Real, regional, and hands on
For the past decade, Café Brio in Victoria, BC has planted its roots in regional cooking, which has cemented it as one of the city's hottest restaurants.
For the past decade, Victoria’s Cafe Brio has planted its roots in a centuries-old tradition of regional cooking.
For owners Greg Hays and Silvia Marcolini, the philosophy of cucina domestica has resulted in rave reviews amongst both locals and visitors to British Columbia’s capital city. For Chef Laurie Munn, it has opened the doors wide to small farms and fisheries across Vancouver Island and permitted him to exercise a passion for good taste.
Renowned for its wine list and the art upon its walls, Cafe Brio attracts most attention to the food upon its plates. Seldom straying from either seasonal or regional sourcing, its menu is a testament to Vancouver Island’s rich bounty. Hays is clear on the role that Cafe Brio plays for small suppliers and diners alike.
“Restaurants can be a huge boon for local producers as a way of introducing product to the market. Educating the public is key; turning people on to these wonderful new ways that are really old ways returning to importance,” said Hays. “It is an ongoing process, even after 35 years in the business. My wife and son and I just got back from Italy, and everything that went on the table there was almost identical to what is going on the table here. That felt really good.”
Both Hays and Munn are encouraged in the return to food that focuses on simplicity and comfort, and Cafe Brio’s top toque takes a decidedly can-do approach wherever viable. Beneath the restaurant is where Munn works much of his magic, curing a variety of meats, including prosciutto for his charcuterie platter, as well as aging a range of cheeses. Working with whole cuts from local farms, churning his own butter, and even brining his own sardines and olives when possible, Munn has found ample applause–but is driven by reasons both culinary and competitive.
“There is a definite athleticism to working hard in a hot kitchen,” said Munn. “I have always been very hands-on, and if it can be done, I prefer to do it myself,” he said.
Munn credits his culinary library with providing him ongoing inspiration, and his family for keeping the fires stoked. “Personally I think reading is the best way to eat better. When I started out cooking, that is what I did constantly, and it is the best way to gain access to a wealth of ideas,” he explained.
“It’s a commitment to realize you can make things at home that are delicious and not overly complex. What we are doing here at Brio is not revolutionary, but it shows we care for our guests.”