2023, Best New Restaurants,

Borgo Antico review

BORGO ANTICO

Neighbourhood:  Exchange District
Address:  173 McDermot Avenue
Phone:  204-942-3663
Entrees:  $14 – $45

Having a chance to enjoy a meal from a favourite chef always breeds a jolt of excitement. When the familiar chef launches a new restaurant with a fresh line up of dishes, hold onto your seat! 

Giac Appice brought his relaxed elegant cuisine to Winnipeg’s Exchange District 30 years ago with Tre Visi café. Modern artistic décor, smart staff and light versions of Italian dishes won us over. While the successful concept now resides in River Heights, Appice sold his stake in it, returning to his own building and original location to launch Borgo Antico.  From the very first dining experience, it has us smitten right out of the gate. 

Tucked into a long narrow space in its heritage digs, Borgo Antico is poised to be another star in the city’s food scene. Aptly named – Borgo Antico means a town’s historical center – the new eatery’s fresh coat of paint conveys its spirited energy. Walls of the beautifully designed room, clad in lively green hues, are covered in giant circles featuring pasta shaped die-cuts. Shapely grand pendant lights accentuate inviting seats at the bar. 

The menu wears its Italian heart on its sleeve, inserting recipes across regions. In step with fashion, it leads to small and large plates, including a collection of pastas to share or as legitimate entrées. 

High standards of excellence make an immediate impression. A glistening tussle of fresh greens anointed simply with radish and thin slices of fennel is softly kissed with lemon olive oil. Artfully presented burrata, with heirloom cherry tomatoes radiating from the center, is topped with slivers of crisped mortadella, pesto and finely chopped pistachio. 

Hot starters are equally divine. Arancini evoking cacio e pepe sit on a piquant amatriciana, asserting bright peppery notes to bites of creamy rice. Gnocco fritto, fried bread puffs, airy and soft are crowned with a paper-thin mortadella slice. 

Although pasta is an Italian staple, at the hands of a pedigreed chef, classic dishes deliver something fresh. House made cavatelli, dotted with dollops of rapini pesto, nduja and accents of kalamata, playfully nod to the flag of Italy. Tossing the mixture brings components together in harmony, delivering salt, spice, bitter and sweet in every spoon. House rolled tagliatelle, nestled in a shallow bowl, with Bolognese and parmigiano is destined to warm hearts – it is perfection. 

Of course, protein forward mains are distinct too. Roman inspired lamb chops reveal the kitchen’s aim to keep things informal. Scottadito lamb, meaning finger burning, and to be eaten with your hands, gives the green light to eat off the bone. The Sicilian inspired caponata accompaniment enlivens the meaty morsels with a satisfying sweet, sour kick. 

For those who have won the pacing game, finish with budino, a bittersweet Italian baked pudding, exemplary of the fine balance of elegance and comfort flavouring the entire experience.