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An Italian summer fantasy, available year-'round.
In my Italian summer fantasy, I’m lounging in flowy fabrics à la Gwyneth in The Talented Mr. Ripley. And while I can’t quite depend on Vancouver’s warm(er) months to deliver that kind of escape, I can find a taste of it at Chinatown’s latest Florence-inspired street-food joint, Fiorino.
The restaurant has an orangey-golden glow that’s visible from outside—it comes from contemporary Edison bulbs, but the effect is that of an old-school trattoria. The beige-and-white floor tiles, industrial-chic ceiling, mandarin-coloured leather booths and mismatched photos on the walls all add to the vibe: Fiorino feels like a space that’s been around for decades, though it only opened last October.
Lunch is decidedly sandwich-focused here: housemade focaccia is the base of each ’wich, with topping combos that aim to elevate the classics. The menu is all about “schiacciate” (or squashed) sandwiches. Not quite panini-style, the focaccia comes crispy-cornered and lacquered with olive oil, but still maintains a soft centre to soak up all the different spreads and cheeses on offer. The Michelangelo ($14) features ultra-salty guanciale and parmesan that’s muted just enough by the sweetness of honey; a rich crema studded with walnuts adds a key textural crunch. Cherry tomatoes up the acid, and the frisée (while not a traditional Italian ingredient) adds freshness without the peppery bite that a green like arugula would.
The Diavola ($15) is the aptly named devil to the Michelangelo’s angel. It’s a suckerpunch to the mouth with loud flavour and sharp spice—but hey, no pain, no gain. The scamorza brings a deep smokiness that’s brightened by the funky and heavy-duty spice of ’nduja red pepper cream. Soppressata brings an even fiercer heat, and in this case the peppery note of arugula feels necessary, not ornamental. The best part of both dishes is their composition: somehow, each bite feels like the perfect one. I never found myself needing to rebuild or angle the sandwich in an attempt to combine all of the best bits.
Take-out is an option here, making these sandwiches a perfect packalong to a summer park picnic. Add a couple sides of roasted potatoes or a piled-high panzanella and you’re set for an Italian fantasy of your own.