What goes through your mind when you hear "Ferrari?" Exotic cars? Classic Italian engineering?
How about a classic Italian restaurant?
No? Well, in "Gusto Ferrari," you have exactly that. It's Penticton's newest eatery, and it's just about as Italian and as classic as you can get.
Manager Roberta Ferrari, who, along with husband Flaminio opened Gusto Ferrari in December, says, "We want to give people who can't travel to Italy a chance to taste authentic, homemade Italian food here in Penticton. We don't 'Americanize' anything. We're the real thing."
Indeed they are. Just a few years ago, Roberta and Flaminio were running a restaurant in their hometown of Brescia, at the foot of the Alps in Northern Italy. The Okanagan wasn't even on their radar.
But all of that would change. Flaminio first came to Canada in 1997, and he kept those fond memories with him as the years went by. So when he met Roberta, he knew he eventually wanted to show her what it was all about. And in 2011, he brought her here for a visit.
All the while, the Ferraris were growing weary of life in Italy, unhappy with the country's poor economy and declining standard of living. So in 2012, with their daughters Camilla and Lucrezia in tow, they came to Canada permanently and settled in Burnaby.
Later that year, they visited the Okanagan for the very first time and immediately fell in love with the place. But business ties kept them in Burnaby until they decided the allure of the Okanagan was simply too strong.
In April of 2018, the family traveled here again to scout out a house and a potential restaurant site. They found the first, and got a line on the second that culminated last November in a deal with the new owner of the Penticton Racquetball and Fitness Club. And the rest, as they say, is history.
"We love the Okanagan, and in particular Penticton," says Flaminio. "It's a fantastic city, in the middle of two lakes. For me, it's a dream to come here."
Says Roberta, "People are so warm here. In Burnaby, your neighbours don't even talk to you. Here they do. People like to socialize."
The Ferraris emphasize that guests coming to their new restaurant will experience traditional, made-from-scratch Italian food and recipes.
Their strength, as you might suspect, is pizza. For it, they make and throw their own specialized dough. They use premium, freshly crumbled cheese. And they seemingly refuse to cut any corners.
And they import, direct from Italy, a high-end brand of canned tomato famed for its distinctive taste and nutritional value. They simply won't use anything else for their sauce.
According to Flaminio, "You spend good money, you have good pizza. It's all about the quality."
That's a philosophy that extends throughout all their dishes. They say that if they can't source a fresh ingredient locally, they'll import - but only from trusted sources in Italy.
And then there's their secret weapon - the pizza oven.
Flaminio knows a lot about pizza ovens. That, you see, is his primary business. "When I moved to Canada," he says, "my dream was to open a company to make pizza ovens."
Flaminio lived his dream in Burnaby, starting a business called Forni Ferrari. He imported the oven domes and the bases from Italy, and did all the important customization work on site.
So it comes as no surprise that he's responsible for the top-notch oven at Gusto Ferrari, something we put to the test when we tried one of the restaurant's "gourmet" pizzas. It was called the "Pizza Della Casa," and it featured a recipe Flaminio says he created from old school concepts and customer input during their first few weeks in operation.
Ingredients included spicy salami, ham, black olives, artichokes, and mushrooms, all served on a bed of fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce. After baking, organic extra virgin olive oil was drizzled on top.
The results were extraordinary. The crust was perfect, the sauce was downright addictive, and the cheese had magnificent flavour and texture. Even the next morning as part of a journalist's breakfast, it was truly wonderful.
But while pizza may be its strong suit, there's no shortage of other flavourful items on the Gusto Ferrari menu.
Dishes like "Bresaola," a mouth-watering sampling of delicately-cut cured beef slices topped with olive oil, parsley, and Parmigiano flakes that tastes as good as it looks. Or "Tagliere di Salumi," a platter of appetizing Italian cold cuts paired with olives and focaccia bread.
Speaking of focaccia, Gusto Ferrari makes and bakes its own mountainous loaves, from scratch, every single morning in its pizza oven. Same with its soups - every day, says Roberta, the restaurant offers something new.
Gusto Ferrari, which seats 50, is situated in the same building as the Penticton Racquet and Fitness Club, at 201 Okanagan Avenue East. It's important to note though that you needn't be a Club member to avail yourself of the restaurant. Anyone and everyone is welcome.
Nor are you required to pound back a whole bunch of food - Flaminio and Roberta will gladly serve you a Cannery Brewing beer or a homemade dessert.
The restaurant also serves up some very accommodating hours -- opening at 11 a.m. and closing at 9 p.m. every day but Sunday. You can enter through the Club itself, or preferably via the restaurant's main door on Sumac Street.
Oh, and one other thing. Now that he's a Penticton resident, Flaminio wants to bring his pizza oven business here as well. He intends to do that in the spring, only now he wants to create the entire assembly in Canada rather than importing parts from Italy.
While that's potentially great news for the Penticton economy, there's just one problem - Flaminio can't be a full-time pizza chef and a full-time pizza oven builder. The Ferraris, therefore, are in the midst of finding two and perhaps three people they can train to handle part-time pizza-making and serving duties.
Interested parties are invited to drop by the restaurant or contact Roberta at email@example.com.
Interested diners, meanwhile, are invited to check out the Gusto Ferrari Facebook page for more information. Or just show up and experience a little bit of Italy right here in Penticton.