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Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Cibo - A World Apart

Cibo, quite simply, means "food" in Italian. It's also the name of a relative newcomer to Edmonton's culinary landscape. Cibo, which is the creation of friends Rosario Caputo, Mike Giampa and Matt Helstein, sits comfortably in Tesoro's former Oliver Square digs.  It's inevitable that comparisons will be drawn between Cibo and Tesoro, but similarities are restricted to physical location. The menu and ambiance are worlds apart.


Cibo's astute and concise menu contains a smattering of appetizers, entrees and desserts. All recapitulate Italian recipes with liberal use of local ingredients. We begin with pan-fried ricotta cakes; here, a sextet of creamy ricotta pillows are topped by tangy tomato jam and shreds of fragrant chicken. Nicely played, Cibo.


Mike brings us a savoury surprise: polenta fritta. Its name indicates polenta, which I envisioned as a large crispy wedge. To my most pleasant surprise, the polenta is presented as long "fries" with shavings of piquant Calabrese salami. Each fry may be enrobed by salami and dipped in spicy mayo as a zesty precursor to subsequent indulgences.


We progress to guance di manzo. This plate presents a hearty helping of beef cheeks accompanied by a rotund arancino and braised rapini. The crisp arancino (the singular of arancini, if you're wondering) sings of caciocavallo cheese and golden chanterelle mushrooms, while the rapini adds an enticing, vaguely bitter undertone that exemplifies the beef's natural sweetness.


Our second entree, gnocchi, is caressed by creamy gorgonzola, shallots, and earthy mushrooms. True that the dish is a bit monochromatic but one tender bite chases away any nit-picking considerations of colour.


Dessert is a tough call, but we select goat milk panna cotta with blueberry sauce. The panna cotta is infused with basil. Both goat milk and basil are assertive flavours but coexist quite agreeably in this dessert. A snowy sprinkle of piave vecchio cheese adds a demurely savoury surprise and the chubby blueberries burst with violet sweetness.

Evidently (and much to the amusement of Mike, Rosi and Matt) customers still blaze through Cibo's doors, fail to notice the substantial changes in decor, and order items that do not exist on Cibo's menu. It's tough when a favourite eatery moves on, but Cibo's menu makes it easy to find new favourites.

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