.
The room is beautifully designed, with wood finishes, wine bottles hanging as a dividing wall, big booths for groups, and bar top seats offering a window on the open cucina. Dinner is a show, the action supplied by chefs forming pizza dough, slicing a big leg of prosciutto di Parma, and pulling dishes from the wood fired oven.
That fire is the restaurant’s pride and joy, blazing behind glass for the benefit of curious diners. Pizzas are constantly rotating in and out. Elevated toppings like fire-roasted tomato, roasted chicken, caramelized onion, capers, prosciutto, fig jam, gorgonzola and arugula make appearances.
Wood burning pizza ovens are not new to Winnipeg, and the pies are only half of it. Meat is also going into the fire. Veal chops and chicken emerge kissed by the flame – delivering summer’s smoky flavour to each dish. Prosciutto wraps the veal chop adding salty crunch and a hint of sage adds a layer of herbaceousness. The roast chicken arrives anointed with charred lemon and warm radish, its peppery bite mellowed by cooking. Salsa verde adds even more vibrancy to this winner chicken dinner.
Perhaps it is the warm glow in the room, or the convivial staff, or a sense of confidence that whoever is in that kitchen can be trusted to make vegetables taste good; whatever it is, here dishes of broccolini, green beans, Brussels sprouts and carrots are as popular as the pizza. Roasted carrots are decadently sweet, topped with coriander and pumpkin seeds. A parfait-like dollop of ricotta ensures not even one is left behind.
Although pasta is an Italian menu staple, the promise of fresh handmade noodles are rare. Here, options abound – Spaghetti! Gnocchi! Tortellini! Rigatoni! Fettucine! – and these house made versions delight those enjoying gluten. Soft tortellini pockets an herb and kale ricotta blend, sauced in lemon-scented white wine sauce. It is perfect.
With a menu this can’t-miss, dessert separates the dining pros from the amateurs: only for those who have won the pacing game. Finish with a chocolate tart – topped with olive oil, sea salt and almonds – and maybe a nice glass of port while relaxing by the fire.
Harth is open Tue-Fri lunch 11:30 am-2 pm, dinner 5 pm-11 pm, Mon and Sat 5 pm-11 pm, Sun closed.