Nanaimo has not been kind to restaurants labelled Italian, with a number of closures over the past year or two. La Famiglia, open only a few months, has taken over the space once occupied by The Wesley Street Cafe.
The space is structurally the same, with redecoration in a rich dark decor better suited to candle lit night time dining. We visited at Friday lunch, almost missing the fact that it was open, as little lighting was evident from the street. Despite the day of the week, and the business of other nearby restaurants, we were the only patrons here, perhaps because of the absence of advertising, and the ease with which one could conclude it was not open.
We were greeted warmly by a skilled server. The lunch menu is not extensive, but has offerings in many areas of the evening menu at attractive prices, and a special. The lunch wine list is limited but contains some good offerings at attractive prices.
We opted for the special, a risotto with shrimp, and a chicken mushroom penne pasta, favorably reviewed by others. Hot bread with the ubiquitous olive oil and basalmic vinegar was very good, as was the house salad with mixed greens, capers, sun dried tomatoes and onions.
The entrees were both outstanding. The penne was perfectly cooked and sauced with real cream and butter sauteed chicken and mushrooms. Very robust and satisfying. The risotto was the best we have ever tasted - rich and finely crafted. Some perfectly grilled prawns decorated the top.
Helpings on both were generous, but did not survive our stimulated appetite.
The chef briefly made an appearance in the room - very distinguished middle age, and very Italian.
As we were the only patrons, it's perhaps not surprising we had superlative service. Hopefully this is maintained now in busier times, unlike that noted by an earlier reviewer.
We are quite experienced with Italian food, and based on our lunch visit, would strongly recommend this new try at providing Nanaimo diners with the Italian experience they deserve.
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