Dacquisto

Neighbourhood: Lindenwoods
Address: 1715 Kenaston Blvd
Phone: 204-938-2229
Entrees: $14-$40

(Editor’s Note – This business is no longer open.)

Italy has always played an important part in defining Winnipeg’s culinary scene. High-profile, specialty food stores, timeless mom-and-pop cafes, contemporary Mediterranean bistros—the category is saturated. Or so we thought.

Dacquisto’s distinction is in a dining experience that is cleverly familiar and fresh at the same time. Executive Chef Michael Dacquisto positions his namesake restaurant as Tuscan, influenced by the fresh ingredients and humble recipes of the alluring region. Diners won’t find heavy sauces and melted cheese on the menu—seafood, grilled meats, hand-cut pasta and authentic imported ingredients are de rigueur.

Luxurious textures such as faux fur on booths, silky drapes and damask wallpaper transform the former Pasta La Vista location into a high-end destination. Dramatic chandeliers and a glowing streamlined fireplace help create sensual ambience. Re‑creations of famous frescos inject Italian flavour into the room.

The meal starts with a basket of warm focaccia arriving with a bottle of olive oil—Tuscany’s trademark ingredient. The herb-dusted bread is embedded with cherry tomatoes, creating a surprise burst of flavour.

Prosciutto di Parma is an antipasto that really shows off the quality of ingredients Chef Michael sources. In a classic pairing, silky shavings of ham wrap around large crescents of white Italian melon. Sweet juice fills the mouth, complementing the salty meat. For a winter warm-up, ribollita is a Tuscan version of minestrone soup, thickened with rustic chunks of bread. This peasant dish is a testament to the unpretentious cuisine, with fresh vegetables offering most of the flavour.

Pepper salad is stunning and simple. Sweet red peppers, grilled on coals and marinated in olive oil, are served with pieces of crostini.

Primi piatti include gnocchi, a petite (yet filling) plate of super‑sized potato pasta that require very little chewing to devour. The simple sauce of stewed tomatoes and basil shows another example of homestyle cooking. The Manitoba porcini risotto is a saucier rendition than most, allowing diners to fully experience the boldness of the earthy mixture when biting into the al dente rice.

Secondi piatti focus on celebrated meat and seafood preparations that are unique to Tuscany. Scottiglia is an venerable stew that traditionally used whatever game woodsmen caught. Dacquisto’s version uses a medley of beef, pork, lamb and veal. The meat simmers with tomatoes and herbs in a rich red wine sauce, and then is heaped over a pebbly bed of emmer. This ancient grain has a pleasing fibrous consistency that adds structure to the soft meat.

Branzino is one show-stopping entrée that is rolled out on a cart and deboned tableside. Nimble-fingered servers first remove lemon slices from the grilled fish, then carve it, presenting diners with generous fillets of Mediterranean sea bass. Topped with cracked pepper and a drizzle of olive oil, the dense white flesh is ultra-moist and emanates subtle sweetness. A contorno of garlicky sautéed spinach is a flavourful complement to the gentle fish.

Desserts change nightly, but varieties of house-made gelato are always on hand: the pistachio and raspberry are both striking. A slice of the dome-shaped zuccotto is heavenly, with a hard chocolate shell giving way to layers of cream-filled sponge cake.
Dacquisto is open daily at 5:30 pm.