Italian served three ways.
Bringing Daniel Costa’s vision to life through space design.
Chef Daniel Costa has done a lot to elevate Edmonton’s culinary scene. It’s not just the fact that his three side-by-side restaurants dish up some of the best Italian fare in Canada, or that his establishments consistently reside on enRoute Top 50 and Canada’s 100 Best Restaurant lists—it’s that he’s created an ecosystem of culinary experiences that complement one another within an expanded toolkit of Italian food.
Dan knows that Italian cooking is as multi-faceted as the 20 regions that make up the peninsula; and that within those facets there is a multitude of expressions of ‘la dolce vita.’
He is in constant discovery of his heritage, with his clientele and staff along for the journey. Corso 32, Bar Bricco, and Uccellino are the manifestations of three subtle but unique aspects of Italian culture.
Corso 32 redefines a cuisine that most North Americans only know from the americanized, post-WW2 ‘pasta and red sauce,’ by cooking up a thesis on regional fine dining through the lens of locally-sourced ingredients. Neighbouring Bar Bricco serves up spuntini and aperitivi in a curated wine bar experience (it’s the ideal pit stop on a night out). And the third sibling, Uccellino riffs on the notion of a trattoria—simple, affordable, but elevated.
Experientially, one is intimate and tailored, another is dark and mysterious, and a third is bright and boisterous. For a patron, each menu and environment fosters study and discourse on the subject of itallianissmo. Even Italians will learn a thing or two about their own culture over a glass of wine and a meal at one of the spots. You could ’bar-hop’ all three on a given night and it would make sense to do so as a complementary culinary experience—although good luck getting a reservation at Corso 32, as it still has a reputation of being the hardest table to get in town.
As designers, we play a role in bringing the restaurateur’s intent to life, to provide a showcase for the food, to bring efficiency to a complex work space, and to contribute to a comfortable and memorable experience for diners. In a way, our best work is when the space become a backdrop as opposed to a centrepiece.
In many of our restaurant projects, the chef carries the vision and our job is bring that vision to life with clarity and cohesion. Such was the case with our work alongside Daniel Costa.
We’ve learned a lot about the bounds of both Italian culture and of the opportunities and challenges of being a culinary vanguard in a western Canadian market by working with Dan on his concepts and spaces.
Together with Dan and his team, we’re learning about applying hypotheses and refining where needed as the projects evolve. It’s given us all the chance to truly understand how to create a functioning hospitality cluster (or how to imagine a ‘restaurant row’ or curated food hall, check out Eataly for an example) and how a focused ‘sticking-to-the-brief’ is key to a restaurateur’s success as well as the project’s outcome.
Perhaps it’s the no-compromise attitude of a strong concept, or the quality and craft that has been the common value system across the food and spaces that Dan has created, but there was a deep rooted understanding in this client-consultant relationship. We simply ‘get’ each other.