L’Artista Ristorante Italiano

Restaurant: L’Artista Ristorante Italiano
Cuisine: Italian
Last visited: November 15, 2010
Location: Burnaby, BC (Burnaby North)
Address: 3891 Hastings Street
Price Range: $10-20, 20-30

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

Food: 3
Service: n/a
Ambiance: 2.5
Overall: 3
Additional comments:

  • Since 1992
  • Italian family run
  • Unpretentious
  • Big portions
  • Good value
  • Extensive menu
  • Home style hearty Italian
  • Pasta/Meat/Seafood
  • Neighbourhood favourite
  • Hole in the wall
  • Daily specials
  • Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm
  • Dinner: Mon-Thurs 5pm-10pm
  • Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm
  • Closed Sundays

**Recommendations: The veal.

L’Artisa Ristorante Italiano is an unassuming hole in the wall in Burnaby, BC. It’s an Italian family run restaurant serving generous portions of no-fuss, home style, hearty and rich Italian food. From the outside it’s a dive, but the inside is actually not bad and somewhat “fancy” with table clothes and a decent wine list. It’s unpretentious, dated and comes with an obvious crowd of loyal customers that have probably been coming for ages. It’s fair for what you pay for, but not the best or most authentic in town. Don’t expect gourmet.

I was invited here on behalf of Tourism Burnaby and Vancouver Coast & Mountains BC to explore what Burnaby has to offer. Good thing too, because I don’t frequent North Burnaby often. The dining strip of Italian restaurants reminded me of Vancouver’s Little Italy, but it gets overshadowed which is really too bad because there’s a whole bunch of neighborhood gems yet to be discovered. It’s definitely a local favourite to those in the area. The only other one I’ve tried was Vita Bella Ristorante, which unfortunately closed.

They serve pretty much everything they can, and in some ways I wish they didn’t. I think if the menu was limited they could focus on making some authentic amazing Italian dishes, rather than catering to everybody and anybody and jeopardizing their own standards and potential. It’s a place where the food is good, but you just know that they could do much better and the staff probably feast on the most amazing dishes in the back.

There’s home made action, but I just wanted to see more Italian ingredients and fresh herbs and vegetables used. It was perhaps traditional Italian in style, but not in execution. I found the pasta dishes quite mediocre, at times good, but it was all heavily sauced with rich and creamy sauces that started to taste the same. They were decent as a side, but the real star of the show is the veal. I try not to order veal (because I feel bad) unless it’s highly recommended, and this time it was. (I know, criticize and comment all you want). The veal is seriously the highlight though.

On the table:

Complimentary Bread

  • It’s a very standard light and airy Italian bread that reminded me of a Portuguese bun.
  • It was served hot from the oven with a very crunchy and crusty exterior and fluffy soft inside.
  • It’s served with butter mixed with garlic powder.

Caprese Salad - 3.5/6

  • It’s buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and pesto $8.95? (Don’t quote me on the name or the price, this was a special)
  • The salad menu is American and this was the only Italian one on there.
  • Okay, I don’t think they called it a “Caprese”, but it’s what they were going for.
  • I would have preferred fresh basil, good quality olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette over the pesto.
  • Everything was fresh, it was a good olive oil, but the pesto was bland.

Linguine with Mussels & Seafood - n/a

  • Linguine with fresh mussels and seafood in your choice of cream, tomato, or rose sauce $18 (Don’t quote me on the name)
  • I read some reviews and I’m drawing the conclusion that a seafood pasta dish is almost always the special.
  • This was ordered with rose sauce, which was recommended and it wasn’t my dish, but I did try some of the pasta.
  • It was a very creamy and rich rose sauce with the subtle tang of tomato paste in the base. It’s quite basic and nothing else to really say.
  • The linguine was slightly overcooked. I didn’t get to try the mussels, so I can’t rate it.

