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Fleur de sel, Lunenburg Nova Scotia

The Salt Shaker Deli just down Montague... but you probably know that already. It's another Martin-Sylvie venture, and during the winter they're doing Pasta Tuesdays and Sushi Fridays... we finally made it to a sushi night last night and it was fantastic.

Halifax's Deco has been sold

Just for all the Halifax foodies. Deco has been sold to a French couple — meaning the country, not the province — who will be recreating it as Sebastien's Bistro in November.

The plan is to run an authentic French bistro, just as they've been doing in Europe for several years. The manager, Silvia Cambray, is here now, running Deco, and Sebastien will be joining her next month.

I've always liked the room; we've had a couple of terrific meals there, and some very uneven ones, too.

I'll be interested in trying Sebastien's Bistro in the coming months.

Halifax Restaurants

A tiny correction, LJS, to your otherwise impeccable recommendations. Stephanie and Maurizio Bertossi sold da Maurizio over the summer to the chef and manager who have been running it for the last few years. So it's no longer part of the family.

Might I also recommend Morris East. My partner in crime, Tempest in a Teapot, recently wrote a review for her own blog, and for infomonkey.

We really enjoyed it. It's a restaurant that I've been dreaming about for 15 years, since I had my first wood-fired oven pizza in Portland, Oregon.

Maritimes After Labor Day

One place people people don't tend to mention is the Black Forest Cafe in Martin's Point, just a hop, skip and a jump from Lunenburg (on the Lighthouse Route from Mahone Bay).

We've only been once, but enjoyed a fine leek chowder and vegetable-barley beer soup (both blossomed once we added salt), followed with a decent spaetzle (mixed with onions), and an enjoyable maultaschen (sp?), which might best be described as german ravioli (with a plain, but freshhouse salad). Other menu choices include sausages, liverwurst, pork schnitzel, pan-fried haddock, and chicken (glazed with grape sauce, if memory serves). It's quite extensive.

The Black Forest Cake was rich and tasty, and the streusel (apples and raisins) was also very good. Their wine list is small, but they have several cold beers at the ready. Service wasn't accomplished, but it was accommodating, and friendly.

We'd certainly recommend it.

We also had a very good meal recently at The Gazebo in Mahone Bay. Mid-range ($12 - $18 entrees), mostly seafood, creative preparations, and conscientious cooking.

Fine and local dining in and around St. John's, Newfoundland

Didn't get much of a response, did you?!

Lest anyone think St. John's is a culinary wasteland, I'm going to summarize Where to Eat in Canada's recommendations (I've lived in Nova Scotia for seven years but haven't ever been to The Rock— or even Cape Breton. For shame!).

Aqua gets one star— sun-dried tomato foccacia with three bean spread when you sit down, then there's focus on soups— Mulligatawny, beef & parsnip stew... Also lamb shanks and paella. Bananas in phyllo is the sweet of choice. Early bird specials from 5:30 to 6:30.

Bianca's gets one star— they seem to focus on higher-end preparations of things like halibut (Cajun-style with bitter lemon sauce), venison, and caribou fricassee (with sour cherries and shallots). Sweets are described as "delicate" apple strudel and a soufflé-like bread pudding.

International Flavours— Pakistani cuisine. There's only one hot plate in the back, so you only get one choice: curries, lentils, or chickpeas on basmati for $6.95 at lunchtime. Wish we had something like that in Lunenburg!

Oliver's— offers local specialties like scrunchions (no idea) and cods' tongues, and lots of their dishes apparently have an Asian flair. They focus on seafood, as you'd expect. The cod and sweets aren't recommended.

The Sprout— international fusion vegetarian cuisine, with a menu full of bad puns. Large portions, friendly staff... veggie burgers and Pad Thai are recommended.

I hope this helps! Maybe your boyfriend has already scouted these places out. Cheers!

Halifax & area vegan / vegetarian restaurants?

Ethnic restaurants are the best bet for veggie and vegan fare in Halifax. After extensive research, I recommend Curry Village on Bedford Row, Tarek's on Robie (Syrian), and Baan Thai on Dresden Row.

