Ever wonder about the lifespan of restaurants? I dug around the ol’ world wide web to find some interesting stats: one being that most restaurants close during their first year of operation. Further, 70% of those that make it past the first year close their doors in the next three to five years. Ninety per cent of the restaurants that are still operating past the five-year mark will stay in business for a minimum of 10 years.

It’s a pretty tough business. Never mind the fierce competition, but there’s also high labour costs, lack of qualified staff, economic ups and downs, and oh yeah, reviews. Everyone’s a critic, so they say.

So, to survive for seven years, like Rosario and Lisa Caputo of Cibo have done, is a pretty big deal.

Giving back to the community.

The  Caputos have come a long way since 2011 (Lisa wasn’t part of the biz in those first few years) and at first, I wasn’t sure if Cibo would make it, but thankfully it has, and this couple deserves a lot of credit, your support, and then some.

As CBC Edmonton A.M.’s restaurant reviewer (eight years running now), I am often asked about my favourite restaurants. Cibo consistently rates in the top five, and here’s why:

1) The food, obviously.

The refining of Rosario Caputo’s skill is due to maturity achieved through practice, education, a willingness to learn, and travel. Rosario is in a very sweet groove right now.

A sampling of dishes from 2018. For more, go to @cibobistro on Instagram, or @cibobistroedm on Twitter.

Succulent lamb neck ragu; delicate stuffed pasta like agnolotti and ravioli; charred, tender, grilled octopus. I’m making my mouth water recalling the absolute splendour of these dishes. The house-cured mangalitsa prosciutto that was gone in days this summer is something I still dream about and don’t even get me started on his zeppole and oxtail ragu-stuffed zucchini blossoms.

2) The wine

There’s hardly anyone more knowledgeable about Italian wine in this city than Lisa Caputo. Her recommendations for pairings are stellar and I love hearing her pronounce the Italian grape varietals and regions from which they originate. Her knowledge astounds me. Along with being the General Manager, Lisa is also a sommelier and a server. I’ve watched her in action countless times. I have witnessed her interact with family, foodies, neophytes and boors. Her demeanour never changes. She is the consummate professional; gracious and kind.

3) The team

The kitchen team is small, mighty and loyal. Right now, there are only three workers in that space but they run like a well-oiled machine. Nic, the sous chef has been there for five out of the seven years. That’s a testament to both Rosario and Lisa—what they stand for, how they treat people and how they run this business.

Nic holding the house-cured three-year Mangalitsa Prosciutto.

The front of house is nothing to disregard, either. Lisa makes sure all servers are up on their knowledge. If they don’t know something, they get the right information, pronto.

Tasting menu to celebrate Cibo’s 7th Anniversary. Pictured: Hot, puffy, divine gnocco fritto with fennel salami and black winter truffle.

Italian food is one of my favourite foods to enjoy. There are only a couple of restaurant owner/chefs in this city who do it right, in my opinion. Rosario Caputo and Daniel Costa (of Corso 32, Uccellino, Bar Bricco) are those people.

About the name: Seven years ago, the word cibo was relatively unique. These days, not so much. In Italian, it means “food” and is now a part of several other restaurant’s signage including a new-ish Canadian chain called Via Cibo that serves fast-casual Italian food (locations in Sherwood Park, south Edmonton, Calgary and out east). They are not connected with the Caputos’ Cibo. Same with the Cibo in Calgary. Cibo in Edmonton is an independent restaurant.

About the location: I am still surprised when people tell me they’ve never heard of Cibo Bistro. They ask me if it’s new.

Hence the reason for this post.

If Cibo was more visible or in a location that had more traffic, everyone would know about it. The reality is that this restaurant is tucked away on the north side of 104 Avenue in a cluster of businesses just to the west of MacEwan University. You won’t see it from the street.

So, now that you know, please go. The address is 11244 – 104 Avenue.

Also, know that they have one of the prettiest patios (open during the warm months). It is the perfect place to hunker down with friends for a late afternoon of wine and salumi. Do that, and you soon forget you’re in the middle of a big city.

Tell friends. Go on a date (it’s really awesome for that). Celebrate life, drink the wine. Have Lisa tell you about her favourite Prosseco; enjoy a glass of the luscious Natale Vergano Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Umbria and toast your good luck in discovering one of Edmonton’s hidden gems and one of my favourite Italian restaurants in Western Canada.

They’ve won awards over the years, for sure, but fame is fleeting, as they say. It doesn’t take long to get buried in the pile.

Getting in on the hype of brand new restaurants is fun and exciting, but knowing there is a rock-solid, old-timer (and that’s what a seven-year-old restaurant is called in this industry) that has the depth of knowledge, the wisdom of age and experience, and that not once—even in economic downtimes—has Rosario Caputo ever compromised on the quality of his ingredients. That’s the restaurant you want to lean on and keep in your pocket.

Go to Cibo. Tell ’em I sent you. (That part won’t do anything for you but it seems the right way to end this post.)