Savio Volpe: Italian Farmhouse Modern in Vancouver

Four years ago, the editorial team of KHACHILIFE landed in Vancouver for a brief stay in the bustling seaport city—one that is known for its diverse (and plentiful) foodie fare. The short trip resulted in a whirlwind tour of the city’s hippest coffee shops and local eateries. Pour-over coffee and buttery croissants at Small Victory; farm-sourced, hand-crafted salads at Field & Social; afternoon cocktails at the Fairmont Pacific Rim’s Lobby Lounge Bar. Vancouver is a city of culinary gems, and there’s a lot to love. But a definite highlight was Savio Volpe, an Italian osteria-styled joint in Vancouver’s Fraserhood neighborhood. 

Designed by Ste. Marie, a design and creative consultant studio, Savio Volpe was something of a personal venture; principal designer Craig Stanghetta is, in fact, a co-owner of the restaurant. The result is a space that the firm describes as a “synthesis of what we call Italian Farmhouse Modern.” 

In determining an appropriate design language, the team looked to three multi-disciplinary, iconic Italian designers: Carlo Mollino, Bruno Munari, and Enzo Mari. Modelled after the roadside osterias and country trattorias of Italy, there’s a distinct earthy quality here, from the pleated wood panelling and solid oak to the quarry tile and steel. 

“We wanted the material to have a strong, warm quality that would allow us to push the degree of order, simplicity, and modernity while maintaining a tether to the farmhouse or tavern ideology that’s at the heart of the restaurant concept,” says Stanghetta. “In the same way a kerchief, patterned tie, or a pair of playful socks give bravado and audacity to an otherwise understated suit, the upholstery throughout the space stands apart from, and gives life to the minimal and quiet materials.” 

The interior does indeed boast a warm, elegant beauty juxtaposed with a certain measure of irreverence. “Savio Volpe” translates to “Sly Fox,” and there is, indeed, a certain slyness in the overall aesthetics. Moving through the space, certain details emerge like a wink or a tip- of-the-cap. Two matching prints from Italian artist Edoardo De Falchi feature figures— nuns, perhaps?—with lighting sconces installed where their faces ought to be. A canary yellow, vintage “courtesy phone” (rotary dial and all) nods to a simpler time and offers some quaint convenience “for those who,” according to the firm, “require a lift home after dinner and packing away a Demi John of wine with friends and family.” Perhaps most tongue-in- cheek of all is the gigantic door of the front entrance. This is no entryway for sly foxes; this is a doorway for giants. Or could the irreverent pièce de résistance be the fact that the long, banquet-style booths are upholstered in a sartorial (or should we say satirical?) houndstooth? 

The lighting chosen for the space is a mix of modernist and “nonna” style: opaline glass, fabric lampshades. Fixtures were designed by Ste. Marie in-house and then executed by local fabricators. The firm was inspired by religious typology when creating its wall lighting, chosen for its softness and warmth as well as an inherent ability to “evoke a degree of iconic order.” The chandelier was influenced by classic Stilnovo chandeliers as well as lighting found in the works of Carlo Mollino. 

Local craftspeople and tradespeople were approached to create the bespoke custom shelving and seating; Lock & Mortice Build Co., for instance, fabricated the furniture’s custom woodwork and complex dowel-style shelving system. Fabrikaat, a metal fabrication company, milled the lighting and stand-alone metal bar unit and baskets in the kitchen display system. 

Having sampled the rustic Italian fare of Savio Volpe for ourselves, we can speak to its fresh ingredients, the perfection of its handmade pastas, the delectable meats and fishes prepared over wood fire. But being the lovers of design that we are, equally as tantalizing as the cuisine is the atmosphere. The restaurant markets itself as a spot for “for friends, family, and strangers”—and it is, indeed, the sort of spot you’ll be sorry to leave when the night is over. 

Photo Credit: Conrad Brown