1. Pho Hoan Pasteur
When a gem of a restaurant expands to multiple locations, keeping things consistent is the real test. In the case of Pho Hoan Pasteur, do the other locations make the same, lip-smacking pho as the Kingsway spot? Well, a visit to the 170th Street location tells us all — just like the Kingsway spot, you’ll need to line up for the lunch rush. But, just like the Kingsway spot, the West End location runs like a well-oiled machine. You sit down, pick your favourite pho (large, of course) and within a couple of minutes a steaming bowl is brought to your table. The flavour is deep, the meat is tender. Pho Hoan Pasteur excels whether you go to the home base or the satellite locations. – S.S.
11443 Kingsway Ave., 780-761-1989; 9621 167 Ave. NW, 780-476-1116; 6566 28 Ave. NW, 587-520-9898; 16948 107 Ave., 780-444-8923; 10010 86 Ave., Fort Saskatchewan, 780-589-2238, phohoanpasteur.ca
2. Italian Centre Shop
The Italian Centre is a home cook’s paradise, with aisles packed full of gourmet treasures. However, before you peruse the aisles, you should without doubt make a stop at the restaurant component, Spinelli’s Bar Italia. The menu is small, but it’s got everything you need — a selection of paninos stuffed with cold cuts or pickled vegetables, and a few pizzas, baked fresh and great for sharing. The Capricciosa pizza — topped with mozzarella, prosciutto, mushrooms and artichokes — is a must-try. And, of course, you absolutely must finish your meal with a shot of espresso (OK, and maybe a cannoli — when in Roma!). – A.M.
10878 95 St., 780-424-4869; 5028 104A St., 780-989-4869; 17010 90 Ave., 780-454-4869; italiancentre.ca
3. Buco Pizzeria and Vino Bar
The Sorrentino’s Group has transformed its pizzeria concept into a mini-empire, with locations in Windermere and downtown adding to the original St. Albert spot. What makes Buco so good? Well, go for the inventive, oven-baked pizza — the salmon and capers on a white pizza base is my favourite. No matter which
location you visit, the Negroni is one of the best you’ll get in the city — bitter and sweet and bitter again, a faithful take on the Italian cocktail classic. All the locations boast open concepts, welcoming for conversation and a solid night out with the group. – S.S.
105, 130 Bellerose Dr., St. Albert, 780-569-2826; 100, 10423 101 St. NW, 780-250-2826; 1249 Windermere Way SW, 780-540-2826; bucopizzeria.com