If you cross the bridge to Dartmouth, Pho Huang Minh has a terrific lunch special: two veg spring rolls plus a huge! bowl of hot & sour soup with veg & tofu for something like $6.95. Nothing else on their menu is meatless, though.

Petite Riviere, South-Shore NS ?

Really late on this thread, sorry...

Yermum's recommendations are right on; she missed just two spots. In Broad Cove, very near PR, there's a new coffee place called The Best Coast Coffee Gallery. It's listed in Where to Eat in Canada (in italics, so tentatively). Lunch is served every day with paninis and soups (terrific seafood chowder, by the way). They do a Tuesday Night Pasta dinner (two choices) and Friday night dinner (two seatings, reservations only).

And I'd also recommend The Gazebo in Mahone Bay. A noisy room, but the food was nicely cook and served.

LaHave bakery is a terrific place for a quick lunch, and they have frozen take-home dinners. The attached art co-op is a fun stop, too. And I love MacLeod's rhubarb drink.

I have to agree not to try the Turkey Burger— we've been in twice, once when the new owner yelled loudly at his partner right in the 'dining room' near us. The food was no better than you can get an Irving Big Stop.

I hope you had fun on this part of the South Shore. As you can tell from the other comments, even Nova Scotians don't visit Petite Riviere much!

Wine pricing in Nova Scotia [split from Canada]

Believe me, Greg... I understand that sentiment completely. No one wants to pay good money for bad wine. And it's way to easy to buy bad wine in Nova Scotia.

But what if you went to a restaurant that employed a certified sommelier, who actually tasted every wine on the list, took some time to discover your preferences, knew which wines best matched which dishes, and brought appropriate glassware to the table?

Just as you're willing to try a entrée you haven't tried before because you have confidence in the chef, you'd have faith in the wine steward to take equally good care of you. And wouldn't that heighten the experience? To be absolutely blown away by an incredible food and wine pairing that makes the meal more memorable than you've ever had before.

That's probably one thing that Winewolf would like to see. If you don't recognize the wines on a list, you do know enough to trust the sommelier to take care of you, and you can learn from a professional.

Just FYI, I wrote four blog posts about creating a Tourism Renaissance in Nova Scotia that largely focused on food, wine, and restaurants. As with all blogs, start with the oldest post first, from June 4. (I've tried adding a link, but so far it isn't working... so the site is in my profile, and then just hit the dining out link along the side).

Wine pricing in Nova Scotia [split from Canada]

Greg's right, the surcharge has been gone for some time. And most restaurants need to mark wine up in the 80 - 100 per cent range to make it worth their while, when you consider the costs associated with decent stemware, storage and cooling, staff hours and training.

The problem with many restaurants is they don't offer value for the markup, offering cheap glasses, poor storage conditions, poorly trained staff, and shitty selections.

Alas, Harp00n, I know how to find the Kilted Frenchman is, but I haven't eaten there. It's billed as a steakhouse, but I don't eat red meat when I can avoid it.

Something new?

I haven't been... But I have heard one rave review. How exciting it would be for you to be one of the first to tell everyone about this great new restaurant!

And yes, Salt Shaker Deli and Fleur de Sel both use Ketch Harbour charcuterie. So does the Charlotte Lane Cafe, methinks.

I like Ketch Harbour House because they sent me a really kind letter after I published a series of articles on Infomonkey about ways to save the restaurant industry in Nova Scotia. Not many people read the pieces, but Joel and Kim did. And I think that kindness says a lot about them.

Whatever Happened to Maple in Hlfx?

Mark's analysis is accurate and informed. The only thing that I would add to the discussion is to suggest that the owners didn't put money into a wine program because they didn't have any money to into a wine program. The new restaurant was done on a wing and a prayer, as my Mom would have said, with no margin for error.

