Zambri's is a no-nonsense casual Italian cafe by day, with daily specials and rustic pastas served cafeteria style. By night Zambri's is a sophisticated bistro serving old country Italian dishes with an ever changing a la carte menu.
After hearing plenty about this place I had to finally try them out at their swanky new location. I popped by Saturday for a quick lunch after a look over the menu. I was actually expecting higher prices but they were fairly reasonable, pizzas around 13 bucks, pasta dishes for around 13/14 dollars but more on that later.
I was dining alone and quickly got a seat by the window from the friendly hostess. My waitress arrived shortly after I sat down with a menu and to take my drink order. I asked about a beer that I never tried and she offered to give me a sample. As it turns out the beer was not to my liking so I ordered a brew that I knew.
While waiting for my beer to arrive another server brought by some crusty bread and a small dish of olives. The olives were very nice, the bread not so much. The bread was very crusty, a thick , chewy almost hard crust to it that made my teeth hurt. I really think they should review the bread they are serving.
I ordered the gnocchi and when it arrived it really wasn't anything I expected. First off, it seemed like a very small portion. The gnocchi came in a sort of spinach gravy type thing that was okay but not really what I had in mind. The gnocchi was tasty enough, I ate it but would of preferred a tomato based sauce, my bad for ordering the wrong thing.
This was a busy place for lunch on a Saturday. I had a feeling my waitress was slammed with customers as she took much too long to bring me things like the bill. Wasn't impressed with the service.
I also wasn't really impressed with the table set up. I was sitting alone for lunch but halfway through my meal a young couple arrived at the table next to me and you are literally sitting right with them, just inches away. This is really not my cup of tea. I would of loved to of finished my lunch in my own little space but what can you do, that is the set up of this restaurant.
The new building Zambri's is in is quite impressive, a beautiful space. As for Zambri's itself I found the new space nothing special at all, although I look forward to a warm summer afternoon in July enjoying lunch and a bottle of wine on their patio that looks onto Yates.
Although not what I really expected I will be back.
Went to Zambri's after reading the reviews online. We went on a Friday night and this is a small place and since we were visiting we decided to wait for a table. It was an hour wait for 4 of us.
The food was classic homemade Italian. The menu changes daily and we really enjoyed the pasta dishes which were very tasty and worth the wait. We were disappointed as they ran out of 2 menu items their calamari and Duck both of which we wanted to order. The Lamb we ordered was very fatty and the beef was average. I would recommend going for the pasta but not waiting as long as we did. An overall average dining experience.
Heard and read slot about Zambri's and finally had a chance to try it out. Everything was great until the main course arrived. My chicken scallopini tasted great, although 2 pieces of chicken and 4 little boiled potato halves swimming in sauce could have used a bit more imagination to present. My wifes salmon entree looked alot more appealing except for the fact that it was raw and cold inside. The server did the best that she could do at the table and took the plate back to the kitchen. I was left to eat my entree alone while the kitchen hastely cooked up 3 small thin pieces of salmon to get the main course out asap. No attempt by manager or owner was made to make up for the faux pas. In speaking with the manager about the uncooked salmon I was told that the chef/owner new what he was doing in the kitchen. Obviously not if he sends out raw food. We were not looking for anything more than a sorry we screwed up and please return to see that this was an anomoly and not something that happens very often. Got lots of attitude from the so called manager and wish them good luck in the new restaurant because they are going to need it.
Sometime ago, perhaps as much as five years, Zambri's was a magical place. The food was fresh, the staff friendly, the service professional. One was guaranteed a great experience and it was never a surprise to see Zambri's listed among Victoria's top restaurants.
Times change and so has Zambri's. After a period of disappointing meals and declining service — we've stayed away from Zambri's for almost two years — we gave it a try, a Wednesday night date night. Nothing looks like it had changed at Zambri's, the staff looked a bit older, the decor still humble with uninteresting art and the big cans of tomatoes still stacked at the door.
We asked of there were any specials and told there were none. How true this would be. We were offered a spartan basket with several slices of bread and olives which went quickly. For appetizers we ordered a salad and the calamari. The salad, which should have a simple blend of perhaps two lettuces and tossed with simple vinaigrette instead came with at least five different lettuces, carrots, radishes, cucumbers and other vegetables awash in a huge pour of dressing. My wife spent most of the time trying to sort out the different textures and tastes. My calamari came with white beans and something else, also heavily doused with dressing. It was impossible to separate out the tastes and textures as everything tasted like vinaigrette.
For mains, my wife ordered lamb shank and I ordered steak. The lamb oddly came without the shank and consisted of three or four small pieces of meat and three flowery potatoes. We still can't identify what was wrong except that it tasted funny and not very interesting. My steak, ordered medium rate, was cooked anwhere from rare to well done and came with two flowery potatoes. The whole plate was smothered in a heavy garlic sauce that also made it difficult to sense the tastes of either meat or potatoes.
