For the people behind Sapori–which means “flavour” in Italian—this opening day is a long time coming. “We wanted to be open last summer, but with the pandemic there was nobody around,” says Charline Cormier, who helped design Sapori to feel like an Italian streetscape.
Inside the restaurant is long and narrow with a prominent countertop: at one end is a tray of drinks and a cash register, near the door is a layout of vegetables and other food behind a glass barrier, ready to be scooped into takeout containers or onto pasta dishes.
On the opposite wall is a miniature Italian market with imported specialty foods. The stand-out centrepiece is a Ferrari-red truck that came from a farm in co-owner Giuseppe “Beppe” Giardino’s home village of Conversano, Italy. “It still smelled like the farm. It still had hay in the back,” laughs Cormier.
“We call Sapori ‘Street Food’ because in Italy right now the street food is very popular,” Giardino says. People are going out for a stroll and a snack—not necessarily in that order—popping into an eatery to spend “five Euro on their sandwich and they can walk around with that.”
Through the other side of the restaurant are tables and booths, all leading onto a walkway that will eventually become a patio for Sapori, inside the piazza at Queen’s Marque.
“Having our restaurant here kind of really goes well with their style of building and I guess that’s why they liked our concept, ’cause then in the big piazza basically, our food, you can grab it and walk around like you would in Europe,” says Cormier, who’s also Giardino’s wife.
Giardino co-owns the spot with his long-time friend Luca Ferrante, who moved to Halifax from Sperlonga, Italy, just before the pandemic specifically for this venture. “A couple of years ago I came to visit them here and Beppe came to show me this place, it was under construction,” says Ferrante, who credits growing up in his father’s restaurant for both his love of food and his hard work ethic.
“We were supposed to be ready before but we had to stop our project for Covid, we had to reinvent ourself a little bit,” Ferrante tells The Coast. “But it was a decision that we made, I think it’s a great decision to go ahead and everything is happening. And with hard work and dedication, quality of food, we are going to succeed.”
Ferrante is handling the customer service side of things and accounting, while Giardino is working in the kitchen with Sapori’s chef Evan Blaxland. “I’m not a chef, but I like to cook,” says Giardino. “I always cook some idea of my own. We have some recipes already from Italy, and I cook home all the time.”
Sapori’s street food will include plenty of Italian favourites, like lasagna; four kinds of pasta (spaghetti, orecchiette, fettuccine and rigatoni) to mix and match with four kinds of sauces (pesto, tomato, cream and bolognese); and multiple types of al taglio pizza (smaller slices so you can try a few). There will be arancini, calamari and panzerotti, all available within a few minutes of placing an order.
“You can add whatever you want, chicken, porchetta, we’re going to have mushroom, broccoli and we’re going to have meatballs as well. You can have spaghetti, tomato sauce, add the meatball. Or you can have only tomato sauce. And two minutes, your pasta will be ready,” says Giardino.
A panini press, salad bar, morning espresso and pastries, beer and wine options and the mini market round out Sapori to be an almost fully-immersive Italian experience. “There’s an olive oil from Conversano where Beppe comes from, all the classic Italian things like balsamic vinegar, olives, artichokes, pesto, pasta and sauces, cold cuts, cheeses,” says Ferrante. “So you can come here, select a few Italian items, take it home and eat.”
Sapori Italian Street Food, 1741 Lower Water Street, suite 162, 902-422-1711. Opens Friday, April 2 at 11am. Open 11am-9pm on its opening Friday and Saturday, and 11am-8pm on opening Sunday. Its regular hours starting Monday, April 5 are 8:30am-9pm Monday to Friday, Saturday 11am-9pm, and Sunday 11am-8pm.