Pappardelle with slow-cooked Bolognese.

When you’re a talented chef in Edmonton, everyone has a story about how they knew you when. “The first time I saw Daniel Costa cook, it was at a barbecue and his hair caught fire,” my dinner companion confides. “He continued on cooking, and the food was delicious.”

That kind of determination comes in useful when launching a spunky start-up in the slowly rejuvenating downtown core, which after dark looks not unlike Night of the Living Dead. Despite the city’s penchant for parking lots and booth seating, Corso 32, named for Costa’s father’s childhood address in Campania, is a sardine-can of a space – and routinely just as packed. Over sweating bottles of Verdicchio, eavesdropping is unavoidable: That’s hometown Food Network celeb Roger Mooking saying, “some of the best food I put in my mouth all year!”

While the rustic-Italian trend rages on through the country – basta, already! – there’s a bright, cocky energy at Corso 32. Ricotta may be easy to make in-house, but not every kitchen should; it’s rare to find it as dreamily creamy as this whipped goat cheese with Maldon salt and crostini. Ribbons of toothsome pappardelle mingle with very correct Bolognese sauce. Alberta chuck steak, forgivably cooked sous vide, is bathed in bagna càuda and balanced by the unfettered flavours of chargrilled artichoke and barely softened stalks of wild garlic. Costa, 27, likes to show off, but he knows how to keep it simple – and his hair in place. 

10345 Jasper Ave., 780-421-4622, corso32.com