Whole Foods in Halifax

Planet Organic on Quinpool Road (6485) used to be locally-owned under a different name, but now it's part of a national chain. It's still pretty good, though, for more unusual convenience products if that's what you're after. It offers a much better bulk, spice, and vitamins section than either of the big groceries, but it's expensive. If you're just after a box or two of Annie's (or something else widely available) you're better off at Atlantic Superstore.

Magnolia's Grill, Lunenburg

The Biscuit-Eater is a great little place to go, though the menu is a bit limited. The don't serve anything hot, but the sandwiches (three or four that change often), are usually very good. They're more adventurous than anywhere else in Mahone Bay, and cheaper than anything comparable in Lunenburg.

The wild boar sandwich is particularly good, as well as the Caprese-type sandwich, but the curried egg salad was weak, I thought. Every baked good we've had there has been delicious— and we've tried quite a few; cakes, muffins, scones, strawberry shortcake— and their muffins are actually muffin-sized (something I truly appreciate).

The Biscuit-Eater is also a used-book shop, and they host local music, poetry and prose readings year round: once weekly in summer, twice monthly in winter.

Lunenburg w/kids

Hey Manray:

Lunenburg isn't a large town — with just 2000 residents — though it swells to 2,500 once the summer homes are filled for the season. So you might not have as many choices are you'd like. But if you're willing to drive 20 or 25 minutes to find places to eat, you should be fine.

My partner and I moved to Lunenburg one year ago, leaving Halifax for a chance to start over. In a nutshell, Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, and Chester all have good restaurants.

I can't speak to the friendliness for large parties that include wee ones, but generally speaking, I don't think you'll have a problem. I might also be inclined to call and book ahead for places like Fleur de Sel and Della Nonna, just to avoid disappointment. Although June isn't the height of tourism season, it's still busy in small towns along the coast.

Anyway, without further delay, my recommendations:

Lunenburg — Best Places
1) Fleur de Sel
2) Magnolia's Grill (walk-ins only)
3) Trattoria della Nonna
4) Salt Shaker Deli
5) Black Forest Gashaus (Highway 3, just outside town)

Lunenburg: Recommended, but with reservations:
Knot Pub: Decent pub food, always busy (We're fans because it's one of the few places in town that doesn't close for winter, but it is just small town pub fare).

I have also heard one or two people praise the Lunenburg Arms, though we've never been.

Mahone Bay: Best Places
Biscuit Eater Cafe: a cool little bookseller, with very good desserts, and solid soups and sandwiches. Occasionally disorganized and frantic.

Mahone Bay: Recommended with reservations
Inlet Cafe: The food is usually good, though butter is their favorite ingredient. It sometimes feels a little unfriendly.

Chester Basin: Recommended with Reservations
Seaside Shanty: wonderfully situated, and the food is usually good.

Chester: Best Places
Kiwi Cafe: Fun, friendly, sometimes exceedingly busy. Soup and sandwich kind of place. Food is usually tasty, though desserts are often just sweet. When we borrowed some kids for a weekend, they loved the Kiwi.

Chester - Recommended, with reservations.
Julien's: A great place for baked goods and sweets in the French style, we're less enthusiastic about their soups and sandwiches.

Hope this helps!

Nova Scotia food coverage

I responded to Brewnoser's comments on Halifax restaurant reviewers in this forum, but the Chowhounders moved it to the Food Media boards, which makes sense.

I'm just mentioning this here, as I'm curious about your opinions on who they trust for food reviews in Nova Scotia.

Salt Shaker Deli in Lunenburg

Lunenburg is becoming quite the mecca for foodies.

With Magnolia’s Grill, Fleur de Sel, and Trattoria della Nonna all located a just a few games of hopscotch from each other, Lunenburg is really an amazing town. When you consider that 19 art galleries and studios are located in the old town, it’s a wonder that we’re not overrun with city slickers from Halifax.

It’s a wonderful day trip.

The Salt Shaker Deli might be just the reason you need to book a room for the night, at one of the local inns (like the Mariner King or Greybeard B&B in our neighborhood). There’s too much to do, too many good places to eat.

