Fort Mcmurray Food Scene
La Dolce Vita at Cosa Nostra
Italian food and culture go hand in hand. Spaghetti and Lasagna are as significant as Rafael and Leonardo da Vinci. For Italians, food is not merely a means of survival, it a means of expression, and an opportunity to savour life. Enjoying a meal with friends or family is the main ingredient of any Italian dish.
“It is all about love and passion,” says Chef Mark Hobson. “You can be the best trained chef in the world, but if you do not cook with your heart, the food is not going to be good.”
A graduate from the prestigious L’Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec, he knows what he is talking about. Originally from Montreal, Mark’s love for Italian food started at an early age.
“My mother used to pack these awful cheese and ham sandwiches for me. There were lots of Italian kids at my school and they had delicious Panini for their lunch. I was tired of my sandwiches and they did not like theirs, so we swapped our lunches,” Mark shares. “One day I brought one of the Panini home and told my mother: ‘This is a proper lunch!’”
His passion for Italian food grew during these years, and he went to L’Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec and then to a culinary school in Switzerland, where he received training from the best chefs.
“You know what? You can take any French and Italian chef and let them compete against each other. The Italian chef is always going to win. Why would I say that? Go to any city in the world to an area where there are lots of restaurants. Which ones are going to be packed? The Italian ones.”
Before he decided to open his own restaurant, Mark worked as a chef for several different establishments in town. As enriching and interesting as these experiences were, his Italian-implanted-heart started beating louder.
“There was no Italian restaurant in town!” Mark explains.
He decided to take matters into his own hands by creating Cosa Nostra, which opened in June of this year.
“The name means ‘Our thing’ in Italian. I want people to come to my restaurant and feel at home. I want people to say, ‘We go to a restaurant but to our thing.’”
Food is communication
Growing up in Montreal, Mark spent lots of time at Italian dinner tables.
“There were grandmothers, grandfathers, parents, uncles and children eating together. They argued, exchanged the news of the day with each other. No matter what you did throughout the day, dinner was at 8 p.m. and you had to be at home, and it was sacred to everybody. That is what I want Cosa Nostra to become. I am not going to rush people and tell them, ‘Hey, you got here at 7:30 p.m., now it is 10 p.m., so please leave’. It is not about eating out and going right away. It is about making people engage with each other over the food. My restaurant is going to be the place for your night out.”
Good dining is a connector between people, a connector, which often does not exist in the hustle and bustle of our modern world. In Mark’s opinion it is a key element that is missing in many marriages today.
“There are too many pubs in this town with waitresses who are dressed a bit too sexy. So the husband looks at the waitress, the wife gets annoyed; she gets her cell phone out and starts texting her girlfriends. Unfortunately you see this quite often and I said ‘enough is enough. That is not going to happen in my restaurant!”
So what is Mark’s recipe for a loving night out?
“We are going to have front parking, so that is already a nice start of the evening. You arrive directly at the restaurant and do not have to cruise around the block. I want this restaurant to be a haven for couples. If you take your wife to ‘Cosa Nostra’ it is all about time. If you want your favourite song played, the one you kissed each other for the first time, not a problem! Get some drinks, have good food, and at the end of the night there won’t be any arguments.
When Mark jumped into the adventure of opening up his own fine restaurant, it was clear to him that only the best chefs should prepare and cook the menus. Appetizers, shrimps, scallops, Carpaccio, chicken and of course fresh homemade pasta! Traditional meals with a modern twist: only the best is good enough.
“I’ll give you an example: You can have fresh pasta with some ground Parmesan on top of it or you can have a nice arrangement of thin layers of Parmesan. It is all about the aesthetics. I will have the best veal in Canada. It is milk fed and I have to fly it in. Most of the veal you get is grain fed. My favourite food is Tortellini. I just love Tortellini! Most of our pasta is homemade like Tortellini and Ravioli. Some other pasta, which we need to have in big quantities, will be flown in from a superb pasta company in Vancouver. It took me eight months to find a company which makes the best fresh pasta you can find.”
To find the best chefs Mark put up an advertisement that got responses from all over Canada and even Italy. Seven chefs are going to cook in a rotation system, so every week it is going to be somebody else. The standards and the quality of the food is, of course, always the best.
Make it special
Fine dining loves fine atmosphere and the interior of Cosa Nostra is urban with cool and elegant colours.
“Of course we have a pianist who will accompany your dining throughout the evening,” Mark says. Fine food likes to be married to fine settings. Work pants, stains on your shirt or pajamas, sorry, this is not the place for that and I am not going to accept it. I have no choice. I have to uphold a standard. The standard here is if you come at night you have to be properly dressed, like you are going to the theatre or church. You do not have to wear a tie, but I do not want to see running shoes, dirty jeans, and baseball caps.”
Sounds elitist? Mark shakes his head.
“Our price range is very open. For instance a lunch meal is not going to be more than 15 dollars. Where else do you get fine food for that price? Of course it depends on what you choose. I have bottles of wine for 50 dollars and I have bottles of wine for 500 dollars.”
No matter if you want to have a business meeting, a family gathering, Christmas dinner or a girls’ night out: Cosa Nostra has 108 seats and can expand to 200 without any problem. Mark is prepared for the best and you should be too.