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Robba da Matti, #PastaChallengeYVR

As one of the three judges for the 8th annual Vancouver Foodster #PastaChallengeYVR, it is my responsibility is to visit all the participating restaurants and try each of their competing dishes. And having judged several of these in the past and present, I can tell you with confidence that this is the first time I have seen each location of any one restaurant offering their own creation for the running. Not only are all of Robba da Matti’s 4 locations competing against the other 4 restaurants, but they are also in competition against their own banner as well. Gastown, Yaletown, West End, and Kitsilano. I am familiar with their Gastown location, but was surprised to learn from this challenge that they had 3 others, so was excited to be able to visit each on this occasion.

Each restaurant had a similar small town Italian vibe, offering the exact same menus. The only decision when picking one is which area do you prefer, and if you have a setting preference? The following is in the order of when we visited them.

Robba da Matti (Gastown)
12 Powell St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1G1, Canada
+1 604-558-4929

At the Gastown Robba da Matti this two-story venue is intimate with candle light and soft conversation from a handful of smaller tables. We were seated at the very top with a bird’s eye view of the kitchen and the restaurant/bar down below. Here, it was made homey with fabric cushions and whimsical with the suspension of dangling lights.

We began our meal with a complimentary dish of de-pitted black olives and a couple of drinks. My guest, a classic Aperol Spritz as an aperitif with its easy going citrus. I had a glass of house red, my preferred colour of wine and a good pairing for our starter.

The Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio came recommended by our manager/server. This is thinly sliced raw AAA Alberta beef drizzled with truffle infused aioli and topped with fresh arugula and large slices of Parmesan. The carpaccio was thick and meaty, and filling with the accompaniment of the warm crusty bread, the sharp cheese, and the fresh peppery greens.

Our main was the featured Pasta Challenger: Ravioli di Rahul. A plate of large ravioli the size of two elsewhere. Six in total stuffed with lobster and crab, coated in a heavy cream pecorino Romano sauce, and topped with infused basil oil and tomato caviar.

This was definitely a visual treat: a contrasting green and red with bright white. The dusting of seaweed on the rim of the plate was a stylish touch, pairing well with the salty seafood within each perfectly formed and cooked pasta pocket. Each tasted as lovely as it looked. This was the perfect blend of light and creamy with nice pops of freshness from the herbed olive oil and one-of-a-kind tomato caviar that burst like tobiko, but melts if left unattended. And best of all this was a filling dish. Often, my gripe with ravioli is I love it, but you often don’t get enough of them and are left hungry; paying the same of a plate of any other pasta noodle. With this I was full after 4 squares, and we left with a doggy bag to enjoy more of it later. And reheated as leftovers it was delicious in a different way.


Robba da Matti (Yaletown)
1127 Mainland St, Vancouver, BC V6B 5P2, Canada
+1 604-558-1174

Our next Robba di Matti reservation brought us to Yaletown, and their original and first location. I enjoy the set-up of this one, when dining within, it feels as if the chef is cooking at home, and you are there waiting in the kitchen. The narrow space spills out into the heated patio for majority of their seating in all weather conditions, kept warm and dry under a plastic tarp. This is where we were situated today.

We began our visit with a couple glasses of sparkling wine to toast the occasion, then moved on to one of the classic cocktails offered on the menu.

And as per all their other locations, introductions began with a dish of de-pitted, olive oil and herb marinade black olives.

All Robba Di Matti locations focus on the classic cocktails, with no specialty options, but plenty of premium liquors for all the tried and true stirred and shaken beverages. My guest had the Old Fashion and I indulged in a Belvedere vodka martini with 3 olives.

For our appetizer we went with the Bruschetta Leccese. A few slices of crusty baguette cut thick and topped with prosciutto di Parma and gorgonzola, then topped with a fig marmalade and toasted pine nuts. The prosciutto was hard to pull apart with teeth and the two-bite bruschetta easier taken in one. This was a well balanced starter with a harmonious balance between salty and sweet, it got our appetites going for our meatier main to follow.