The Salt Shaker Deli is notable because it’s the second local venture of Sylvie MacDonald and Martin Ruiz Salvador, the hard-working couple who make Fleur de Sel a worthy destination for Nova Scotians and visitors alike. They’ve partnered with last year’s sous-chef from their fancier address, and I’ll print her name as soon as I can remember it! (Sorry).

We did stop in for a lunch, and enjoyed a delightful carrot-ginger soup, a fabulous salad, and a decent noodle bowl, with pork, crisp vegetables, and Thai spices. It was a very late lunch, so service was awkward, but it’s just the restaurant’s earliest days, so service will improve. The menu is eclectic, with items like lasagna, a wide variety of deli sandwiches, gourmet pizzas, and some serious baked goods.

great food in Halifax?

da Maurizio has been sold, as others have said.

But contrary to popular belief, Maurizio hasn't been on the line in da Maurizio's kitchen for quite some time. Quality is said to have slipped recently because the souschef who ran the kitchen for years started another business.

The souschef and his wife are the new owners of da Maurizio. So anyone who has loved it in the past, should love it in the future.

Vivo in Halifax Closed

We liked Vivo too, but the food was spotty. It was a place that we really, really wanted to recommend.

Food and wine media in Nova Scotia [moved from Canada board[

The new editor at The Daily News is trying to return the newspaper to its feisty days of old, and that can only be a good thing. They have the talent; management has always just needed to get behind them. And they needed a good editor in chief, and they have one again. We'll see if the paper continues to make progress. But having Peter Rockwell do their wine columns is bloody ridiculous.

Not surprisingly, I agree with your assessment of food and wine writing in Nova Scotia. I guess Sean is OK, but I cringe when I see his byline in Occasions, the NSLC's magazine. He shouldn't write for them. Ever!

(An aside... The NSLC continues to hate me with a passion. When I was hired as a contributor to Wine Access, NSLC exec Hector Saulnier wrote a nasty "private" letter to the editor, and tried to get me fired. :-) Wood replaced me a few months later, so I guess he got his wish.)

I like Liz Feltham's reviews, but she needs a better editor, and sometimes she's too easily impressed. A few restaurateurs that I know make the comment that she sometimes makes glaring mistakes in her reviews, and we've come across that, too. (One recent example had her describing a cheese as buffalo milk mozzarella, when it was nothing of the sort). Big city reviewers have to nail restaurants when they try that sort of thing.

I like Val Mansour's writing, and I admire her other work, but I don't trust her restaurant opinions after eating bad meals at places she liked. I also don't get the impression that she's ever worked in a restaurant, and I think that's vital to the job.

I laughed out loud at your description of the Herald's Spurr, and then even louder at your suggestion that he'd actually like to be called the Don Cherry of food writing. You are right on the money. And he is an embarrassment. Sad to say, we read him for amusement. I don't like to be mean, but there you are.

And after having said all that, allow me to skewer myself. The restaurant pieces that I wrote for The DN in the 1990s were just puff pieces; they didn't want reviews, and wouldn't pay for them. So I tried to profile interesting restaurants and chefs, and leave it at that. They weren't satisfying to write, and I wasn't pleased with my work.

The restaurant reviews that I did for enRoute were the real thing.

Review: North China Restaurant

Halifax is home to dozens of Chinese restaurants, but few that we’d recommend.

Frankly, consensus is hard to come by, with some food lovers swearing by The Great Wall, and others holding China Classic in the highest esteem. Others still appreciate King Wah, a tiny place with a handful tables, that still quotes an old review of mine on the menu, 15 years after the fact.

We prefer Cheelin, in the Brewery Market, for serving impeccably fresh ingredients, and cooking most dishes to order. We also like Cheelin for what it doesn’t add. One unfortunate problem with being a migraineur is that it comes with a heightened sensitivity to MSG that other patrons might not notice. We simply can’t enjoy the restaurants favored by The Coast readers, or recommended by Nova Scotia’s three or four restaurant critics, such as they are.

