Buon Appetito! (Via Austin Heights)

By Sheliza Mitha

For those who love coffee, there is nothing quite as satisfying and soul replenishing as an authentically-Italian cup of joe (whether it’s an Americano, cappuccino, latte, etc.). In Coquitlam’s Austin Heights, a veritable foodie hub, you’ll find the GianCarlo Deli – the perfect place to get your Italian caffeine fix, and then some. A few short blocks away are more tempting Italian old-world traditions and flavours at the acclaimed Golden Boot Caffe and Jimoco Café and Pasta.

I ventured to Austin Heights in search of traditional Italian fare – and that’s just what I got, in many different forms. My self-guided tour of Italy kicked off with a smooth latte at GianCarlo’s, where I perused the neatly stacked shelves of pasta, sauces, imported biscuits, crackers, juices and more.

The morning I was there, the owner was busily making homemade lasagne noodles in the kitchen at the back of this dual café/store. A large pot of meat sauce simmered a few steps away. Once the noodles are made, the next step, he told me, will be to layer the noodles with some cheese and sauce; it will then go in the freezer at the front of the store for customers to take home and bake. In case there’s any question, I do think this would qualify as a “homemade” meal. (I’m just saying.)

For the lunch crowd, GianCarlo’s prepares various types of sandwiches (including their extremely popular meatball subs) with ingredients straight from their own deli case, which is home to an array of cheese and savoury and seasoned cold cuts (think salami, prosciutto, rosemary ham and more).

After perusing the Italian and other European items, I promise myself to come back for takeaway items such as homemade lasagne, cheese and salami before heading to my next stop: The Golden Boot Caffe. Here is where classic Italian cooking meets cool, urban ambiance.

With a penchant for Italian cooking from his three aunts, paired with many summers spent cooking and eating with family in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, owner/chef David Azzi opened his first Italian restaurant – not in his hometown of Coquitlam, but rather in the heart of downtown Vancouver inside the ultra-stylish Leone boutique. After a few years, he travelled east and opened The Golden Boot Caffe.

The Golden Boot Caffe: Pizza Margherita
The Golden Boot Caffe: Pizza Margherita

During my recent visit, I sampled two of their many homemade specialties: Pizza Margherita Napoli and handmade tortellini with prosciutto and parmesan. Aside from the fact that you’re greeted almost immediately with homemade focaccia bread, that the parmesan is the truest kind you can find anywhere in the world – that’s to say, parmesan from Parma, Italy – and that all the meat (for paninis) is roasted in-house, all the sauces are homemade and the pizza genuinely rivals any you might find in Rome or Naples. Aside from all this, the most amazing aspect of my meal was the handmade tortellini, which is hand rolled only after you’ve ordered it. The result? An exceptional and extraordinarily flavourful, melt-in-your-mouth pasta experience you won’t soon forget.

The Golden Boot Caffe: Handmade Tortellini
The Golden Boot Caffe: Handmade Tortellini

But since Austin Heights is rife with remarkable dining, there’s another not-to-be-missed experience mere blocks away – this time, at Jimoco Café and Pasta, a bustling neighbourhood favourite known for delicious cuisine, generous portions and savvy pricing.

This intimate and cozy restaurant is owned and operated by the husband-and-wife team of Jayden and Jane Lee who serve up fresh and delicious pizzas, sandwiches, pasta dishes and more – both traditional and with a twist.

Though of Korean descent, Jayden spent a number of years in Northern Italy learning the craft and honing his skills in traditional Italian cooking at a prestigious culinary school in the City of Parma in the Emilia-Romagna region, known for some of the country’s finest cuisine and particularly famous for its prosciutto, Parmesan cheese, architecture and music.

Here in Coquitlam, Jayden has taken his Italian culinary skills to new heights at Jimoco Café and Pasta with standard favourites such as Chicken Cacciatore and Spaghetti alla Bolognese (spaghetti with meat sauce) as well as some fusion fare that includes the Penne alla Bombay (pasta with chicken and tomatoes in a curry cream sauce).

Jimoco Café and Pasta: Linguine
Jimoco Café and Pasta: Linguine

Whether you need a quick Italian coffee fix, some European groceries, homemade take-and-bake lasagne – or prefer to dine out on a memorable Italian meal – simply make your way to Coquitlam’s Austin Heights (no passport or euros needed!). Here, a taste of Italy is easy to find, keep and take home. All you have to do is bring your appetite.

Buon appetito!