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Giovane Café

This chic, Euro-style café, bakery and deli in the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel feels like it has jumped off the pages of a glossy design magazine, almost self-consciously so. It's too bad the Italian pizza, panini and pastries don't receive as much love.

What's Hot: Small personal pizzas ($10) are almost all authentically topped with the same sorts of cured meats, potatoes, roma tomatoes, anchovies, gorgonzola and herbs that you'd find in Italy (no Hawaiian abominations here). The crust is crispy, yet thin and pliable enough to fold over. Would probably be less greasy if made fresh-to-order, rather than par-baked and reheated.

What's Not: There's nothing wrong with a thin sandwich. We don't always have to stuff ourselves into a food coma. But when a $9 grilled panini is this lightweight, each bite counts - and it would be nice actually to taste the tomato-walnut pesto daintily daubed under marinated Portobello mushrooms that are barely moist.

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Libations: Superb coffee. Locally roasted espresso from 49th Parallel is freshly ground and pulled into strong, appropriately bitter shots. Free cooler water infused with orange slices is a nice touch.

Sweet Sensations: The cult-worthy sugar buns and chocolate zeppole ($4) are voluptuous brioche baseballs filled, respectively, with vanilla and chocolate pastry cream. But I certainly wouldn't order a cake here after tasting the bakery's dry, flavorless tiramisu with jellified mascarpone.

Service/Decor: Two service counters (one for the barista, one for the kitchen) make ordering an extremely confusing ordeal. The cakes behind the coffee counter were so shockingly old that the raspberries on the cheesecake were sprouting blue mould. Seriously.

Bottom Line: Never trust a restaurant that puts more care into its merchandise shelves than its display food.

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About the Author
Vancouver restaurant critic

Alexandra Gill has been The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver restaurant critic since 2005. She joined the paper as a summer intern in 1997 and was hired full-time as an entertainment columnist the following year. In 2001, she moved to Vancouver as the Western Arts Correspondent, a position she held until 2007. More

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