Ravioli Alla Cardinale - 3/6

  • Pasta filled with veal in a sherry sauce with sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms and cream $14.45
  • This is a recommended pasta, the photo above is the entree size. (I ordered it as a side to my veal to replace my vegetables :))
  • It was a lot, and it was very good, but heavy and better enjoyed as a side.
  • I wasn’t a fan of the ravioli though, which is probably ordered in/frozen. I couldn’t tell or taste it was veal filling, it was more like a creamy dark brown paste that was the texture of chestnuts. I couldn’t even tell the flavour of the filling.
  • The sherry sauce was great though, it was a thick and creamy sauce similar to the rose sauce, but made with mushrooms so it was almost like a mushroom gravy. There was the tang from the tomato paste and maybe some of the sundried tomatoes, but not much actual sundried tomatoes. It had lots of mushrooms though.

**Veal Piccata with Tiger Prawns - 4/6

  • Veal sauteed with white wine, lemon & mushrooms with Tiger Prawns $18.95 (Don’t quote me on the name or the price, this was a special)
  • It usually comes with vegetables, but for an additional charge you can order it with any pasta. You bet I ordered it with pasta – the same ravioli alla cardinale I mentioned above.
  • This was my order and I thought it was the best. I couldn’t seem to make a dent in it no matter how much I ate.
  • No knife required! There were at least 5 incredibly tender, but thin veal cutlets served with a creamy and tangy mushroom gravy. I barely had to chew it and it just melted in my mouth. I thoroughly enjoyed this.
  • Th prawns were tender and simply sauteed in butter.

**Chicken Parmigiana - 3/6

  • Lightly breaded baked chicken breast topped with cheese in a tomato sauce $17.75
  • The side was the vegetables, but you can substitute for any pasta on the menu for additional charge.
  • This was even richer and heavier than my veal piccata. I can’t say it was an authentic Italian Chicken Parmigiana, but it was still very good.
  • The breaded chicken cutlet was huge and it was smothered in tomato sauce and a thick layer of ooey gooey baked Mozzarella cheese. I couldn’t taste any Parmesan in the bread crumb breading and I almost lost the meat in the sauce and cheese, but it was still very tender and moist. The breading gets quite soggy though from too much sauce.

Gnocchi3/6

  • Potato dumplings served with your choice of the following sauce (Tomato & Basil, Meat, Pesto, Tomato & Cream) $14.25
  • I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would! Again, it was swimming in rose (tomato & cream) sauce and there was no fresh herbs etc, but as a side it was pretty good.
  • I doubt they make the gnocchi in house, but they were soft and pretty chewy rather than fluffy, but still good.
  • The rose sauce was creamy, cheesy and tangy and pretty much tasted like all the other sauces.

**Veal Piccata - 4/6

  • Veal sauteed with white wine, lemon & mushrooms $18.95
  • This was pretty much mine, but I had the Veal Piccata special with additional Tiger Prawns and my sauce was much creamier and richer.
  • This is the veal piccata from the menu and it was quite tangy with a lemon mushroom butter sauce and I liked it better because I could taste more of the veal. The veal was just as incredibly tender and soft.
  • I wish they had let the sauce brown a bit more because the flavours would have intensified.

Desserts

I actually told the owner’s son (who I met a few days later) at the Flavours of Italy event that the desserts were a bit weak and that I wanted to see some home made Italian desserts on the menu. I understand that it’s a small family run restaurant, but there are lots of Italian desserts that aren’t time consuming, or that have a long shelf life. Limit the menu to a selection of 4, rather than 8 (what is currently offered) and make them the most outstanding authentic homestyle Italian desserts.

Bacio Bianco - n/a

  • White chocolate ice cream, dipped in white chocolate with raspberry centre $6.50
  • Calling Mario’s gelato. Aw man… I usually see these pre-made Mario’s Gelato desserts at Vietnamese restaurants. I can’t “rate” it if it’s not theirs.
  • At least they tried to make it their own by adding raspberry drizzles and whipped cream.
  • It tasted like white chocolate ice cream with raspberry sauce. You can try it at Mario’s Gelato.

Tartufo

  • Chocolate, Hazelnut & Italian cream rolled in cocoa powder $6.50
  • Okay so I didn’t know these were going to be Mario’s Gelato pre-made desserts before ordering them. Again, can’t rate it if they didn’t make it.
  • I guess at least it’s ordered from an Italian supplier… ?

Chocolate Cheesecake – n/a

  • $6.50
  • I’m 99% sure that it’s ordered in.