We believe that Cheelin is virtuous and worthy in letting the food speak for itself, and now we can recommend North China Restaurant for that very same reason. The dining room is located at 1252 Hollis Street, in the space deserted by the Hamachi Steak House. It sits next to the Trident Café, just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Nova Scotia Westin.

The menu is broad enough to interest diners who are tired of the same old Szechuan and Cantonese fare, but many dishes are familiar, so patrons don’t have to throw all caution to the wind.

We found choosing difficult. Dishes like green onion shredded duck and Tonpo-style stewed pork leg aren’t often seen in eastern Canada, and wait staff are delighted when customers are curious. They understand every dish, and can answer any questions you might have. We order a few staid dishes, and a few new ones so we could see where the kitchen wanted to take us.

The vegetable spring roll is just as you'd expect, cooked to a crisp, and filled with veggies and glass noodles. But the thin dipping sauce was unexpected, almost Vietnamese in style, with sweet, tart and fragrant flavors raising our level of satisfaction.

Chicken-corn soup was something of a surprise, and that's why it's getting more attention here than it might deserve. The small bowl could easily serve two, with the first few spoonfuls suggesting sweet, creamy simplicity that might seem boring. But there was more here than meets the eye, with soft egg, tender strips of chicken, and chewy rice adding unexpected textures. When the waitress brought a generous bowl of condiment —comprised of oil, chillies, sesame seeds, soya, and szechuan peppercorns — a healthy dollop transformed our soup into a rich, spicy, colorful appetizer. Without that enhancement, I'm not sure I'd order it again.

The main courses ranged from good to excellent, and portions are more than generous. Fried noodles with vegetables is a simple dish, but when it's cooked in a scorching wok, it gains smoky overtones, and who doesn't love Asian noodles? Chinese comfort food, well done.

Sauteed shredded duck in hot sauce an ambitious dish. Crunchy veggies, savory slices of duck, and crisp pieces of skin are just the beginning. Cooked in a rich, oily sauce that has elements of fire, smoke, and something hauntingly like citrus — perhaps from Szechuan peppercorns. It's a strong dish, though less oil would have made it even better.

With a nod to Canadian food guidelines, we scanned the veggie section, but it's North China Restaurant's weakest. We finally settled on mixed vegetables, sauteed in a sweetish brown sauce, perhaps a little better than you'd get in other Chinese restaurants in the HRM. Some might complain about canned baby corn and water chestnuts, but it is winter, after all. With few a more fresh veggies, this could be a nice mild offering to offset the spicier fare.

Quick-fried fish with nuts is brilliant: Fresh haddock is perfectly cooked, in a savory, spicy sauce that still intrigues me, days later. The peanuts — not a garnish, but integral to the dish — contribute an earthiness the light fish and sauce lack, and it all comes together admirably. Such a fine offering in a city where seafood can be overcooked and dry.

We've returned to North China Restaurant twice for Dim Sum, and we're equally impressed. It's the city's best, with everything you might expect in a small city, and a few surprises like chicken feet (which we only expect to see in places like Toronto and Vancouver). Again, we made ample use of the condiment our waitress brought to add to our enjoyment, and we'd happily try everything again, including a decent sticky rice, delicious green onion pancakes, and crunchy, spicy shrimp. (Although the spicy shrimp wasn't very spicy, we still enjoyed it).

North China is doing so many things well. Service is friendly and attentive, though not formal, and little touches abound to lift it out of the ordinary. One note worth mentioning is that wait staff don't present a bill to the table; customers pay just before leaving.

We think you should visit North China Restaurant soon, before the word gets out. And we recommend that you bring a few friends, so you can sample a wide variety of Chinese dishes that will surely satisfy.

North China Restaurant
1252 Hollis Street
Halifax, NS

Wine pricing in Nova Scotia [split from Canada]

As a former restaurateur, I couldn't agree more. I can't think of one good reason to mark up wine by 190 per cent. Doing so will kill wine sales, and that's the easiest way for restaurants to increase their check averages. Not to mention the thought that wine makes food taste better, so smart restauranteurs should want to sell a bottle to every table.

