Chorney-Booth: Buon Giorno reopens in nostalgic new location

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For better or worse, the passage of time means change. Calgarians of a certain vintage have seen several reservation restaurants disappear over the years. Sometimes we can blame these closures on economic conditions, but often they are simply a symptom of restaurateurs taking a well-deserved retirement. Either way, the result is the disappearance of long-standing iconic restaurants (think beloved places like the Silver Inn or the Rose and Crown) that remind us of a time when Calgary was a much smaller city.

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More than once, Buon Giorno, a long-standing Italian restaurant that has hosted many a Calgarian’s first date, anniversary dinner and business lunch, seemed like it would also follow the path of so many restaurants from our past. The restaurant, which was renamed Buon Giorno in 1987 after decades of being called Prairie Dog Inn, has had some leadership changes over the years, with late owner Gabriele Battistessa and his brother Giorgio running it for much of its apogee. passing it on to new owners and operators in 2016.

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Buon Giorno reopened after closing during the pandemic, but in a new location on 17th Avenue SW Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia

The restaurant closed its doors, seemingly for good, in 2020 until David Harrison, a Calgary businessman and long-time regular, stepped in to buy his favorite restaurant and save it from extinction. Harrison’s heroism soon hit a major roadblock: As with so many old places on the Beltline, the building in which the Buon Giorno/Prairie Dog Inn had operated for more than half a century was slated for demolition. Buon Giorno had a dedicated owner, but as of April of last year it no longer had a physical home.

Determined to keep the restaurant he loved alive, Harrison found a spot a few blocks down the street in the former Calgary Jewelery building (that business also moved up the street), which, of course, needed a complete renovation to become a restaurant. . Knowing that customers came to Buon Giorno as much for the nostalgia and atmosphere as the food, Harrison set out to recreate the feel and look of the original location.

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A mural from the original Buon Giorno restaurant has been recreated at the new location on 17th Avenue SW Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia

“I sat down with our design team and spent three months identifying the character pieces of what Buon Giorno was. “He wanted the wood, the brick, the checkered tablecloths, the beamed ceilings,” he says. “I wanted to capture the past. I didn’t want to make it shiny and modern. “That doesn’t work for this restaurant.”

Miraculously, he did well and the new location opened in December of last year. The new 100-seat Buon Giorno looks (and this is intended as the highest praise) as if it’s been there since 1987. All of the aforementioned pieces are in place, and the designers even recreated the original restaurant’s eccentric mural. Regular customers will notice a couple of waiters who have worked at the restaurant for decades and may even see Giorgio Battistessa during some services. It’s missing a patio (coming soon) and has the new addition of a 60-seat private dining room on the ground floor, but otherwise the spirit of the old Buon Giorno lives on.

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A plate of Linguine Vongole at the Buon Giorno restaurant. Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia
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A plate from Cozze Basilico at Buon Giorno. Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia

This also translates to food. Harrison managed to attract much of the former kitchen staff to offer a menu that is virtually identical to the old location. A good portion of the current clientele are regulars looking for their favorite calamari ($18.95), saltimbocca alla Romana ($32.95) and spaghetti carbonara ($26.95), and Harrison happily gives people what they want. wants.

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Also, to keep things old school, note that Buon Giorno does not accept online reservations. Customers looking for a reservation, which is necessary because this place is packed with people, will have to pick up the phone, just as they did in 1987.

Buon Giorno is open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner and dinner only on Sundays and is located at 1201 17th Ave. SW Call 403-244-5522 to make a reservation. For more information visit buongiornos.ca.

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The famous fireplace next to the kitchen is a feature of the Buon Giorno restaurant. Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia

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In other Italian restaurant news, the space next door to Lina’s original Center Street location has new ownership and management. Previously occupied by Cibo (and Scopa before it), the unit is now home to +39 Pizza and Pasta Bar, run by an experienced group of restaurateurs including John and Tony Nicastro (the older of the two Tony Nicastros on the Calgary restaurant scene ) and Ángel Contrada. If the restaurant name doesn’t make immediate sense, “+39” is the country code for an international phone call to Italy.

+39 isn’t a particularly sophisticated affair: expect solid, well-made pizzas and pastas, all designed (and priced) to be family friendly. The cuisine doesn’t stray too far from Italian classics and there are daily specials to cater to customers looking for a good deal. Families and other groups should take note of “Pasta Plate Sunday,” which includes a $39 pasta plate big enough to serve four hungry people.

+39 Pizza and Pasta Bar is located at 2220 Center St. NE and can be reached at 39pizza.ca or 403-276-2030. The restaurant is closed on Mondays and open for both happy hour and dinner Tuesday through Sunday.

Elizabeth Chorney-Booth can be contacted at [email protected]. Follow her on Instagram at @elizabooth or subscribe to her newsletter at hungercalgary.substack.com.

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A plate of Scaloppini Con Asparagi at the Buon Giorno restaurant on 17th Avenue SW Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia

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