Tiramisu2.5/6

  • Lady finger cookies, mascarpone cheese, coffee liqueur $7.50
  • Finally, something home made! It was a pretty big portion, but it’s something you know they’d make differently if they made it for themselves.
  • It was quite authentic in execution, but the flavour was lacking in mascarpone cream.
  • It was almost a frothy and foamy mascarpone cream and I wanted it to be rich and thick.
  • It was very moist and the lady fingers were perfectly soaked, without being soggy. I could taste the Rum and the espresso and it wasn’t overly sweet or syrupy.

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11 Comments

  • Bow says:

    Definitely ‘home cooking’, generous portions, no pretensions, no ‘art’…the side for the chicken parmigana looks like its sauce would conflict with the parmigana, I would opt out for something cleaner tasting(mebbe tagitelle tossed in mushrooms, butter and peas). The pastas do look a bit soggy and perhaps the pesto was from a jar instead of fresh(try making it with fresh walnuts instead of pine nuts). At least I hope youy had a good time.

  • KimHo says:

    Boy, if this is what you call a dive, I don’t want to imagine what would be when you go to a place *I* call a dive! :D (For starters, visit Bon’s Off Broadway).

    Based on the description and pictures, I think it is safe to say this is the Italian American interpretation of dishes. When I was in the US last year and visited a local Italian restaurant, dishes like the one above was what was served. Was it “authentic”? Don’t think so. Was it traditional? May be… Was it edible, certainly! (Either that or I was really hungry!).

    Good to know you are venturing out of the area I call “usual suspects”. While there will be a lot of misses, there might be some gems here and there (and, of course, depending on your likes). I have heard good things of a small bistro-type restaurant in North Burnaby but haven’t been able to go there because of their schedule: they are open only for lunch! Oh, well, eventually, hehehe

  • Mijune says:

    @Bow – I actually like to make my pesto with walnuts too because it’s more affordable, however when Italians hear this it’s like telling a French person I eat ketchup with my fries lol. I mean this place is a “is what it is” so I can’t be too picky with what they’re serving considering the prices as well.

    @KimHo – lol… well from the outside it’s “dive-y”. I agree with your comments though Kim!

  • Elaine says:

    Wow everything looks very saucy o_O

  • Mijune says:

    @Elaine – it was! But it works for them and for their clientele.

  • Bow says:

    Kim, I didn’t call the restaurant a “dive”, just homecookin’…the presentation here is nowhere’s as attractive as Incanto; the portions are large and there’s lottsa sauce. I guess it would qualify as a “bistro” vs a restaurant…or a “trattoria” vs a restaurante. It’s unprentious hearty fare.

  • KimHo says:

    Bow, I wasn’t referring to you, sorry for the confusion! I was referring to that paragraph from Mijune where she wrote “From the outside it’s a dive“, hehehe.

  • Mijune says:

    @Bow KimHo – lol yup sorry that was my comment… from the outside it does look like a hole in the wall though

  • Sumi says:

    I have been going to L’Artista for about 20 years. For the first 14 of those years my husband (then boyfriend) and I tried to make it a point to go at least 3 times a month. It felt like home, it was our place where everyone knew our name. Unfortunately the newer generation of waiters came in (I am assuming the sons, niece and nephews of the owner) and the older waiter and waiteresses either left or were ask to leave. So the last 6 years has been a disappointment with not only the service but also the food. The food wasn’t always saucy like that and I wish you could of tried it on their earlier days because it was authentic. They unfortunately got busier and decided to take the short cut route for service and food quality. Because it was “our” restaurant for so long, we still make it a point to go once a year now, and that is only if we have the entertainment coupon with us. If you do go again you should try the Fettucinni a la Fredrico.

  • Mijune says:

    @Sumi – Wow thanks for you insight! Now I REALLY REALLY wish I tried it back then. That’s really unfortunate because I did meet the owners son later on and they said that they haven’t changed and were still very family run etc etc.

    PS: I think it’s really sweet that there’s so much sentimental value behind the restaurant for you, but at the same time it’s really sad that it’s lost the quality for you.

    Thanks for your insightful comment and I will still go back to try the Fettucinni a la Fredrico you recommended. :)

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