It was only as we completed our main course did someone ask how things were. We almost had to force our feelings on the waiter who was more in a hurry than our actual concerns. When we told him how much we didn't like our meal, his response was plainly, "Fair enough." He went on to say that this wasn't an off night since "Peter is in the house." Moments later, a server asked "You're not having desert, are you?" then promptly knocked our second basket of bread on the floor - the one we paid $2 for - and never bothered to replace it.
Our bill, with wine, came to nearly $140, which is obscene. Zambri's is no longer that quality of restaurant. When effecting payment, I was obliged to walk to the till and pay with debit - no mobile terminal so common in other restaurants. When the machine asked if I wished to tip I answered "Yes" only to find out I had to tell my waiter what the tip would be as it's entered manually by him.
We were among the legion of locals who enjoyed going to Zambri's, supported their business and came back often. Last night we had an expensive, hurried and subpar meal. It only confirmed our previously held beliefs about a restaurant in decline, a light that no longer glows bright and a staff that doesn't care.
We went for a nice relaxing evening to have great food and wine. We ordered pre-dinner drinks and my friend received his drink and mine was nowhere to be seen. I received mine when the main course arrived. The wine that we ordered with our main course arrived first!!! Not cool. As far as the food goes, it was solid home cooked italian fare. Not gourmet, but a good home-cooked meal. The ambiance is something to be desired as well as location. They forgot to put the wine on our bill, which I diligently reminded them of (was I nuts!!). The tiramisui was to DIE FOR. I would go back for dessert, but they are a family run operation and close at 9:00pm. Good restaurant, but not in it for the money or late night clientele.
This small hidden gem in Victoria is a must for people who enjoy flavor. Upon entering the front doors I felt as if I were walking into a small part of Italy. There was an open kitchen with cooks preparing food over a giant wooden counter, pots and pans hanging form the ceiling and the floors were of terracotta tile with welcoming wooden tables and chairs. The servers were non pretentious and well informed about the wines and preparation of the food. The menu was simple with quality choices. For the person that can not make up their mind (like me) there was the tasting menu with wine pairings. The time in-between each course was perfect and the glasses of wine were not on the shy side. Not to mention the price was right. $45 for three substantial courses is a good deal. Unlike most places that offer this type of deal the food here was packed full of good flavors. When in Victoria I will be going back for seconds.
I've been to Zambri's three times now for both dinner and lunch - all of which have been great experiences.
The food is top-notch and the recipes are very delicious and creative Italian-inspired dishes. High notes are the pasta and pizza dishes, which include rich sauces and very thin crusts that aren't drowning in sauce or toppings. The minestrone soup is one of my favs but I've only seen it served when I've been there for lunch - Hey Joe - it should be avail all the time and on the dinner menu too, it's that good. Overall the food will not disappoint and is worth every olive oil soaked calorie, and there are a lot of those.
The atmosphere is very nice, depending on where you sit. The inside part is more the traditional dining area and has great people watching - the adjoining atrium part makes for a different dining experience as you are outside but still inside an enclosed building.
I only give the service a low rating as I've been less than impressed two of the three times I've eaten there, considering the price you pay to dine there. I get the feeling that some of the servers know their food is good and that means they don't have to go out of their way to look after you. Or maybe they were new or something - either way, this is the only weakness in what is otherwise a great place.
I've been eating at Zambri's for years and am always excited to go back. While I love the new location, there was something special about the intimacy of the previous one. At lunch at Zambri's yesterday, I commented that it would have been nice if they could have both locations. I realize this is a tall order.
I was at Zambri's for a tweet-up meeting. I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting, the food, the service and the company.
My SO and I have been to Zambri's on numerous occasions in the past; we both adore the tradition Italian fare, it is always tasty.
However, ever time we've been, the service always leaves something to be desired; the servers are typically quite apathic. I enjoy having my server take part in my dining descisions, not be an "order-taker".
I also phoned earlier this month to inquire about potentially booking for a large group - which they do take reservations for (according to their website), and was met with curt, rude responses to my questions. Friendlier front of house staff would make an enormous difference in the dining experience.
As a person who enjoys food and wine and travels extensively to taste and experiment, it was refreshing to find this small restaurant in downtown Victoria in 2008. We returned in 2009, during a months stay to find that the cooking was still superb, service was excellent, and to discover that they are moving to a larger and more appropriate location. Grilled calamari in a lovely sauce, pork loin seared outside but tasty inside, and fresh white salmon came to the table accompanied by an unusually wonderful mix of vegetables. The wine list, while short and young, contains Italian wines of great character. Quality of this kind deserves a sophisticated location.
My husband and I received a gift certificate for this restaurant. Although a little difficult to locate (tucked between the Market on Yates and London Drugs), this small restaurant was quaint and brimming with atmosphere and character. Our waitress was very friendly, and helpful in suggesting an order and wine. You could tell that the food was made right from order (not ahead of time as with many other restaurants), but it did not take too long to come to the table and was delicious. It was a lovely experience, but definitely on the more expensive side. Our gc was for $50, and our bill still came out to $20 + tip.
