WHY HE’S TOP 40: He uses his religious commitment to food and expertise in Italian cuisine to push Edmonton’s culinary envelope.
KEY TO SUCCESS: “You are your worst critic. The more you care, the more you stress — that’s what keeps you going.”
When Avenue last spoke to Daniel Costa in March, the fast-talking chef had just opened his own restaurant, Corso 32. He was excited to bring some of the Italian-by-way-of-Alberta flavours of his childhood to the downtown core.
Now that the restaurant is open and living up to its creator’s sky-high expectations, Costa is over the moon — which, at his restaurant, hits your eye like arancini rice balls, not a big pizza pie.
Of course, success doesn’t come without sacrifice. As both chef and owner, Costa is now logging 14-hour workdays. These involve a juggling act of cooking, managing the business and long stretches of research spent sourcing whatever local ingredients are in peak season and reading books on traditional Italian methods, including one from the 1400s, before tomatoes had even been introduced to Italy.
It’s Costa’s near-religious commitment to his food that makes Corso a hit. He’s constantly trying to educate his staff, too. In September, Costa shut down the restaurant for two weeks and convinced them all to fly to Italy — on their own dime — just to pick up a few tips from the old country.
“I gotta learn a few new dishes,” he says.
Costa has left his mark on every kitchen in which he’s had a leading role, including Red Star Pub and Da Capo Caffe. But this space, where tables are placed close together and the music is turned way up, is one that’s unquestionably his, through and through.
More than ever, Costa says, diners appreciate a restaurant that’s willing to be bold, take risks and wear its personality proudly. Western Living magazine also noticed, naming Costa one this year’s Top 40 Foodies Under 40. (And, the day after Avenue's Top 40 Under 40 was announced, Corso 32 was named one of Canada's Best New Restaurants of 2011 by enRoute magazine.)
The freedom that comes with being his own boss is nice, he says. “Do you know how much stuff I just give away?” Costa asks. “If I see someone that’s enthusiastic about food, I’m always making them something to try. For me, it’s more than a business. This is everything. I love this.” —M.H