Savio Volpe continues to build a culinary following in Vancouver

Head chef at Savio Volpe, Jorge Sora cutting beef in kitchen
Photo Credit: Hakan Burcuoglu

By Suzanne Chin-Loy

In the heart of Vancouver’s thriving culinary landscape lies Savio Volpe, a restaurant known for its exquisite Italian cuisine and warm, inviting atmosphere. It has become a favourite among food enthusiasts and critics alike and is featured in the 2023 MICHELIN Guide. But what truly sets Savio Volpe apart is its unyielding commitment to culinary excellence and innovation. 

“My partner, [Craig Stanghetta] and I were looking to do a neighbourhood restaurant [where] we could be welcomed in the community and would be impactful,” says co-owner Paul Grunberg of restaurant group Banda Volpi. “We wanted it to be an unpretentious experience and osteria, with the freshest seasonal [ingredients] on the menu.”

Artful Ambiance

According to Grunberg, the essence of Savio Volpe is captured in its attention to “seasonality, delicious food, great service and an enjoyable environment where you could sit at the bar, have a bowl of pasta and a glass of wine, or have a more formal dining experience.”

The eatery’s name, which means ‘wise fox’ in Italian, is a 3,000-sq.-ft. space that can accommodate up to 100 guests. Patrons can explore a gastronomic journey daily between 5 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

“Those hours capture dinner service,” says Grunberg, “You’ve got cooks prepping during the day so we are not open for lunch. We’re usually busy at 5 p.m. and slowing down by 9 p.m. Those shoulder times between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. are usually for set up and at around 11:50 pm we close down.”

The ambiance at Savio Volpe owes much to Culinary director Phil Scarfone and its 60 dedicated associates. On any given day, a well-balanced distribution of 40 individuals across back-of-house, front-of-house, and managerial roles is instrumental in creating this harmonious teamwork and the exceptional dining experience patrons enjoy. 

“Our kitchens require hard work and a very strong work ethic. We attract people who want to work,” states Scarfone. 

“You can credit Phil for this,” adds Grunberg. “We’re all about creating a safe and inclusive space for our staff to work and enjoy themselves.
We value our team and create opportunities for growth, professional development and more.”  

Kitchen Maestro

A graduate of the Canadian Culinary Institute, formerly Niagara College in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., Scarfone’s epicurean adventure began in the dish pit. “I ended up falling in love with the kitchen culture, not so much with washing dishes,” he says. “I went to school [then worked] with Don Potter at Taboo Resort in Gravenhurst, Ont. [who] taught me a lot about personal accountability. He said, ‘All the fun happens back here, and you meet all the best people.’ And that was really true.”

After moving to Vancouver, Scarfone joined the opening team at Hawksworth Restaurant in the iconic Rosewood Hotel Georgia, a well-known landmark in the city. “I was there for five years, and then was head chef at Nightingale Restaurant for four,” says Scarfone. “[I] then joined up with Paul about a month before COVID and got through that storm.” 

Scarfone believes in cooking seasonally and prioritizing simplicity while maximizing flavour; presentation is a distant second. “My philosophy is that if it tastes good, it’ll look fine, so we only focus on flavour.” He remarks that while earning a Michelin recommendation was not his goal, it’s a great accomplishment for the restaurant. 

“It’s a great feather in our cap. Awards are very subjective; the real win for us comes with having a full restaurant and happy staff.”

Menu for the Senses

Savio Volpe prides itself on using the highest-quality local ingredients, ensuring every dish is bursting with flavour and freshness. “The restaurant food program changes drastically throughout the year,” says Scarfone. “Every Tuesday and Thursday, we have produce from farms with totes full of beautiful, perfect vegetables that we serve.”

Popular menu items include kale salad ($19), rosemary-roasted chicken ($34), large-format steaks ($6.50 per ounce), and Saffron linguini with side-stripe prawns in garlic, white wine and lemon-butter sauce ($32). The restaurant’s variety of in-house pasta sells out nightly.

“We have a great pastry program,” adds Scarfone. “We do all our gelatos and sorbets for $6. We do fun flavours like flowering red currant according to what we can get from the farms and foraged goods.”


Despite reports of inflation, supply-chain issues and labour shortages often depicted in the media, Scarfone says, “We have no shortage of guests trying to get into the restaurant.” 

Grunberg adds that the “media doesn’t help by casting a shadow over the [food and hospitality industry’s] situation. It scares people, and people are living with a lot of fear right now. If the media were to flip the script, we would see a change.” 

“There are still plenty of people out there who want to come for dinner, have an experience, and want to work in the restaurant business,” he continues. “People want to leave their fear at the door, be whisked away on a culinary adventure journey, have excellent service and pay for a meal that costs what it costs but leaves them feeling good. That’s what hospitality provides
for people.”

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