When I walk into BiBo Pizzeria Con Cucina late on Tuesday evening, I am immediately greeted by a charming young Italian couple. Andrea and Michela Bini are exactly what you expect of married Italian restaurant owners – excitable and hospitable, they usher me in and make me comfortable, ready to share their work, their stories, and, most importantly, their food.
Last year, BiBo reopened on Valentine’s Day after a change of ownership and two months of renovations. The new and improved interior is cozy and elegant, with red walls and brick accents, a black-and-white Italian movie playing above the bar, a giant mural of an actual street in Italy filling one corner, and shelves stocked with bottles and jars of sauces and spices. Andrea and Michela designed the interior themselves, but it seems like the change they are most proud of is the new patio. Although just big enough to fit two small tables, the large windows open wide in June for the entire restaurant to enjoy the fresh air and street view.
As soon as I’ve settled in to my seat and catch a glimpse of the brick pizza oven and the meals dotted on tables of fellow diners, I know I’m in for a treat. Another big change marks the reopening: the recruitment of Executive Chef Matt Repetto. Straight from Italy, he (accompanied by Andrea on busy weekends) cooks up a storm of delicious dishes, bringing authenticity to them all. And he’s not the only one; all of the staff came from Italy as friends of Andrea and Michela. This is genuine Italian dining in every sense.
For the next three hours I indulge in a procession of food that is, as Andrea says, “very, very simple, but very Italian.” Each plate is presented with a smile and a story, either about how Andrea’s mother cooks this dish, which friend grows this ingredient, or how this particular recipe was developed. Not only are the people authentic, but also the wine and ingredients are imported, most from the farms of friends and family. (After so much interest in the top-quality ingredients, Andrea and Michela now also sell a selection of their best natural Italian products to take home.) The ingredients produce dishes that are simple and delightful.
There’s tagliere di salumi e formaggi and tagliere di prosciutto di parma (wooden platters overflowing with meats, cheeses, mushrooms, and Focaccia). There’s ravioli alla Piemontese (handmade and stuffed with beef and Parmesan, covered with a sauce of red wine and braised beef) and gnocchi with pesto (undeniably the best I’ve had; the basil concentrate comes from Italy and the fresh basil is from a local farm). There are the classic Neopolitan pizzas topped with tomato, basil, and mozzarella, or spicy salami, or fresh arugula and parmesan. The whole meal is accompanied by a bottle of BiBo Bonardo, and is concluded with a selection of desserts (I recommend the refreshing panna cotta or the rich chocolate bick as perfect finales to your meal) and a tasting of their authentic limoncello.
Every plate is beautifully presented, with attention to detail and respect for the ingredients clearly a priority. A feast for the eyes first, the flavours don’t disappoint either. Forget just Italian, this is some of the best food – period – that I’ve had in a long time. And having eaten in Italy myself, I can say that BiBo is truly authentic. From the top quality ingredients, to the formidable wine, to the friendly banter and familial atmosphere, BiBo is now top of my list for the next dinner date, family celebration, girl’s night out, or even solo escape – Andrea and Michela don’t discriminate, this restaurant is home to everyone.
1835 W 4th Ave., 604-568-6177, Thebibo.com
Last modified: April 7, 2014