What do you do when you need the perfect muse? Invent one. Vancouver firm Ste. Marie conjured up Savio Volpe, “an old dandy that loved wine and to host family and friends and who told funny/scary stories to all the kids,” explains founding principal Craig Stanghetta.
As the namesake of this Italian eatery, the fictitious clever fox sets the tone for the warm and light-hearted space, rife with personality and quirky appeal (art lights punched through the prints themselves). The story, along with the graphic fox logo outside (loosely based on Enzo Mari), pulls you in. “It’s a place you’d want to walk into out of the rain,” says Stanghetta, who started the boutique firm five years ago.
And like Volpe, the restaurant is decidedly Italian, both in its menu and its ambiance. It was conceived as a classic osteria — casual eateries popular in Italy, where wine flows freely and food is fresh, simple and local. “It’s completely oriented to enhance and foster socializing and being boisterous and having fun,” says Stanghetta, who also owns the restaurant that he describes as Farmhouse meets Modern.
A clean and contemporary mix of woods and graphic floor-tile patterns are nods to those beloved spaces. “The materials are all quite coarse and have a very earthy patina. It should age like a roadside tavern,” he says.
Bruno Munari-inspired collages, designed by the firm, are also inspired by the motherland with the Italian Modernist confidence of “simplicity balanced with irreverence and play” a concept that Stanghetta holds dear. The massive chandelier, spreading out like an octopus over the main counter/shared table is good evidence of this.
The distinct retro flair at work here, with the great swaths of wood panelling and sartorial-inspired upholstery (not to mention a yellow rotary-dial phone at the bar), only adds to the comfort level and curiosity, perhaps channelling the 1960s heyday of a slim-suited Volpe.