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Food & Drink

Splendido re-opens with lower prices and less champagne

Champagne is out and cocktails are in at the newly made-over Splendido, which opened Tuesday for dinner. “Everything but the pea soup has changed,” says co-owner Carlo Cattalo, who recently bought the Harbord Street mainstay along with chef Victor Barry. The top-notch service will also remain, despite dramatically different decor, prices and menu.

The first thing regulars noticed were the chipper sky blue walls (we also spotted trendy new high-top tables and swanky lights at the bar), but the real shock likely came at the end of the meal. The bills are now about half of what they used to be.

The lower prices are part of the plan to keep customers coming back rather than just for anniversaries and birthdays. “We want to be a destination for foodies, for oenophiles, for the business community,” says Cattalo, “but also a place where people can drop by without having to commit to staying for three hours.” That’s why the tasting menu has been cut, at least for now.

Barry’s fresh pasta, which he prepares daily at 4 p.m., is the new focus. The most popular on opening night was the maltagliati with octopus, olives and capers (appetizer, $15; main course, $25), but Cattalo’s favourite is the pappardelle with braised pulled local rabbit and artichokes ($17, $27), inspired by a version his father made.

The pair plan to serve more wines by the glass but promise the selection of bottles won’t suffer. Cattalo and Barry have purchased the entire stock from previous owners David Lee and Yannick Bigoudan (now of Nota Bene) that Cattalo helped collect during his eight years as manager and sommelier.

While he’s excited at the prospect of adding some esoteric vintages, he says the champagne trolley has been retired. “Drinking champagne is for when times are good and the money is flowing,” says Cattalo. That won’t be anytime soon.

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