I used to go to Zambris when it was at its old location and loved it. It was the first really good italian that I had in Victoria, and I love the seasonal menu and fresh ingredients. Since its moved I have been back several times. We usually sit at the bar, and have always had great service. The atmosphere is lively, but nice for a date also. The pizza, pasta, salads and appetizers never disappoint and their tirimisu is one of the best in town. Always quite busy so good idea to make a reservation or be open to sitting at the bar.
Between my last visit and my most recent one (I am in the area only very rarely) Zambri's moved from a strip mall to a gorgeously outfitted location at Yates and Blanshard. While I missed waiting for a table while watching the food prep madness this visit was passably wonderful. Friendly and attentive staff, nice open ambiance, un-pretentious menu and wine list, and that beautiful food. All three of us dining swore we had to find more excuses to what for us is a distant city just to get to Zambri's.
My only concern - remember Food, Value, Ambiance, all wonderful - is the reluctance to take reservations. Guys, having survived the New York and restaurant scenes on both sides of the pass-through, I say put aside 25% of your tables a night for reservation. Cater to those who have time and those on a tighter schedule or who feel that "no reservations allowed" is the very epitome of pretension.
We had heard that Zambris was not too bad. We had friends who had come to the city from Toronto and thought we would show them the Victoria had good Restaurants too. Oh my, this place was not good, they try, but the food is not the thing, seemed like more of a singles mix it up bar with food on the side. We were so disappointed as there are a lot of places we could have gone that are 10 times as good. Do your research; this is not a good bet for dinner.
The food was imaginatively conceived and perfectly executed. My wife and I started with mortadella wrapped around fresh escarole with a dab of chestnut preserves. Then she had skewered duck breast while I enjoyed their made-from-scratch penne with a duck ragu. For dessert, we had a cornmeal-ricotta cake and we both drank red wines -- a montepulciano d'Abruzzo and nero d'Avola. The service was friendly and attentive without being stifling or stiff. I want to go back!
Last night myself and two friends decided to try Zambri's after reading a good review. As an Italian, I was looking forward to some Italian food with a modern twist. The food was over-priced, but we were willing to pay the prices for the good food. The ambiance was nice too.
The night was going all right, even though we were feeling rushed by the waitress who was talking much too fast for us to understand, and even though the pasta was undercooked. Then it happened. My friend gasped as he slowly pulled out one big, long, thick, dark, pasta-coated hair from his mouth.
We were all extremely put off the food and told our waitress we would not be finishing. She offered us a coffee on the house and asked if we wanted a desert "that didn't have any hair". We declined and asked for just the bill. Needless to say, we all thought that my friend's dish would at least be taken off the bill. We were all dissatisfied and the hair was the last straw. We all knew we would never be returning. Our waitress brought our bill, explained that she couldn't take the dish off of the bill, and gave us a "one free pasta" coupon. She said, "I know you might not even use it if you don't come back but you could give it to your friend or something." Not only are we never coming back, but none of us would ever recommend the restaurant to a friend.
The bill was $60 for three undercooked pasta dishes and an appetizer that was engulfed with breading.
We paid the bill in full, and left the useless coupon on the table. I have never been at such an unprofessional restaurant. Zambri's has a nice atmosphere and seems to be perfect if you're up for a little higher-class Italian dining, but honestly, McDonald's would have more class.
We discovered this place by word of mouth, and have been twice within one month. It's a very, very sweet find! Food is good, simple, fresh and delicious. This place fills any hankering for an authentic taste of Italy... without having to travel. Ambience is cozy, and service is attentive. Highly recommended!
Oh, I wish I grew up in this Italian family! For now, I'm honoured to get such fine authentic cucina style food as their guest.
Very knowledgable staff, always attentive service and superb food/wine matches. Psst, don't tell anyone, as they don't take reservations for smaller parties and we don't want "competition" when we keep showing up for this fine dining experience!
This place is amazing. When I worked downtown I would grab lunch here at least once a week, and often more.
Every day Zambri's offers up a different selection of delicious, simple sauces and ragus, served on noodles chosen to highlight the taste and texture of the sauce. A serving costs about $10, which is more than enough to feed all but the most prodigious eater (I always had enough left over for dinner or lunch the next day). I can offer no other praise than to say this is the only restaurant that I will order Italian-style pasta dishes at, because it's the only restaurant I know that can do them better than I can at home.
If you're not in the mood for pasta, Zambri's offers daily soup selections and, more importantly, a meatball sandwich that is truly amazing - their texture is ethereally light, moist and bursting with flavour. Go, you won't be disappointed.
Thoroughly enjoyed this experience. Appetizers are simple and classic, menu changes daily and the pastas are perfectly al dente. Not your average Italian here! You won't find lasagna and pizza but more rustic versions of Italian village cuisine. Service is unpretentious and prompt. They don't take reservations though, so come early. They also close whenever they are ready, so come early!