Borgo Antico is bringing authentic Italian food and an intimate, cheerful atmosphere to the Exchange District. Owners Giacomo and Susan Appice are no strangers to the restaurant scene. These industry veterans have been making waves with essential Italian food in Winnipeg for over 30 years, and their latest venture, Borgo Antico, promises to bring classic Italian cuisine with a new twist.
The space at 173 McDermot has long been a culinary landmark, and as the new home of Borgo Antico, the tradition continues. Those familiar with the area may remember it recently as the Mitchell Block or in its past life as Tre Visi, the restaurant Giac co-opened in 1994. A few years later, he bought the building, opened Sensi Wine Bar upstairs, and moved into the residential unit on the third floor.
Tre Visi quickly became a staple in the Exchange District in the ’90s and 2000s before the diverse array of restaurants we see in the neighbourhood today moved in. The restaurant was busy, with tourists and locals flocking to the Exchange District for a taste of authentic Italian cuisine.
“Back in the day, we were the first restaurant that established seating times in Winnipeg because of the Theatre District and people going to the theatre,” says Giac. Pioneers in the downtown restaurant scene, they worked closely with the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre to establish show times and seating times that provided accessibility for people looking for dinner and a show.
After years of success in the Exchange, they moved Tre Visi to River Heights to accommodate their growing family. They’re back in the Exchange with Borgo Antico, and it feels like home.
The name Borgo Antico means antique burrough, referencing the original part of a city. “We felt the Exchange District was that for Winnipeg. It’s the nucleus of the city, and that’s what Borgo Antico means in Italy”, posits Giac.
Borgo Antico is also an homage to the bodega with the same name that Giac’s grandmother and mother owned and operated in Italy, where he spent time in his youth. Now, he brings the same authentic Italian food to Winnipeg.
The Appice’s created the restaurant with much thought, care, and meaning, including in its design. The interior reflects a rich tapestry of colours and shapes, all subtly inspired by pasta. The different shades of blue on the floor represent salted water, like the ocean or the water that pasta cooks in. The shades of yellow and green throughout the restaurant reflect the colours of flour and spinach pasta. On the walls, you’ll see circular installations representing pasta dies that cut the shapes of spaghetti, rigatoni, and fettuccine. The Grant Design Group, a downtown firm that had previously designed the Sensi Wine Bar upstairs, brought their vision to life.
As a pasta-centric restaurant, the design theme makes perfect sense. The menu is filled with Italian classics, like cacio de peppe, tagliatelle bolognese, and pollo alla francese. You can grab a classic cocktail like an Aperol Spritz or Negroni Spagliato or try your hand with some Italian wine. Don’t forget to treat yourself to an affogato, budino al ciocolato, or pannacotta for dessert. Their ethos is to keep it simple, focussing on Italian classics prepared well, like their hand-rolled and die-cut pasta.
At Borgo Antico, you can customize your experience. Come for a three-course meal, or enjoy some small plates and cocktails. The menu is crafted so it can be enjoyed family-style, perfect for trying an array of dishes. The intention here is to create a traditional Italian experience for any occasion, whether you’re coming for date night or a quick bite and a cocktail.
“We wanted to be on our own, do our thing, and do something different,” says Susan about their homecoming to the Exchange. They’re happy to return, creating something new in a familiar space. The Exchange has changed a lot since they left in 2013, and they’re excited to add even more vibrancy to the neighbourhood.
The neighbourhood is excited, too — within a few weeks of opening, they saw reservations fill up quickly! Check out Borgo Antico at 173 McDermot Ave for your next evening out.
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