If you were to visit Puglia in southern Italy, one of the first things you might notice are small, white buildings with a conical roof peppering the landscape. Beautiful and unique, the buildings are known as trulli (or a trullo, singular). These traditional stone dwellings date back to the 1700s, where they were used for food storage and shelter, and later as homes.
The design of Il Trullo restaurant in Dartmouth was based on the natural elements of a trullo, with ceiling domes, a natural stone look and wood elements, but it’s the flavours of South Italy that customers will remember most. The two couples that co-own the restaurant take pride in ensuring the patrons get an authentic southern Italian experience at Il Trullo. Each owner has their own part in making it successful. The owners are Bruno Lanttanzi and Penny Lattanzi (formerly Kirby), and Giuseppe (known to everyone as Beppe) Giardino and Charline Cormier. Penny and Beppe are at the restaurant daily and each bring their own expertise. Penny is a business owner; she is the controller and manages the back of house. Beppe has more than 20 years experience in restaurant management and looks after the front of the restaurant and customer service. Bruno had his own concrete company and with his construction knowledge he looks after the restaurant system’s maintenance. Charline’s background is in sustainable design and looks after the restaurant’s marketing, sustainability and designed the space.
“We’re not just another Italian restaurant,” says Beppe. “We offer something different here. The owners are Italian, and we know Italian food. Also, the food we offer is distinctive to southern Italy. When you have experienced eating great food in Italy, you have to share it with everyone.” The combined food, wine and vibrant atmosphere really sets the restaurant apart.
“We only use the best quality ingredients in our dishes and simplicity is a big part of southern Italian cuisine,” says Beppe. “Italians possess a talent to take any ingredients and create magic. Real Italian cooking reflects simplicity and family. This is what we are about in our food and great service. We believe in healthy eating — Mediterranean dishes are the most popular and healthy diets around the word. Lastly, we provide tradition. The Italian way of cooking and preparing dishes are very special from one community to another.
The restaurant’s menu has traditional dishes, such as lasagne, pastas and pizza (the Il Trullo pizza — with its housemade fennel sausage, tomato sauce, Genoa salami, mozzarella, chilli, fresh rosemary and lavender honey — is a customer favourite!), but the difference between north and south is that the south has more of a focus around the ocean.
“We have more fish on our menu, which blends well here in Nova Scotia with the province’s abundance of local seafood,” says Beppe. “We also have lighter sauces. We don’t have thick, heavy cream sauces. It’s typical Italian fare, but our recipes are just a bit different.”
They take pride in making their own breads, pizza dough, pasta and desserts. “We take Italian southern cuisine and add a modern flair and presentation.”
The restaurant takes reservations and welcomes walk-ins, groups and kids. They also have gluten free options available. They are open daily, except on Monday, and provide lunch (except Saturday), dinner service and brunch on Sunday. Designed with large windows for an abundance of natural light, every customer has a water view and even their kitchen staff enjoys the Dartmouth basin views while working. During the warmer climate, you can enjoy your food and drinks on their patio, which is enclosed with a high-glassed railing and has one of the best views in town.
From April to the end of October, King’s Wharf offers a water taxi service that goes from downtown Halifax directly in front of the restaurant. “It’s a great way to avoid traffic and our customers enjoy the trip across the harbour and make a night out of it.”
The restaurant also provides free valet parking for customers on Friday and Saturday nights. Customers can park their car out front and someone will park it for them in the nearby lot. “People often worry about parking. It’s just one less thing they have to worry about,” says Beppe.
When Il Trullo first opened more than three years ago, downtown Dartmouth was just starting to see growth and new businesses opening in the area. Today, the downtown is thriving. “The more businesses around us, the more people will stay in Dartmouth or travel over from Halifax. It’s a win for everybody. We are proud to be in Dartmouth and support the downtown community.”
The restaurant has been receiving excellent reviews from customers and local media. One of their wait staff, Lindsay, was named Best Server in Star Metro Halifax’s 2018 Community Choice Awards. They were also named a “Favourite” in the Best Brunch category.
“Italians aren’t big breakfast people,” said Beppe. “In the beginning, we didn’t offer a brunch. But Canadians like their brunch, so we started offering one with an Italian twist — for example, our eggs benedict is served on focaccia bread and we have a special brunch pizza.”
Restaurant co-owner Charline designs sustainable buildings for a living. When they were planning the restaurant, they incorporated sustainability into the overall design and lifestyle of the restaurant. Products were carefully chosen to keep them sustainable by providing local and recycled elements.
“We compost, sort and recycle everything, and everything is picked up daily,” says Charline. “The kitchen is organized in a way that makes us different. There can be a lot of waste in restaurants, but we strive to reduce our waste to minizine our impact to the environment. Our take-out containers are compostable, and we try to avoid purchasing items that are packaged in plastic. We buy as much local as we can, but packaging and boxes are unavoidable. Everyone who works here says they’ve never seen what we do at other restaurants in the area. And we’ve been doing it since day one. It’s important to us, so we incorporate sustainable measure in all aspects of our operation.”
Il Trullo Ristorante
102 – 67 King’s Wharf Place
Photos by Bruce Jollimore