Amorosa can easily satisfy hearty appetite for pasta

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Chef’s love of food shows in side-by-side Burnaby restaurants

Alfie Lau

John Chow says he’s always loved Italian food. At Amorosa, he serves it for a North American audience. Photograph by : Stuart Davis, Vancouver Sun

John Chow is the first person to admit it appears strange that he runs both Italian and Greek restaurants in the Edmonds area of Burnaby.

Chow has run Amorosa Pasta House for 16 years and when the space next door came free three years ago, he took it over and opened Santali Souvlaki House. Chow splits his time between both places, with manager Allen Ching chipping in as well.

“I’ve always loved Italian food,” Chow said. “I don’t know why, but I’ve always really loved the Mediterranean foods. When we got the space for Santali, I wanted to have a Greek menu . . . but I think I’ll always really love Italian food.”

Chow, who last visited Italy in 2000, admits that Amorosa serves Italian food for a North American audience, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t brought some ideas back from his trips.

“We use real pepperoni and everything is cooked with olive oil,” said Chow. “We’ve added chili peppers to some dishes and we’ve added some seafood dishes because I love seafood.”

On a recent weekday, several co-workers decided to see what Amorosa was all about.

There aren’t many appetizers to choose from — probably because Chow knows that the main dishes will be more than filling enough — so we started with some calamari ($7.95), Stracciatella alla Romana soup ($4.25) and the small Caprese salad ($6.95).

There was nothing small about the tomato and bocconcini salad drizzled with red wine vinaigrette. Four of us had more than enough between us, with the bocconcini packing just enough of a bite to go well with the vinaigrette.

The soup featured egg swirls, parmesan cheese and parsley in a chicken broth.

And it’s hard to complain about the calamari, which Chow makes sure can feed an army. Crispy and not too oily, the calamari is an appetizer that is hard to beat.

We were noticing a trend at Amorosa: The prices are affordable and the portions are huge. Nothing would change when our mains came.

Pasta lovers can have no complaints at Amorosa because there are 28 different pasta dishes to choose from. And with 10 different pasta shapes to choose from, you can literally have something different every time you come to Amorosa.

Our marathoner went with the Arcobaleno, which is green peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and chicken broth sautéed in olive oil, and added a twist by having it served with spinach cheese tortellini. The tortellini was not only visually pleasing, it melded well with the tomatoes and mushrooms.

His wife went with the Genovese, which is chicken, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes in a creamy tomato sauce, served with rotini. The chicken chunks were plentiful and the portion so large she could finish only half of it, with the other half being a great lunch the next day.

Our vegetarian didn’t want to gamble by mistakenly ordering a dish with meat in it, so for $13.95, he made his own large pasta, from a choice of 10 pasta shapes, five sauces and any two of 12 toppings. He went with the spaghetti in a creamy tomato sauce with zucchini and sun-dried tomatoes, which he hungrily downed, leaving nary a morsel for the next day’s meal.

I went with the cartoccio ($13.95), which was a seafood delight of clams, squid, prawns and shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce and baked with mozzarella cheese.

The cartoccio came baked in its own aluminum foil wrap. I had linguine as my pasta — never a bad choice when paired with seafood — and couldn’t get over how many clams, prawns and squid Chow can pack into one dish.

Simply delectable, a sentiment echoed by the chef himself.

“That’s my favourite dish,” Chow said. “I love seafood and it’s a great dish.”

Hard to believe we had any room left for the tiramisu ($5.50) and the crème caramel ($3.95), but there can be no more refreshing way to finish a meal.

“I think the secret to the success here is we have the best quality, quantity, price and service,” Chow said. “As a chef, I love it when people compliment us on our food and we see them coming back. It makes me feel good and tells me we’re doing the right things.”

Amorosa Pasta House is located at 7874 Edmonds St. and is open seven days a week for dinner starting at 4:30 p.m.

It’s also open for lunch Tuesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Reservations are recommended. Call 604-525-3343 for more information.

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