A Summery Sunday in Edmonton: Viva Italia Viva Edmonton and the Alley of Light

Mack and I started off our Sunday at Urban China for dim sum with my family. It’s been much too long since we’ve done that on a weekend morning, because we clearly underestimated the crowds: it was a forty minute wait from the time my parents arrived around noon. We’ll get an earlier start next time; Urban China is still one of my favourite places for dim sum in Edmonton!

Urban China

Crispy pork dumplings

We then headed off to Giovanni Caboto Park for the last day of the East Meets West Festival that celebrated all things Italian!

This was our first time at Viva Italia Viva Edmonton, though we’ve taken in the Chinese and African legs of the celebration in past years. It was easily the best part of the festival we’ve ever attended.

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Chasing Jones

Part of that had to do with the amount of space afforded in Little Italy, especially when compared with Chinatown or the McCauley School grounds. With a playground, spray park, wide green spaces as well as the street, there were definitely a lot more possibilities because of the area.

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Lots of families were out!

That said, the organizers still had to program the wide expanse, and they did that with panache. We arrived around 2pm, and found an abundance of things to peruse. Between browsing the shops and the car show, watching the soccer tournament, taking in the cooking demonstrations, or enjoying the on-stage entertainment, there really was something for everyone (Maki thought so too).

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Zocalo tent

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Mack’s dream car

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Soccer tournament

I have to say I particularly enjoyed Chef Daniel Costa’s demonstration. He made something I’ll never be able to pronounce, let alone spell out. Needless to say, it was a bucatini pasta with cured pig jowl and a San Marzano tomato sauce. He was great handling audience questions, and clearly loved sharing his passion for Italian cuisine with the crowd. Perhaps most invaluable was learning about some of his favourite products available at the Italian Centre (such as the Rio brand of olive oil for cooking).

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Chef Daniel Costa

Speaking of food, one of the most entertaining moments of the day for us was the pizza eating contest. Four women who work in local media were recruited for the spectacle, which required them to eat as much of a medium pizza as they could in five minutes. Brandy Taylor of Sonic and Kit Koon of OMNI tied, and ended up in a two minute eat-off. Brandy emerged as the champion.

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Sizeable crowd on hand

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Chow down!

There was also plenty of food options to keep festival-goers well fed. Fantasia Gelato easily had the longest line-ups that day, though Sorrentino’s and the Italian Centre were also serving up Italian fare.

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Gelato line

East Meets West 2011: Viva Italia

Cooking up sausages


Wine and cheese tasting tent

Our only suggestion for next year is to have all of the information up on a website prior. The postcards with the festival week schedule were nice, but didn’t have the detailed information that would definitely help them attract an even bigger crowd.

We hopped on a bus, and on the walk home, came across the Alley of Light public art installation still in progress.

Alley of Light

It’s a really neat project – three artists were commissioned by the Edmonton Arts Council to create a design that could be made into a stencil. The stencil would then be used to paint a portion of the alley.

Alley of Light

Alley of Light

Featuring bold, bright colours, it is a project that puts art in unexpected (but welcome!) places, and will definitely turn some heads. And hopefully, as forecasted by the speech bubble, invite dialogue about public art and the Alley of Light itself.

Alley of Light

Check it out the next time you’re downtown!

Not my Slice of Pizza: Santo’s Pizza and Steak

Our work team was fortunate enough to be treated to lunch this week at Little Italy’s Santo’s Pizza & Steak (10821 95 Street NW). It seems Santo’s was the designated backup, as Sorrentino’s couldn’t accommodate our group of twelve. At any rate, I enjoy any opportunity to try a restaurant off-the-beaten path, particularly one I likely would have never stumbled upon on my own accord.

Just before noon, the lounge we passed by on our way to the dining room was busy serving a few patrons who definitely seemed to be regulars. The dining room itself was quite small; our party literally took up half of the space. A short while later, another large party was seated directly behind us. It turned out to be a rather unfortunate placement for the waitress – more than a few coats were knocked off chairs as a result, and required her to do quite a bit of maneuvering to get through the tight space between. She did an admirable job overall of catering to refill requests despite this inconvenience, particularly as she was the lone staff member on the floor.

The menu seemed to focus on pizzas and pastas, though to be fair, a number of sandwiches and entrees also occupied some real estate. The Meat Lovers pizza ($12.65) with beef, ham, pepperoni, salami and sausage ended up winning my order, mostly because I just had pasta for dinner the night prior.

Though not quick, I would give the kitchen credit for handling our meals in a fairly efficient manner. I would imagine the delay in the delivery of some dishes was handicapped more by the fact that there was just one waitress available.

For the record, the 12 inch pizza was big enough to provide me with lunch for an additional two days. However, as quality wins over quantity most times, I have to say I was disappointed with the product. There was a tad too much tomato base, resulting in a tangy taste that didn’t complement the salty slices of meat. The crust was also sub-par – it retained its crunch, but wasn’t anything special. Having munched my way through many a pizza, I think I like my crust in one of two ways – thin and chewy, a la Famoso, or just full-on greasy, as served at Pizza Hut. The varying medium ground just doesn’t appeal to me.


Meat Lovers Pizza

On a side note – while I didn’t get to try the cappuccino first hand, a workmate said it was the best she’d ever had. Perhaps that would be worth a return trip.

While a work lunch is a poor way to judge a restaurant, at least I know Santo’s doesn’t meet my pizza standard.

Santo’s Pizza & Steak
10821 95 Street NW
(780) 421-1507