Story by Sarah Deveau
CALGARY, ALBERTA — Calgary boasts a number of incredible Italian restaurants — Bonterra, Posto Pizzaria & Bar, Cibo and Scopa score top marks by local foodies. The team behind these establishments, Creative Restaurants Group, has recently introduced the city to their interpretation of a traditional French bistro, and they’ve knocked it out of the park, so to speak.
Located in lower Mount Royal in the city’s trendy 17th Avenue district, Parc Brasserie is a stunning 120-seat restaurant offering authentic French cuisine and atmosphere. I sit with
at the long central bar that separates the casual front lounge from the main dining area and open kitchen. We’re surrounded by black and white checkered tiles, bentwood bistro chairs, large mirrors and French posters and photos, while a street-side terrace overlooking Tomkins Park seats an additional 20 diners.
“In France, a brasserie is essentially a brewery, and we want to have that true brasserie style, with people in suits next to people in jeans having a beer, talking about culture and sports,” explains Bagnoli. “In France they’d be talking about soccer, here they’ll be talking about hockey. We want everyone to have a good time, and to feel like they fit in.”
Finding French Flavours in Alberta
A first-generation Canadian, Bagnoli’s Italian parents moved to Canada to raise their family in a small town near Hamilton, Ontario. Bagnoli recalls food being a large part of his childhood. “My mother hates cooking, she’s a hairdresser,” he admits. “Luckily one of my aunts is a chef, and she inspired me to become a chef. Being Italian I have a great appreciation for good food and celebration, but when I went to college I did two months of computer programming before I realized that I enjoyed cooking so much more so than sitting in front of a computer.”
Bagnoli put himself through the George Brown College Chef School program in Toronto and began working in restaurants throughout the east coast, including stints at the Celtic Lodge in Ingonish, Nova Scotia, the Calgary Tower’s Sky 360 and upscale La Chaumiere in Calgary.
Along with his corporate chef, Glen Manzer, and Parc’s sous chefs, Bagnoli has designed a menu that spans the French regions featuring duck breast a l’orange, cote de boeuf and steak frites. A variety of daily specials includes “moules,” boeuf bourguignnon and cassoulet while all breads and pastries are made in-house. Crème brulee, profiteroles and baked-to-order madeleines are features on the mouth-watering dessert menu.
“We brainstormed and played with different foods and dishes and seeing where we wanted to get to. We really wanted to keep it true to a French brasserie, but also have a North American feel,” Bagnoli says. “The Gnocchi a la Parisienne is really my favourite dish. It’s a dish that involves so much technique that one little mistake can affect the whole dish.”
Overseen by general manager and maitre’d Guillaume Frelot — a native of Brittany who had worked alongside renowned chefs like Paul Bocuse and Gordon Ramsay — Parc’s food menu is complemented by a French-only wine list and French-inspired cocktails, calvados and cognac.
MORE ABOUT PARC BRASSERIE
Location: 818 16 Ave SW Calgary, AB (see map below)
Menu Price Range: Most dinner entrees cost $18-$35, with the priciest item being the Fletan, with vegetable pistou, tomato broth and white beans for $35.
You Must Order: Gnocchi a la Parisienne with wild mushrooms, asparagus and french hard cheese
($18, add lobster for $11).