Salt Spring Island, BC (Gulf Islands) – Auntie Pesto’s Restaurant

Restaurant: Auntie Pesto’s
Cuisine: American/Italian/Cafe
Last visited: October 17, 2010
Location: Salt Spring Island, BC (Gulf Island)
Address: 2104-115 Fulford Ganges Rd
Price Range: $10-20, $30-50 (for dinner)

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 5 (based on what I tried)
Service: 5
Ambiance: 4.5
Overall: 5
Additional comments:

  • Family owned
  • American/Italian cuisine
  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Very fresh, home made
  • Cozy/quaint
  • Local favourite
  • Freshly baked goods
  • Ocean view
  • Patio seating available
  • Catering available
  • Mon-Sat. 8am-9pm

Fall Hours:

  • Breakfast: 8am-11am
  • Lunch: 11am-4pm
  • Dinner 5pm-9pm
  • Closed Sunday

**Recommendations: Salt Spring Mussels, Smoked Turkey Sandwich, Pasta Carbonara

How cute is the name?! So cute! And it even has a little take out window.

I was in Salt Spring Island for a couple days for the BC Chefs Across the Water Series hosted at the Hastings House Country House Hotel. I had intentionally arrived a bit early from Vancouver just so I would have time to squeeze in a lunch before tea time and a very anticipated 5 course dinner by Chef Marcel Kauer at Hastings House (see my post for that here). I was given 2 recommendations by 3 different people and they all suggested the same two restaurants: Auntie Pesto’s Cafe and Tree House Cafe. From that, I assumed that both cafes are truly local favourites or that there’s a lack of selection… in this case it’s both.

Auntie Pesto’s is a small cafe and it’s definitely the local favourite. I guarantee I was the only tourist in there and since it’s a bit “off the strip” (the “downtown” takes 15 min to explore) it’s really a place you wouldn’t consider unless it was recommended. It’s located on the waterfront so there’s a beautiful ocean view and patio seating in the summer.

It’s a casual and cozy cafe by day, but the food is gourmet and very well executed. Most of the dishes are American or Italian and it’s all made in house and upon order with fresh ingredients. It seriously tastes like fine dining standards and I’m not surprised that the prices and menu change to casual fine dining levels at night. Auntie Pesto’s offers excellent food, quality, service, atmosphere, portions and price if you come for lunch. I can only base it on lunch since it was my first time dining here. However based on this experience I would most certainly come back if I was visiting Salt Spring Island again.

The owner was friendly and I think she does a bit of everything. She actually took my order and when I asked for recommendations she said “everything”. So I rephrased… “if I was to never come back, what should I try?” She responded with….

On the table:

**Salt Spring Mussels – 6/6

  • In a white wine, shallot and herb broth $12 (I think they’re $17 for dinner)
  • Salt Spring Mussels IN Salt Spring Island? A must try appetizer. That was a no brainer, but it was also highly recommended. Coming from Vancouver, this moment doesn’t come around often.
  • These are definitely one of the best mussels I’ve had. The sauce was great, but the mussels themselves were just so fresh, plump, juicy, savoury yet sweet and perfectly cooked.
  • The broth was drinkable and more like a soup. It was salty and tangy with a slight tomato and seafood taste, and then there was a buttery sweetness from the sauteed garlic and shallots.
  • The bread was perfect as a dipper to soak up the broth. It was simply delicious!

**Smoked Turkey Sandwich – 5/6

  • Layered with tomato, lettuce, onion & cheddar cheese lightly grilled on sourdough with cranberry mayo $9
  • This was a delicious sandwich and it was more like a perfectly grilled panini.
  • This was actually a bit pricey considering the side was a very tiny bowl of cole slaw… but at least the sandwich was excellent.

  • The sandwich was layered with the perfect ratio of ingredients and it was so well balanced and executed.
  • It was thin shavings of layered smoked turkey, salty bites of prosciutto, creamy melted cheddar cheese, juicy fresh tomatoes and wilted lettuce all in a thin and crispy warm sourdough bread. I only wish I could taste more of the cranberry mayo, because I could barely see or taste any and it would have added a perfect sweetness.
  • The best part is that the bread is so thin and crispy, and it allows all the ingredients to shine through.
  • It’s the kind of sandwich that leaves you wanting more, especially with the portion.
**Pasta Carbonara – 5/6
  • Cream, white wine, proscuitto, egg & parmigiano $12 /$15
  • Each pasta dish is a choice of penne or spaghetti and are served in ½ order or full order sizes.
  • I can’t imagine what a full order is like, because the half order was a full size order in most higher end restaurants in Vancouver.
  • Auntie Pesto’s is popular for their pastas. I don’t order Carbonara often, but this one was delicious, unique and one of my favourite versions of it.
  • It’s not a traditional Italian Carbonara, but it was almost even better. It was very fresh and loaded with ingredients.

  • In the middle, under the bed of noodles was a very soft almost poached egg and it was very delicate with sponge like egg whites. I broke the yolk and mixed it altogether although some of the pasta was already coated with creamy bits of egg white. The hot noodles are tossed in a mixture of butter, egg, cream, and cheese so the eggs are almost the sauce and they semi cook from the noodles.
  • It’s a very rich, creamy and buttery pasta with salty bites of prosciutto, which is traditionally supposed to be fried and almost like bacon.
  • The noodles were thin and they were a bit overcooked, but it was so good that I really didn’t care.

I didn’t get to try any of her freshly baked scones or cookies and I’m kind of regretting it now. However I was headed back to the Hastings House Country House Hotel for afternoon tea time so I didn’t want to overindulge… I know, how untypical of me.

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7 Comments

  • Bow says:

    The pasta has a nice touch with the poached egg and I like the generous portions. A nice find. Hard to get good consistent food in a slightly populated area.

  • Mijune says:

    @Bow – Yes this was a GREAT find!! I actually would totally come back if I were on the island again. I still think about this pasta.

  • Bob MacKie says:

    Oh no! The off islanders have found out about the Pasta Carbonara . . . I’ll never be able to get a table in the summer if too many people find out . . . maybe if I say it’s only served in the winter . . .
    It’s probably too late 🙁

  • Mijune says:

    @Bob MacKie – LOL! I’m so happy that I found the local favourite!! I take it the Pasta Carbonara was THE thing to try?! I can’t wait to go back and make a bigger dent in the menu… race you to a table!? I’m sure you’ll get there before me 🙁

  • Jon says:

    As if I needed another reason to visit Salt Spring (a very good friend, whom I’ve never visited, lives there). The food looks delicious… I’m thinking a salmon panini would be my choice.

  • Mijune says:

    @Jon – yeah it’s one of those places where I think you can’t make a wrong choice.. everything is just so fresh and well executed. Thanks for commenting!

  • Margaret Swanten says:

    The service was terrible. The food was overpriced and I left there extremely disappointed. The owner was rude. She was giving patrons dirty looks the entire time. I do not recommend this place to anyone. Better food is served at Dagwoods.

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