Autostrada Downtown, Vancouver.

March 2019.

This restaurant, for which there is a sister near Main and 33rd, is in the location of the former Cinara at Pender and Homer Street. It’s a very nice room on a corner with large windows looking out on the sidewalks. I think the food here is a bit better than it was at Cinara, but the service and peace and quiet could use some attention which I’m afraid they’re unlikely to get.

We were two, early (about 5:45 before a concert) and brought our own bottle of Super Tuscan for a $35 corkage. The server unfortunately was unpleasantly aggressive. He might’ve had a cup or two too many coffees but it was more like he’d been into something a little speedier. He recited the specials and was back within a couple of minutes looking for our orders.

The menu is nicely varied and creative, mixing traditional Italian dishes with others with a west coast modification. We started with vitello tonnato and tuna carpaccio. The carpaccio was wonderful with perfectly-cooked big beans and cut-up lemon preserve. Vitello tonnato also nice but not quite the same homerun, the tuna sauce more like a mashed canned tuna than anything really unique. A very nice oil-rich foccacia helped soak up the remaining delights on the plates.

Main course was two pastas: strozzapreti (a wonderful duck and anchovy combination on heavy noodles) and tagliatelle bolognese (large penne-like sections of tubular pasta with a tomato sauce). Again a bit of a contrast in quality. The duck and anchovy pasta was terrific, the noodles perfectly al dente and the unusual combination of two delicious ingredients salty and succulent. I added olive oil which was quickly provided. The tagliatelle was nicely cooked but the tomato sauce seemed a bit one-dimensional by comparison to the other dish.

 

As the place filled to fully-subscribed by 7:30 on a Tuesday night, the (now pretty well present in every restaurant) crashing and thundering noise became overwhelming. Our server continued his narcissistic speedball act, never frankly offensive but always inappropriately ingratiating and embarrassingly full of himself. We paid about $60 each including the corkage and tips.

If you’re selective about the dishes, there is some very good Italian food available here. The location is in a pleasant downtown slightly out-of-the-way location, and the room benefits from the lovely big windows. Take out your hearing aids, ignore the strange service attitude, choose carefully, and enjoy the food.

Food 8.6-9.3, service 5.8, ambience 8.6, value 8.2, peace and quiet 5.0.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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