The SS 106 is a 491-kilometre highway on the Ionian coast in southern Italy, stretching between the towns of Reggio Calabria in the west to Taranto in the east. While the highway offers incredibly scenic views of beaches, ancient coastal towns and the sea, it is also known as one of Italy’s most dangerous roads, due to tight turns, dense fog and the often slippery surface.
However, two Italian-Canadians want to change the highway’s reputation right here in their hometown of Calgary. Domenic Spadafora, 31, and his sister Francesca, 28, recently opened the doors to SS 106 – an Italian aperitivo bar located in Bridgeland, right next to OEB, on Edmonton Trail’s Breakfast Alley.
The siblings named their restaurant after the highway, which they love driving whenever they visit Calabria, the province their parents were born in. The highway and surrounding area inspired SS 106’s menu, interior and vibe. “We visit Italy a lot and we wanted to bring the real Italian lifestyle to Calgary,” says Domenic. “The lifestyle in Italy is very social. You go to the local bar and you don’t have to call your friends because they’re already there. Many people have a perception of Italian restaurants being quiet, traditional and candle-lit, but the real Italian restaurants are loud, happy and social. A restaurant with that kind of atmosphere was missing in Calgary.”
To encourage a social experience, the restaurant provides its signature “Italian appy hour” every day from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. where guests can enjoy aperitivos – pre-dinner drinks, accompanied by complimentary snacks like olives and crostini, to stimulate the appetite. For an aperitivo, Domenic recommends their original “Soda Piu Blu” – a Van Gogh blueberry vodka served up with Poli Mirtillo liqueur, prosecco and soda. Once you’re hungry, add their arancini starter, a unique take on the rice ball dish as it is stuffed with sardella, a spiced Calabrian sardine spread sourced from along the SS 106. The hot paninis are also a hit, like the Salsiccia, a spicy Italian pork sausage sandwich layered with rapini. And of course, everyone’s favourite, Polpette – Italian-style meatballs. “Italians are simple,” explains Domenic. “It’s all about a couple of high-quality ingredients and not overdoing it.”
Along with obtaining many of their products from shops along the highway, the Spadaforas also imported their bar from southern Italy and designed the restaurant around it. The interior also features road signs and graffiti that the Spadaforas saw while travelling on the SS 106 highway, perfectly recreated by a local artist. One prominent line of graffiti reads, “Il futuro non e scritto” – the future is not written.
“The restaurant is elegant, but casual,” says Domenic. We didn’t want it to be pretentious. We play a lot of different music – Italian, Spanish, anything that makes people feel good. To us, life is about enjoying food and drinks with family and friends.” Adds Francesca, “What makes SS 106 different is that we are not selling a product, we are selling an experience.”
824D Edmonton Tr. N.E., 403-219-0949, ss106.ca