The Crudo Welcome: The Black Pearl

Restaurants have been a family affair for the Crudos. After successfully running large-scale establishments in Edmonton and Penticton, brothers Cristo and Nick reunited with their father Giuseppe following their mother’s passing to open up Café Amore. The cozy Delton storefront was soon bursting at the seams, having built a reputation of good food, personal service, and the atmosphere of a neighbourhood trattoria. It prompted a move into larger digs two years later where they’ve continued to flourish and cement their hospitality excellence.

Now, the Crudos are preparing to open The Black Pearl, a seafood destination, on April 17, 2015. Though its location downtown on 104 Street may seem more upscale, it was only fitting that host extraordinaire Cristo, Executive Chef Nick, and patriarch Giuseppe welcomed us like family at the sneak peek Wednesday night.

The space has been completely transformed, only retaining the bones of what Lit had installed prior. Comparisons to East Coast fixture Atlantic Trap & Gill would be warranted, and at the very least, their rejection of the modern simplicity that dominates area décor schemes certainly sets them apart.

The Black Pearl

Interior

The Black Pearl is intended to showcase the Crudos’ love of seafood, developed especially when they had the chance to live on the coast. The restaurant will only serve fresh seafood, and as a result, the menu will rotate on a monthly basis to promote seasonality. The crustaceans in the tanks by the bar were a reminder that many of the dishes we sampled that night were made with their compatriots.

The Black Pearl

The long bar

Prepare to get your hands dirty at The Black Pearl. I would imagine most diners ordering a few plates to share, family-style, passing around the seafood cracker. The hands-on approach to eating promotes the conviviality of the restaurant, and references the more casual atmosphere of its sister restaurant. No doubt, one of the restaurant’s crown jewels will be King & Dungeness crab, served in a Crown Royal, chili, scallion and ginger cream sauce. It was a statement dish similar to the pasta pescatore so well known at Café Amore.

The Black Pearl

King & Dungeness crab

For calamari seekers, their crispy version topped with squid, ginger, garlic, scallions and chili hit all the right notes for us.

The Black Pearl

Calamari

The head-on BC side stripe shrimp, sauteed with pimento, scallions, shallots and garlic oil had a bit of kick to them, and beautifully presented, were almost too good to eat.

The Black Pearl

Shrimp

Although the dishes did primarily focus on seafood, The Black Pearl doesn’t alienate those who prefer meat, with beef carpaccio and roast chicken on the menu. One of my favourite tastes that evening was the house-made porchetta served with maple glazed Brussels sprouts – the right amount of fat and a hint of sweetness.

The Black Pearl

Porchetta with Brussels sprouts

Mack and I also really enjoyed a salad that celebrated the beauty of simplicity and quality ingredients; the cherry tomatoes topped with fiore di latte and house-made pesto balsamic glaze is a must-try.

The Black Pearl

Cherry tomatoes and fiore di latte

It will be interesting to see how The Black Pearl is received. Sabor Divino has had a lot of success with a similarly seafood-focused menu just one block over, and of course, Café Amore itself has a loyal customer base to draw from.

But as Cristo shared with us, The Black Pearl is a labour of love for his family, and the project has been driven by their passion for hospitality. That care and attention came through in the food and the service in spades, and hopefully, with this second location, even more Edmontonians will be exposed to the warmth of the Crudo welcome.

Thanks again to Cristo, Nick and Giuseppe for having us!

The Black Pearl
10132 104 Street

A Warm Welcome: Cafe Amore

Quite a few different sources had been pointing us to Cafe Amore over the last few months – friends, associates, the blogosphere – it seemed everyone was raving about this small Italian eatery’s food and atmosphere. We finally gave it a try ourselves recently, to celebrate Mack’s birthday.

The trickiest thing about Cafe Amore is that reservations aren’t permitted for groups smaller than 6. When I called to confirm this, I also asked about the best time to avoid a long wait, but unfortunately, staff couldn’t commit to any particular time or day. So we took our chances on a Friday after work.

Cafe Amore is a small space to be sure – it resembled more of a small neighbourhood pub than a restaurant. The room was anchored by an 80s style wooden bar (with a glaringly fluorescent soda cooler), with several flat screen televisions adorning the walls. A handful of tables occupied the adjacent space, though as Mack noted, many of them looked to be comfortable four tops to which several more chairs had been added.

Because of the tight space, there wasn’t much room for a lobby. Later on, as more people piled in for the dinner rush, this became more apparent given we felt like the waiting parties were watching us eat. When we entered, there wasn’t a sign directing us to wait, so we weren’t sure if we were to hunt for a space ourselves. After a few minutes, a gregarious staff member greeted us, and told us he could squeeze us in at the bar (and eventually were fortunate enough to be moved to a table; the next couple who walked in wasn’t so lucky, and had to wait about 45 minutes).

As soon as he found out it was our first time at the restaurant, he shook our hands and introduced himself. Mack remarked later that although we weren’t impressed with the initial welcome or the close quarters, these misgivings were negated by the effort staff made to personally connect with diners (later, the patriarch of the restaurant not only made the rounds to check how our meal was going, but also thanked us on our way out).

Cafe Amore

Happy birthday, Mack!

We were told how the menu worked (no paper menus, just the chalkboard equivalent) – entree options included seven different pastas (with the pasta falling on that particular day offered at a discounted rate), prawns, and several specials. Appetizers changed on an almost daily basis. I settled on one of the pasta dishes ($14, plus $3 for chicken), while Mack opted for the crowning special of pasta pescatore ($25).

Though the server had promised our food would be delivered promptly, the swiftness exceeded both of expectations. The portion sizes also blew our minds – each of our plates could have easily fed two people. My sambucca rose was nothing special, though I enjoyed the slight sweetness of the sauce. In hindsight, I would have added the rapini ($4) for a bit of texture.

Cafe Amore

Sambucca rose

Mack’s pescatore, however, was the crown jewel at our table. Linguine and a generous amount of king crab, baby clams, mussels, jumbo prawns and baby shrimp had been tossed with a white wine sauce. Light and fresh, with perfectly prepared seafood, Mack could not be happier with his birthday dinner.

Cafe Amore

Pasta pescatore

Though we did enjoy our food, our dinner really highlighted for us an instance where service can really make a meal. While we will be returning in the future, the lure of Cafe Amore is its staff, and their ability to make you feel welcomed and appreciated.

Before we left, we were told that the owners are hunting for a second location. Given the Delton storefront is bursting at the seams, this couldn’t come at a better time. But with the expansion, we do hope that they can maintain their personal touch, which sets Cafe Amore apart from other restaurants.

Cafe Amore
12118 90 Street
(780) 477-7896
Sunday 12-6pm, Monday-Saturday 11am-12am