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Don’t pass by Fiamo: it’s worth the stop!

Allan Reid’s Voracious restaurant column

At the corner of Yates and Wharf, there is, currently, J.R. Slim’s. It as been The Flying Pig and The New Asian Village and Sauce, and, well, I’m sure a few other names have graced that marquee, all faded now from memory: my memory, anyway.

Meanwhile, right next door, Fiamo has trundled along, steadfastly serving Italian feasts for about 12 years now. Boxed between ever-changing marquees on one side and the often overly boisterous Lucky’s Tavern—with its long evening lines—on the other, Fiamo can be overlooked. A shame.

Fiamo’s patio is the one filled with people chowing down on some fabulous-looking plates, all served at red gingham-covered tables. In inclement weather, this patio is covered and closed-in to keep patrons warm and dry, but on the day I visited that wasn’t necessary, and it was wide open—yet unavailable. The host’s stand is just indoors: a dark and cramped little entry. The interior has decor heavy with red brick over dark wood floors. Low lighting, almost no lighting, is pin-pricked with red accents (check out the Italian Campari and soda bottle pendants over the bar). It’s impossible to miss a massive crystal chandelier beyond a blasted-out brick wall. One may also notice a family sequestered behind red glass up on the mezzanine over the kitchen. It’s not a big space: every centimetre counts.

Doors open at 4 pm, but reservations are not taken. Tables are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, with cell numbers taken to avoid competing lines. Feel free to window-shop Yates Street while waiting for your table to be called. Or sit at the bar, if seats are available.

Dennis and I enjoyed a lovely dinner in conversation with John, the bartender, a library of wine and spirits rising behind him. There’s even a rolling ladder to get him to the top. Personally, I prefer bar seating when I dine alone or with one other person. One can learn a lot.

A late arriving couple beside us were all about the Meatballs appetizer ($16) and the authentically Italian pizzas. But we’ve already ordered. Dennis is anticipating his Italian standby, Chicken Parmesan ($28), a full breast pounded out, breaded and fried, then topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella and Parmesan. It comes served on a bed of rosé fettuccini with seasonal vegetables of bell peppers, golden beets and broccolini steamed to perfection.

John tells me that the current menu is new—just four months old—and that the Saltimbocca ($30) that I have ordered is his absolute favourite new item, and that he enjoys it a few times most weeks. I have no trouble believing him. Dark-meat chicken, mostly deboned, is stuffed with prosciutto ham, fresh sage and ricotta cheese and served aside a soft polenta brick, crisped on the outside. The “salt” in Saltimbocca comes from the prosciutto, and maybe a touch more, but it is fairly balanced by the woodsy-sweet mushroom-marsala cream sauce. Save the polenta for soaking up that sauce. The same seasonal vegetables finish my plate.

Delicious! Even the complimentary bread basket is notable: soft focaccia served with a dish of olive oil and balsamic that is sweet and citrusy. Alas, I had no room left to sample the desert menu, though the Classic Tiramisu ($12) called to me.

If, like me, you’ve somehow managed to pass on Fiamo, I recommend you fix that problem.

Fiamo Italian Kitchen

515 Yates Street, Victoria