Photographs by Hakan Burcuoglu.

Anyone who’s ever been to Italy talks about it. That one little space they came across in that one little hill town. Where, on the day they stopped in, the house wine tasted as fine as Lafite; where the small plate of salumi and pecorino seemed like it was prepared by a Michelin-starred chef. As hokey as it sounds, it is La Dolce Vita: the perfect way in which our Italian friends so casually and effortlessly seem to flow into comfortable eating and entertaining as if it were as innate as walking.

But with times as they are... if we want to capture any of that magic, we’re going to have to create it ourselves, on this side of the Atlantic. Luckily, Vancouver restaurateurs Paul Grunberg and Craig Stanghetta have the same Italian dreams that you do, and their imagination has fuelled the creation of the de facto Italian embassy of casual eating that is Commercial Drive’s Caffè la Tana. They lured acclaimed chef Phil Scarfone from Nightingale to come with them on this journey of beautiful ingredients, prepared simply and served without pretense. And Scarfone has agreed to help spread the love across the West by pulling back the curtain on apertivo—a catchphrase that encompasses all that’s perfecto about casual Italian eating.

We hope it tides you over until your next trip.

x1. The Perfect Antipasti Board

Exactly how to put together a delicious (and beautiful) board.

x2. Tomato Bruschetta alla Pepino's

Fresh cherry tomatoes, garlic, and basil combine in this tasty appetizer.

x3. La Tana Pizza

Finish this dough with your toppings of choice.