Acquafarina review: Vancouver restaurant reaches for the high-end

Acquafarina is posh, formal, and seemingly jumping the shark with a strict dress code and a no cellphones or cameras policy.

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Where: 425 Georgia Street, Vancouver

When: Dinner, Tuesday to Saturday. Lunches and Aperitivo, 3 to 5 p.m., to come.

Info and reservations: 604-558-3099.

There’s a lot to unpack with Acquafarina.

It was meant to be an upscale pizzeria called Water + Flour, luring thousands of nearby office workers and future Amazon and Deloitte employees moving to the area. But the COVID-19 pandemic emptied downtown offices overnight.

Instead of streamlining to deliveries and takeouts, it was rebranded as Acquafarina — posh, formal, and seemingly jumping the shark with a strict dress code and a no cellphones or cameras policy. Plus, there’s a $50 deposit per person for reservations to deter no-shows — understandable.

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It seems that a willing, well-heeled market was ready for this — Acquafarina has been doing very well.

Owner Fabrizio Foz, who runs on four hours of sleep, is happiest juggling many passion projects. He also owns Per Se Social Corner and Ciclo Espresso and has other ideas in the works.

“My girlfriend calls me the mountain goat because I never sit down and relax,” he says.

I’ve taken photos at many Michelin starred restaurants for my work and thought the no photos policy was a bit pretentious, but Foz says guests are loving it. His reasons for laying down the law are twofold: the food will be at its best as delays cool and change flavours and he wants people to focus on the moment.

“People went crazy over it,” he says — in a positive sense.

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As for the dress code, the runway-ready Foz says: “Why do we have to go to Europe to live life elegantly?”

His mother bred sartorial pride into him.

“She isn’t rich but she loves to wear silk and pearls and won’t even go to the supermercado if she’s not nicely dressed. Mama would approve,” he says in an email with a heart-laden emoji for her.

There’s more familial influence. He designed the striking interior with his nonna in mind.

“It’s based on her soul and how she liked everything in life. She was the closest person to me in life and wanted the best for me,” he says.

The wood panelling creates warmth like a home. The lily logo? It was her favourite flower. The starry ceiling lights? Nonna was Catholic, so it mimics candles at a Vatican mass. The sculpture of the Virgin Mary and the 205-year-old Bible “to protect the place” are for her. Not that he’s religious, he says.

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As for that wooden mannequin Pinocchio, the storybook Tuscan character, swooping down above the entry is “a conversation piece,” Foz says.

“My builder was against it. Everyone will think you’re a liar, he told me. But I’ve known this story since I was a kid.”

The 1883 children’s tale happens to be the most translated book in the world.

Initially, Foz wanted to serve classic high-end Italian food, but patrons wanted a little more adventure so now aspirations are for an Osteria Francescana style of cuisine. The twice-named best restaurant in the world charges 320 euros per person for a 12-course tasting menu — a tall ask in cost-conscious Vancouver.

Enter chef Jefferson Alvarez. He’s regularly spent time cooking at such restaurants, including Osteria Francescana itself, and others in Italy and Spain. Since Alvarez’s new menu went live, Acquafarina announced via Instagram that cellphones and photos are welcome from April 8 to 23 to celebrate.

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Beef short ribs with red wine jus at Acquafarina, 425 Georgia St., in Vancouver.
Beef short ribs with red wine jus at Acquafarina, 425 Georgia St., in Vancouver. Photo by Luis Valdizon /PNG

My first dinner was a one-time, seven-course truffle dinner led by Alvarez, celebrating Italian white truffles grown by Below The Oaks Farms in Langley. Yes, local white truffles.

The dinner and service was a polished, white gloved, white tablecloth experience with truffles embedded throughout. Dishes included: maple glazed chicken skin with truffle salt over beef tartare; a heavenly wild mushroom soup with truffle and Parmigiano foam; Haida Gwaii halibut cheeks with truffle oil-infused fermented barley; exquisite oxtail ravioli with truffle-infused olive oil; house-baked bread with truffle butter made with a 53-year-old starter culture; luscious beef short ribs in red wine jus with crisped polenta gratin — beautiful — and a truffle chocolate wafer and sauce over almond rum sponge.

