Buffo brings modern yet playful Italian cuisine to Saks Fifth Avenue
Chef de Cuisine Michel Nop will be at the helm in the kitchen
Roughly translated, the Italian "buffo" means funny, comical, entertaining — it's the word they chose to encapsulate the fun, casual nature of the newest restaurant in the Oliver & Bonacini portfolio.
Buffo, which is having its soft opening over the weekend, is nestled into Saks Fifth Avenue on the residential side of Chinook Centre. The restaurant expects to open its doors to the public on May 15
The nearly 5,000-sq.-ft. space is sleek, modern yet playful, designed by Reggie Andrade and Alexandra Stoewner of Dialog Design. It sits comfortably between classic and contemporary, with bright blue tile, classic grey marble and brass and glass shelving, with modern-fancy chandeliers. There are cozy banquettes and Italian-themed artwork hung in clusters that almost makes it feel like you're dining at your elegant great-aunt's house.
Chef Ryan O'Flynn is tasked with overseeing culinary operations at all of the Calgary Oliver & Bonacini restaurants and event venues, including the Guild, Sub Rosa, Hudson, and now Buffo. But chef de cuisine Michel Nop will be at the helm in the kitchen for the day to day operations.
Nop was immersed in the world of food growing up in Paris where his parents ran a restaurant. After earning two diplomas by the age of 17, Nop went on to train at restaurants across France and the U.K., and spent three years cooking at Michelin-starred restaurants under renowned French chefs Alain Ducasse and Alain Senderens.
In Calgary, Nop has spent time in the kitchen at Teatro and Cassis Bistro, and most recently joined chefs Duncan Ly and Jinhee Lee to open Foreign Concept.
"Buffo matches perfectly with me," he said. "I like to have fun with what I do. The menu is simple food, and Italian classics — people will recognize it, they don't have to overthink — it's the same, but different. More modern."
In the brand new kitchen, a pizza oven imported from Italy sits beside a pasta machine with almost a dozen dies — the exchangeable bits on the extruder that determine the pasta shape, from rigatoni to alphabets.
Sous chef Monica Dimatteo slices imported cured meats, while in the back, pastry chef Nelse Breaker folds flourless chocolate cake batter and pours it into pans.
Nop's second sous chef, Amit Semwal, came from the kitchen at Anew Table in Garrison Woods, and previously Rouge and Blink.
There's a lot of talent buzzing about as they prepare to open.
The casual, classic-yet-modern Italian menu includes pizzas, house-made pastas and risotto, classic antipasti and local meats and seafood prepared with items imported from Italy, like San Marzano tomatoes, semolina and double zero flour.
A small menu for the bambinos offers more of the same, in smaller servings, plus parmesan chicken fingers with marinara for dipping.
Buffo is family friendly, and they envision it becoming as much as a destination restaurant as a place to relax and recharge during a shopping marathon. It's well-suited to groups, with two private dining rooms, and the open kitchen and stylish bar right at the entrance give the space a convivial feel.
Buffo will be serving lunch and dinner seven days a week, with a weekend brunch menu coming soon.
"People are worried that being in Saks, we'll be too high-end," said Nop, "but that's not what we want to do."
Although they offer a 28-oz. roast porterhouse for two with sides for $69.75, most mains are within the $15 to $30 range.
"We get the best ingredients we can buy, and have the best price points. We want to make it accessible to as many people as we can."
Buffo is at CF Chinook Centre, 6455 Macleod Trail S.W.