Ricardo’s Mediterranean Kitchen has become a fixture on the Okanagan dining scene. Chef Ricardo Scebba and wife Sue Miller have worked hard over the past 11 years to build and nurture their labour of love — a hearty, welcoming Italian restaurant that brings to mind a slice of Tuscan life in the Okanagan.
When we dined there on a recent Thursday evening, the 50 seat dining room was packed with families, couples, and food lovers enjoying a meal with live jazz music on the small stage near the entrance.
Born in Montreal to Italian parents, Ricardo Scebba learned to appreciate the traditions of food and family from an early age. At 16, Ricardo started as a cook and continued working at various Montreal restaurants throughout high school and college. Knowing early on that restaurants were his true calling, Ricardo earned a degree in Restaurant Management from St. Clair College.
In 1981, Ricardo relocated to Toronto and moved to the front-of-the-house working as a server and bartender. Ten years later he moved west to continue his career in Vancouver. Shortly after his move, he met the love of his life, Sue Miller, as they both worked together at the same Granville Island restaurant.
Leaving the big city behind, Ricardo and Sue moved to the Okanagan where they started a family and began to build their dream business. In 2001, they opened Ricardo’s Mediterranean Kitchen. And the rest is history.
We were joined by Summerhill Pyramid Winery winemaker Eric VonKrosigk, as well as a childhood friend of Ricardo’s, who had some great tales to tell of their lives back in Windsor, Ontario. The wine and food naturally flowed in between conversation at our table, bringing the group closer by evening’s end.
The interior is dimly lit by candles of all sorts; outdoor patio seating is certain to fill up in the warmer months.
We started our dinner with a selection of antipasto, including house made artisan breads, Italian olives, Cavolfiori Fritti (delicious batter-fried cauliflower florets), cheeses and salumi. The chosen wine was Summerhill’s Cipes Brut ($52/bottle). After a round of clinking glasses, we dove into some fantastic homemade focaccia as it was brought to the table fresh from the oven.
A big heaping bowl filled with Porcini mushroom risotto was brought out next, paired with Ex Nihilo’s Pinot Noir. The excellent richness of the risotto went very well with the deep pinot notes of dried cherries and plum.
Not enough can be said about down to earth Italian cooking, but when Nonna’s turkey polpette (meatballs, made purely from ground turkey, though normally mixed with pork at the restaurant) arrived with that gorgeous rich tomato sauce, everyone’s eyes gravitated towards the dish.
Wild salmon caponata, rack of lamb chops, polenta, and arugula salad were also brought over. Out of all the beautiful bites I was enjoying, the polpette was my hands-down favourite. These secondi dishes were paired with Cedar Creek Pinot Gris and La Frenz Total Reserve glasses of wine.
A trio of coconut panna cotta, amaretti cookies made by Ricardo’s Mom Concetta, and a raspberry granita to cool the palate formed our dessert trio. I loved the creamy goodness of the panna cotta, and although I’m not a huge coconut fan, this was hardly a reason to put down the spoon. Its joyful aroma and taste together with the almond amaretti bites were superb. We saved a few amaretti cookies to dip into coffee later. With the desserts, our group enjoyed a glass of sweet Arrowleaf Vidal.
This restaurant is worth seeking out for its ambiance, attention to fresh ingredients, as well as a friendly vibe. There’s nothing pretentious about Ricardo’s, and their seatings book quickly from Thursday through the weekend. The live music roster changes up weekly.
The counter is loaded with various dining accolades, and Ricardo’s currently sits at number three in BC’s top Italian restaurants, according to Open Table’s website. Last year, Ricardo and Sue put together a collection of their favourite recipes. That’s Amore ($24.95; available online) has become a great resource for fans wanting to try Ricardo’s dishes at home. It pays homage to Ricardo’s Italian roots. Many of his family recipes are in there.
Ricardo’s is located at 415 Commonwealth Road between Vernon and Kelowna, at Holiday Park Resort. They’re open seven nights year-round from 5 pm. My dinner was compliments of Ricardo’s (Grazie, Ricardo!).