A fixture of fine dining in Calgary, Teatro Ristorante has been a go-to for locals since it first opened 25 years ago. But, in recent years, the Italian restaurant began to feel more like an institution than a must-try hot spot in a city with a burgeoning dining scene.
Last year, Dario Berloni, president and CEO of Teatro Group, and Devin Morrison, director of operations, decided to change that by hiring corporate executive chef Matthew Batey. Well-known to food-lovers in Western Canada, Batey was the executive chef at Calgary’s The Nash, and before that at the Mission Hill Family Estate winery in the Okanagan.
The result is that, while the service is still impeccably elegant and, in accordance to Berloni’s vision, unmistakably Italian, 25 years into the game Teatro is once again fresh and fun.
Batey not only oversees the culinary program at Teatro, but also at Teatro Group’s other properties: Cucina, Royale, Vendome Café, E.A.T., Capuccini and Alforno Bakery & Café. Each has its own chef running the kitchen, but Batey is responsible for steering the culinary vision and making sure everything is both delicious and efficiently run.
Batey relishes the opportunity to be both a kitchen “artist and an architect.” He loves managing and mentoring, but still appreciates the opportunity to put on an apron and stand in front of the stove, particularly if he’s able to get his hands on a piece of fresh fish, a reminder of his Vancouver Island upbringing.
“I touch food every day in the kitchen,” says Batey. “Some days, [that] means doing a tasting with the chefs before one of the restaurants rolls out a new menu, or I could be working service and be shoulder-to-shoulder with the guys in the kitchen.”
While Batey takes great pride in all the group’s restaurants, Teatro is the shiniest jewel in the crown. The menu changes seasonally, but the nightly six-course tasting menu, which can feature anything from handmade ravioli filled with fresh mushrooms to a delicate scallop crudo, is a must try. “It’s about being a great restaurant in a vibrant culinary city and never losing sight of who we are,” says Batey.
Where Are They Now?
A number of Calgary’s culinary stars started out at Teatro and have gone on to open their own restaurants:
Hayloft Restaurant (5101, 403 MacKenzie Way S.W.) in Airdrie, a city approximately 30 minutes drive from downtown Calgary, offers high-end Prairie cuisine, such as single origin beef tortellini (above), dreamt up by executive chef Barton Brown, Teatro’s former chef de cuisine.
The founder and owner of Empire Provisions (8409 Elbow Dr. S.W.), Kho offers some of Calgary’s best hand-made charcuterie and fresh sausages. Empire is the ideal place to stock up on picnic supplies or to grab a specialty deli sandwich.
Brendan Bankowski and Dean Symonds
The pair are the owners of the recently opened Gorilla Whale (1214 9 Ave. S.E.) in Inglewood, which serves up ramen, yakitori, craft cocktails and local beers with a side of rock ’n’ roll swagger.
Carino Riserva (2206 4 St. S.W.), which is a refined mash-up of Italian and Japanese cuisine, is the brainchild restaurant of Karino, a former sommelier at Teatro.
Robinson is the general manager and part owner of Two Penny (1213 1 St. S.W.), which specializes in cheeky, upscale takes on Chinese food classics and spectacular Asian-inspired cocktails. Two Penny, and its downstairs Tea House Bar, is a centrepiece of Calgary’s Victoria Park dining scene.
[This story appears in the October 2018 issue of WestJet Magazine.]