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The food was lovely. Alvarez has, in the past, at Secret Location, for example, performed El Bulli-style feats with food but here, he will tweak classics.

Foz nabbed other industry veterans for front of house, like Oli Bureau, a former director of operations at Tableau and Bearfoot Bistro. Sommelier Leagh Barkley came from Blue Water Cafe and Il Caminetto and has worked in France at Michelin-starred restaurants. Servers are attentive, informative, seasoned professionals. Bar director Barry Jackson comes from the Top Table group as well, having worked at Elisa and Blue Water Cafe as well as Gotham Steakhouse.

Apart from that exclusive truffle dinner, the $145 tasting menu changes completely every two weeks. Alvarez isn’t fazed.

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“At Cacao (his former restaurant), I used to change it every day. It’s a walk in the park. Here, it’s only five dishes,” he says. “It’s where we are going to play and where you will take a journey.”  

A la carte dishes are $28 to $37 for starters, $39 to $41 for pastas and risotto, and $32 to $126 for mains. The latter, an eight-ounce ash-crusted Tajima Wagyu steak with polenta and grilled veg. 

From the a la carte menu, my seared Hokkaido scallops, wrapped in prosciutto, on a celeriac puree, featured plump, moist scallops and velvety celeriac. The prosciutto delivered some needed punch. Pappardelle with bison ragout and marinated cranberries showed pasta prowess. Loved it.

Wild boar chop with crispy risotto was juicy, flavourful, with an apple glaze and dappled with red peppercorns and Sicilian pistachios.

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And ricordi de Sorrento, or memories of Sorrento, appeared as olive oil cake and candied lemon atop Limoncello spuma — I always love some sourness in my dessert. Really.

A customer favourite I didn’t try was the 26-ounce prime rib with duck fat potatoes — meant to share but some tackle it solo. I noted the pizzas are rustic, sturdy and nicely bubbled and charred. They’ll be removed from the dinner menu and moved to a lunch menu once the office workers are back in the area. Two “Ferrari of all pizza ovens await” the replenished offices.

Loyal customers can rent bottle space in an upstairs private dining area. The dramatic wine cellar next to the bar, with 8,000 bottles and counting, stretches skyward requiring a scissor lift to reach top tiers. The collection is dominated by Italian and French vintages.

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Foz’s background includes pizzaiolo certifications from Italy and California, large-scale concert and events productions, 20-plus restaurant operations, and racing his Ducati motorcycle but “not at Grand Prix level.”

Projects in the works include a shipping container coffee bar next to Acquafarina, additional Per Se Social spots in Metro Vancouver and Toronto and a sister Acquafarina in Toronto. 


Purdys Chocolatier takes Easter to the children’s ward at Lion’s Gate Hospital, setting up an Easter egg hunt.

Each child will be provided with a Purdys-purple binocular to hunt, from their windows, for a dozen five-feet tall Easter egg cut-outs placed outside the hospital. Afterwards, they’ll receive real Easter chocolates. It’s for children who’d otherwise miss out on this childhood activity.

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As well, Purdys will donate $20,000 to the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation.

Their Easter treats include Mini Foiled Eggs, chocolate Barnaby Bunny, an Easter gift tin or basket, a Bunny Bag, Peanut Butter Eggs and a chocolate Baby Bunny.

Brewery & The Beast, a pretty much all-you-can-eat ethically-sourced meat fest is back in Vancouver on Aug. 7 with dozens of stalls offering barbecued, smoked, grilled or slow-cooked meat dishes.

It’s at Concord Pacific Place, from 1 to 4 p.m. and tickets — $173.95 or $299.95 for a VIP experience — are now on sale. Attendees are treated to live entertainment from local musicians with The Electric Timber Company headlining the stage. Ticket price includes beer, wine, cider and spirits.

Partial proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Chefs’ Table Society of B.C. Since its inception the event has raised more than $143,000 in Vancouver, Victoria and Calgary to support food-focused initiatives. For more information and tickets, visit


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