Robba da Matti’s Yaletown pasta contender is the Paccheri alla Laura, named after the Chef who created it. It is Paccheri pasta with chopped tiger prawns in a white wine sauce with garlic, cherry tomatoes, and herbs. This was something I have yet to see. A pasta in a chunky broth that was fishy and fragrant, yet gentle on the tongue. It ate hearty like a stew with a borsch quality to it. And I found myself saying “wow” upon multiple bites. This would end up being better the next day as leftovers, once the pasta tubes soaked up more of the sauce.


Robba da Matti (West End)
1906 Haro St, Vancouver, BC V6G 1H7, Canada
+1 604-423-3553

And then we were off to Robba da Matti’s West End location. This is their largest location, with a double the indoor and outdoor space of all the others. Hailed as one of the best hidden patios and a great date night spot, tucked away in the residential area of downtown. During our visit we found it a little too cold for the patio and preferred not to be seated at a smaller table in the centre of the dining room, so opted for the bar and a night full of drinks at the ready.

Here, my guest would claim a Classic Manhattan and myself a glass of white for the pasta challenger to follow.

We started with their Prosciutto & Burrata appetizer with prosciutto di parma aged at least 22 months coupled with the “queen of mozzarella”. Both ingredients were delicious as is, and better together over their fresh baked and still warm bread. The creamy, spread-easy texture of the burrata found the perfect base in the soft and spongy baguette with crunchy edges. And the prosciutto added a nice layer of salt. As a whole this platter clearly spoke to the quality of their ingredients used, served as is.

We would also indulged in a dram of The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve single malt scotch whisky and appreciated all the accoutrement that was present with. Our whisky neat in a high ball class, along with a glass of crush ice that included a spoon, and a small jog of water for self-dilution.

Similarly, our pasta entree came with accessories, a casserole dish for all the empty shells and a spoon and two-pronged fork to dig meat from said shell.

Their pasta challenger was the Sicilian Vongole, a generous serving of homemade spaghetti in a white wine sauce with garlic, cherry tomatoes, and herbs. Similar in preparation to the tiger prawn paccheri above, but instead of whole and chopped up prawns over and in the sauce, this was whole and chopped up clams. We appreciated the time it took to curate the display of clams that surrounded the firm found of pasta, and were impressed upon the first bite. The length of the spaghetti allowed you to best feel its texture moving between your lips. Each strand perfectly prepared best to highlight the blistered tomatoes, crispy bread crumbs, and chew clams. But the key ingredient was all the garlic that bound the flavours together. This was a classically prepared, well seasoned, everyday pasta.


Robba Da Matti (Kitsilano)
1898 W 1st Ave, Vancouver, BC V6J 4W2, Canada
+1 604-428-1565

Our final Robba da Matti location was the newest one in Kitsilano. This is the only location with a different menu and slightly different concept. This two-story corner building is home to both the classic Italian restaurant, and their new burrata and cocktail bar as well. The latter is the only one of its kind, but alas, this was not the visit to explore it some more. Similarly, this the only Robba da Matti with an Italian brunch menu, but once again we only had their pasta challenge on our minds.

After a morning shot of patron tequila, we were ready to taste and score.

Fusili with Mushroom Melange in a creamy truffle sauce topped with shave pecorino romano cheese. This was a lovely and generous serving of wild mushroom pasta. As I now expect from any Robba da Matti the pasta was perfectly prepared. It ate hearty with a diverse selection of wild mushrooms including cremini, button, chanterelle, and the less common cauliflower mushroom. It was more mushroom than noodles. Heavily seasoned in burnt Italian herbs, stems and all; the whole of the dish sang together coated in its lush creamy dressing.

As much as I enjoyed it, I could not help but to compare it with the other Robba da Matti location’s offerings and found it was not as creative or eye catching as the others. Nonetheless it definitely delivered on the new-found raised expectations of this classic Italian restaurant, that I have since recommended and will continue to recommend to anyone looking for a reasonably price Italian restaurant that has excellent pasta. And with so many locations, there is no reason not to try them for yourselves.

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