Ricardo Scebba and Sue Miller have been happily married for 18 years.
Could it have something to do with the fact that he cooks (delicious Italian food)…and cleans?
On the evening of this year’s beguiling summer solstice, the Scebba-Miller team packed their car to the hilt (Mary Poppins herself would’ve been impressed) and set off for Vancouver to host a special dinner party.
I arrived at the ‘secret dining location’ to find Ricardo in the kitchen, surrounded by his tools (black truffle oil, black truffle salt, pickled beets, etc.), prepping components of the meal. It was as home-cooked as it gets. And from what I hear, dining experience at his restaurant are similar. Daily, he ventures to local markets to collect ingredients he’ll serve to his guests later on that very evening.
The soiree’s backrop was a Kitsilano apartment patio complete with a panoramic view of the city.
Oily olives, rich meats, and strong cheeses were set out as appetizers, alongside focaccia, made from an old recipe of Ricardo’s ‘mamma’.
As the chef and his co-hosts (from Jive Communications) cooked and served the meal, guests were captivated by Sue’s stories of family and young love. She and Ricardo met over 18 years ago while both working at Mulvaney’s Restaurant (now The Sandbar).
In 2001, they opened Ricardo’s Mediterranean Kitchen, which is a full-on family operation. Even Mamma contributes! ‘Concetta’ is known for her ‘to die for’ meatballs and has rolled so many that, unfortunately, she’s beginning to developing signs of carpal tunnel syndrome. Now, there’s a trooper.
Now, onto the five-course meal.
Truffle enthusiasts would’ve gone crazy for this first, deliciously stinky plate: Porcini Mushroom Risotto with truffle oil, truffle salt, and a light sprinkling of parmesan.
We took notes while Ricardo dished up the next course, tableside.
‘Cottage Pasta’, as he calls it, is breeze of a meal made with freshly cooked spaghetti noodles tossed in cold, homemade tomato sauce (made with San Marzano tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, chilies, basil, and salt and pepper, he so graciously divulged). Instantly, pasta became a perfect summer meal.
This plate was a treat, as back in Kelowna, the specialty is reserved for family only. The recipe, however, will be available in a soon-to-be published Scebba family cookbook.
Ricardo continued to stress the simplicity of each course.
This little palate cleansing salad, made with fennel from his parents’ garden, was lightly tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.
My favorite savory course was like nothing I’ve had before: Halibut Cheeks from north of the Queen Charlottes, encrusted lightly in panko, and doused in another simple sauce: lemon dill. The quickly-baked-then-pan-seared meat was indescribably tender and succulent, while the sauce did nothing but compliment. It really was phenomenal.
The lamb, served in a Cabernet demi-glace, was also perfectly cooked and incredibly juicy. This dish, with a swirl of local vegetables on the side, floored us all.
Just when I thought I could take no more, dessert arrived. The pleasure moans of my dining partners persuaded further indulgence.
From left to right: fresh Tiramisu with a hint of amaretto and mascarpone, an insanely delicious Chocolate Lavender Pot, and the winner, toasted Coconut Panna Cotta. I salivate as I type, reminiscing over the delectable evening. What a treat it was.
You won’t find a freezer in Ricardo’s kitchen; absolutely everything is fresh. This is barely conceivable from a business standpoint, but it’s true.
If you find yourself in the Kelowna area, I urge you to visit Sue and Ricardo. Tell them I sent you. I can guarantee they will welcome you with open arms and that your experience will be memorable.
Wishing you to die for food on a daily basis,