And just to clarify, della Nonna isn't guilty of this transgression. They mark up their best value wines by a straight 100 per cent. If memory serves, the Nipozzano that we enjoyed cost $42, and the NSLC charges $22 and change.

But if you read the paragraph in question again, you'll notice that I was careful with my words. The moderating phrase was: "and if travelers find the prices high."

I'm not suggesting that Nova Scotians will find high wine prices at della Nonna, but tourists or business travelers from Canada and the US might.

Wine pricing in Nova Scotia [split from Canada]

[Note: This post was split from the Canada board at: You may want to read the original thread for context. -- The Chowhound Team


Hey Greg:

Thanks for the comments! I hope you have a great experience.

I've written an indepth article on the Nova Scotia tourism industry that I'm hoping to publish in The Halifax Daily News, my old stomping grounds. I'll quote two relevant paragraphs here to indicate why I blame the NSLC for high wine prices in restaurants. Before I started writing about food and wine, I ran a wine agency in the province, so I have some knowledge of liquor corporation policies (although the NSLC is far better today than it used to be).

Here we go:

"Consider this: Wine Access magazine recently declared that Deinhard Lila Sekt was Canada’s best cheap sparkler. Last year, it cost $13.99 in BC; $13 in AB; $12.95 in ON; and $19.18 in Nova Scotia, (where it’s since been delisted, or removed from shelves). A more expensive winner was Ruffino 2001 Riserva Ducale Oro, which sells for $39 in AB, $43 in SK; $44.50 in ON; and $57 in Nova Scotia. The delicious Caymus Conundrum runs just $29 in Ontario and Quebec, and $39.21 in Nova Scotia.

"If you don’t think that’s price gouging, then look to Alberta, where private wine stores aren’t shackled by outdated liquor laws. (In Nova Scotia, legislation prevents the handful of private wine stores from undercutting the NSLC). Veuve Cliquot Brut sells for $61 in Ontario and Manitoba; $73 in Nova Scotia... and $43 in Alberta’s many Costco stores!"

Trattoria della Nonna in Lunenburg

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia has been buzzing about Trattoria della Nonna, a new Italian restaurant, since it opened in mid-February. In such a small town, that’s not unexpected.

But what has really surprised me is how many Haligonians have been planning a South Shore visit so they can try della Nonna. Several Chowhound posters have been chafing at the bit, and my sister made a special trip with her husband and two friends a fortnight ago, and is already looking forward to a return visit.

How lucky for us, then, to live just a few blocks away. We slipped down the street in early March, when a sudden snowstorm led others to cancel, providing us with opportunity and motive. It had been a good week, and we wanted to celebrate.

Lunenburg already has two excellent restaurants in Magnolia’s Grill and Fleur de Sel, and Trattoria della Nonna gives this World Heritage Site a bevy of fine dining rooms. That’s an important consideration for tourists, as the entire county — with Chester and Lunenburg excepted — has few good restaurants.

And Trattoria della Nonna is very good, even by city standards. The kitchen aims high, and though some dishes need to be fine-tuned or reconsidered, it’s a worthy addition to the South Shore dining community.

The restaurant has been under construction since we moved to Lunenburg last June, and the attention to detail shows. The dining room is located in a stately old home. It's lovely and comforting, with a butter yellow faux finish to the walls, wrought iron railings, and bright artwork.

The dining room is almost full when we arrive, the storm not withstanding. In the time it takes us to shed our winter garb, no fewer than three staff members greet us with wide smiles. Impressive. It’s obvious that Simone Mombourquette — a certified sommelier — has trained them well.

We’re seated on the upper level, near the brick pizza oven, and though we’re far from the action below, it’s still a good table. Our waiter arrives in less than a minute with water, retreats to let us a choose a wine, and returns almost immediately when I’ve closed the wine menu. So far, so good.

The wine list is brilliant for such a new restaurant, especially in this area of Nova Scotia. Italian wines predominate, as you’d expect, and if travelers find the prices high, they can blame our government-run liquor commission. We settle on Frescobaldi’s Castello di Nipozzano Riserva 2003, expecting that its bright, cherryish fruit and lively acidity will pair nicely with the courses to follow. We’re aiming big, planning to enjoy four full courses at Trattoria della Nonna, dining as if we were in Halifax at da Maurizio.

