There’s so many places to dine in Calgary and our neighborhood is no slouch when it comes to local gems. I’ve been an avid foodie for years and I haven’t even made a dent in the YYC food scene. This was how it came to be that despite walking by it every day for years, I hadn’t popped into Bonterra Trattoria.
Launched in 2000 by Creative Restaurants Group, with notable spots such as Scopa, Parc, and 4th Spot Kitchen & Bar, Bonterra quickly made it’s mark on casual Italian gourmet food in Calgary. In 2007 Chef Ben Mills joined Creative Restaurants, taking on the position of Executive Chef at Posto Pizzeria & Bar in 2014. Following the instant and continued success of Posto, Chef Ben has taken on the role of Executive Chef at Bonterra Trattoria. Here’s a great video of Chef Ben preparing meatballs! I’m not sure if the Posto special is still valid, so if you’re going for free meatballs, call ahead!
Upon arriving for dinner I was greeted by friendly staff and a warm and cozy decor. Logs were burning in a fireplace in the dining room which was nice on such a chilly night. Our server for the evening welcomed us and walked us through the menu and the wine pairings.
We toasted the upcoming evening with Canella Prosecco and house marinated mixed olives. I’m not usually a big fan of olives but these were mild and tasty. Our wonderful server explained the types and regions of the olives but, like her name, I have forgotten it all.
The Courses Begin
Next up was one of my favourite things in the universe, an antipasti platter. This gorgeous board boasted house-cured duck prosciutto, house cured pork lonza, gorgonzola, prosciutto Di Parma, fennel salami, tallegio, and grana padano. Paired with truffle honey, fig jam, pear butter, pistachios walnuts, semi-dried tomatoes, and fennel relish. I’m a sucker for honey on my platter.
The second course came in the form of delicious house-cured sword fish tagliatelle, with pickled fresno peppers, black currents, pine nuts, and dashi-olive oil vinaigrette. I have never had fish as a salad before but I would definitely have this one again.
We moved on to rich lamb tenderloin tartare paired with truffled egg sauce, and potato crisps. This was so velvety it was probably sinful. The La Crema Chardonnay stood up to the richness nicely. I liked it so much that I went and bought a bottle to enjoy at home. Thanks for the suggestion Bonterra!
The Gamberi followed and it was so incredibly flavourful and perfectly cooked. Shrimp and white beans, brocollini, wild boar bacon, and white wine sauce. So bright and pretty!
Then came the most delicious beet dish I have ever eaten, Barbabietola. A beautiful mix of red, gold, and candy cane beets on a whipped bed of pistachio vinaigrette, pistachios, and goat feta. The server and I joked about having a plate licking room just for this salad. We were both only half kidding. I would be happy to have this as a dessert dish, a nice big bowl of that creamy pistachio goodness. Hot damn.
Bonterra’s famous Veal Meatballs with fresca sauce and grana padano came next and it was paired with Brancaia Tre, a super Tuscan wine. Tre is a blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Mini is on a meatball kick and she would love love love these ones, especially with that delicious fresca sauce.
So Much Food
I was so excited for the Ravioli di Zucca (I would probably eat pasta at every meal if I could safely do so.) Before us was pumpkin ravioli glistening in a brown butter sauce and garnished with dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil and amoretti cookie. Yes, a cookie. I could have eaten a vat of this. I think we also switched to the La Spinetta Il Nero Sangiovese wine at this point too but my memory is hazy!
The real test of the evening was going to be the next dish. My whole reason for coming in to Bonterra was to follow up on a recommendation from a follower that I try the linguine carbonara. My dining companion had been to Italy and was quite familiar with how a proper carbonara should be done. As previously stated, I just really really really like pasta. Neither of us were disappointed! The ingredients were few but perfectly cooked and presented. Wild boar bacon, duck fat, grana padano, and a fresh egg, all perfection.
The final savory course was the Bonterra Trota Saltimbocca. Trout marinated in sage and lemon, then wrapped in prosciutto, served on top of squash apricot puree with cous cous, kale, and pancetta. I wasn’t expecting to like this as I am not a lover of cooked fish but Chef Ben didn’t let me down! The prosciutto was nice and crispy and the apricot puree gave it a nice lightness so we weren’t finishing off the meal on a heavy note.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from dessert when Chef Ben announced it was going to be the Happy Ending (with cheese) but when he spoke of the magical caramelized white truffle, I was sold. Our table was quickly filled with a group of tiny plates holding Grand Marnier Truffles, raspberry jellies, riopelle with apricot puree, chocolate shortbread, tiger blue cheese with marsala grapes and almond streusel, and the aforementioned caramelized white truffle. These were paired with Chef Ben’s house-made eggnog and Taylor 20 year port, which were both exquisite. I despise eggnog but I would drink this one every day of the year, it’s just that good. And Chef Ben was right, that caramelized white truffle should be sold in boxes. You need this stuff in your life.
Can’t Wait to go Back
I’m already planning my return trip to try the rest of the menu, as well as taking Mini next door to Posto as she’s the pizza lover in the family! That was hands down the best meal I’ve ever had and I’m kicking myself for not checking it out sooner. This is somewhere I’d recommend to anyone and everyone.