Keeping it Fresh

La Piazza Dario’s authentic Italian cuisine is simply elegant

If Claudio Ranallo’s dexterity in carving a leg of veal hadn’t been witnessed by his peers in 1979, La Piazza Dario Ristorante Italiano—the restaurant he presides over today as head chef—may not have become a Vancouver culinary mainstay renowned for its authentic Italian cuisine.

That’s because Ranallo, who had trained and worked as a chef in his native Italy and was a new immigrant to Canada 34 years ago, started working at La Piazza Dario a week after his arrival. His carving capabilities resulted in his escalation to cook, then head chef, then a partner in 1984 and, ultimately, co-owner (with his wife, Lidia) in 2004.

Throughout the years, Ranallo has refused to accommodate fads or compromise the authenticity of his dishes, which include antipasti, soups, pastas and classic Italian desserts. “True Italian food is simple and made from scratch,” says Lidia. “Ironically, although the local restaurant scene has evolved dramatically since La Piazza Dario first opened for business in 1977, it’s becoming harder to find genuine traditional cuisine.”

But if Ranallo is a purist, he also encourages fresh ideas from new talent. For example, several years ago he hired a young chef from Italy, who developed innovative desserts for the lunch and dinner menus. “We’re able to create exciting dishes yet stay true to our roots by employing people who have been classically trained and use authentic ingredients and preparation techniques,” says Lidia.

As La Piazza Dario Ristorante Italiano continues to attract new customers thanks to great word of mouth via social media, Ranallo and his three cooks will continue to provide a real taste of Italy with a simple but unpretentious touch of elegance, just 10 minutes from Vancouver’s downtown core.