That might have been a mistake, for the first appetizers are substantial. Cold smoked salmon is served with caper tartara, mascarpone, thinly-sliced fennel and celery, and crostini; it’s delightful, and visually appealing. The salmon is full of flavor, and building little ingredient pyramids makes for a stimulating interplay of tastes and textures. With a little experimentation, I decide that I like this dish best as the kitchen intended, building the crostini with a dollop of each ingredient.

My partner choses Calamari, served as you’d expect with chilies, olives and a surprisingly-mild marinara. Truth to tell, we often order squid in Italian restaurants to test the kitchen, for it must be flash fried and on the table within seconds, or it simply won’t work. Chef Terry Vassallo, previously at Seven and The Five Fisherman, does well, but the squid are slightly overcooked, and the flavors somewhat mild. But it’s still a good dish.

We follow with La Ribollita, a traditional Florentine soup, and the Comporre salad, lush with wild greens, tall radicchio, roasted grapes, spiced pine nuts, and Gorgonzola dressing. The salad is brilliant and beautiful, and my partner delights in every bite, for the greens are truly bitter, and the dressing worthy. Well done! The Tuscan bean soup is billed as slow-cooked, but it can’t be, for the veggies were crunchy. The flavors are subtle, with virgin olive oil adding richness and a hint of complexity, but the soup isn’t as hearty or comforting as it should be.

In the evening’s only economy, we choose our main courses from the less-pricey pizza and pasta sections. We might have ordered Agnello (pesto-crusted rack of lamb), Saltimbocca (pork loin with prosciutto, fontina, and flambéed prawns), or Salmone (served with fagliolo, smoked sausage and balsamic butter), but we’ll do so on our next visit.

Instead, we opt for gnocchi and a Pizza Napolitina, prepared in the brick oven near our table. The gnocchi are full of flavor, tossed with a rich sauce comprised of goat cheese, pomodoro, and pancetta. It’s delicious, and the gnocchi melt in your mouth. If not for a slightly grainy texture to the potato pasta, it would be fabulous.

The pizza is substantial, too. It comes with a fine thin crust laden with salty goodness, including anchovies, olives, and goat cheese, brightened by sweet cherry tomatoes. It’s quite good, but ultimately one-dimensional. We’d like to see more tomatoes, and perhaps a liberal sprinkling of fresh or dried herbs for complexity. But paired with the Chianti, which refreshes the palate with each swallow, the pizza is still enjoyable.

Alas, we only have room for one dessert, the carmelized lemoncello tart with raspberry sorbetto. It’s delicious, but for a tough crust, so we finish our meal in style. Had we had room for one of many post- prandial sippers — including several grappas, an icewine, and a Rutherglen sticky — we might not have made it up the hill.

Our service is almost exceptional, perhaps even a little too prompt and eager, but that’s a quibble. We felt very well cared for, and that’s a wonderful change from recent dining experiences.

In many ways, this review is unfair, for Trattoria della Nonna is still in its infancy. New restaurants need a maiden voyage to work out service kinks, and polish the cuisine. But even though it's premature, color us impressed. Trattoria della Nonna is already a fine restaurant, and we expect it to improve steadily. It’s not inexpensive, but it’s friendly and fine.

Vassallo and Mombourquette should be proud. And so should Lunenburg.

Name of restaurant in Lunenburg

Oh, Oh! I think I know.

Fleur de Sel was actually a good guess. Before Martin and Sylvia came to Lunenburg and bought the place on Montague, it was called the Hillcroft Cafe, and they served sushi and fresh seafood. I never had the chance to eat there.

I have been to Trattoria della Nonna, and will be reviewing it soon on my web site. (I'm just starting to write about food and wine again; I used to reviews restaurants for the Halifax Daily News and enRoute way back in the day (when both publications were much better than they are now, he wrote cattily :-)