Restaurant Rap

Pacini Restaurants

When I heard that the Pacini restaurant chain had launched a new program to deal with food waste, I was intrigued.

Every year on Earth, people waste 1.3 billion tons of food, which is responsible for releasing 3.3 gigatons of greenhouse gases per year. According to FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, this is not only a major economic loss, but also “a serious detriment to the natural resources humanity depends on for nourishment.” In addition, the more food that’s wasted, the bigger the environmental impact.

Pacinin Restaurants

The famous Pacini Bread Bar

For these reasons, Pacini is battling food waste in restaurants, encouraging customers to eat according to their actual appetites and taking the leftovers home for another meal. Pacini provides its customers with recyclable bags and boxes, saving them time and money. What’s more, Pacini recycles bread for croutons, preserves its lettuce longer in special packaging, and maximizes the use of each product in recipes to avoid losses. Lastly, in order to reduce the use of plastic and limit its presence in our environment, Pacini has been serving free filtered water in reusable glass bottles for more than 15 years. Inspired by a common practice in restaurants in Italy, Pacini has developed a system of bottling water in all its restaurants.

Food waste in restaurant kitchens, director of marketing and public relations Andréanne Charbonneau told me is negligible because there are few transformation options. It is table scraps that cause the biggest food loss even though only 10 percent of customers do not finish their meals. Pacini believes that these leftovers should have a second life, rather than end up in the garbage. Over the next few months nutritionist Geneviève Nadeau, Director of Food and Nutrition at Pacini, will share recipes that can be made with leftovers. Nadeau is a native of Laval who remembers going to Pacini on Boulevard St. Martin and having the servers sing Happy Birthday and take a photo with a Kodak.

By making a concrete commitment to supporting the anti-food-waste movement, Pacini is fulfilling its mission to contribute to the happiness and well-being of customers and communities, as well as its employees and suppliers. This is yet another demonstration of Pacini’s love of food, people, and the Earth.

There are actually eight menus available in most Pacinio restaurants: breakfast, main menu, weekend Italian brunch, gluten-free, allergen-free, kids, dessert, wines and beverages.

Sampling the Cuisine

I recently accepted an invitation to join Charbonneau for lunch at the Pacini location on St. Denis Street near Ste. Catherine Street East right near the entrance to the UQAM campus. There are 30 Pacini restaurants in Canada – 28 in Quebec and two in Alberta. The first Ontario location will open soon in Mississauga near the airport in Toronto.

Pacini restaurants

Waitress Joanne displays the Piatto di salumi

Joanne, a veteran of 19 years at this Pacini locale, was our server. There were so many wonderful choices on the menu. We began with my favorite part of the Pacini experience – the bread bar. All the restaurants feature this now famous all-you-can-eat Bread Bar, a Pacini exclusive.  Here you can choose from a variety of breads and Pacini margarines, and enjoy the unique aroma and taste of toast on the grill! The kids especially enjoy the experience.

I took Charbonneau up on her offer to order. She opted for a number of items we could share, starting off with a delicious kale al limone salad and the Piatto di salumi, a variety of deli meats and accompaniments. This was followed by the mozzarella Pomodoro, a semi-soft, fresh cheese made in the style of Italian mozzarella with tomato bruschetta and focaccia style-bread. You have to try the Parmigiana Fondant – parmesan fondue with pasta chips. Then there was the shrimp aranci, fried risotto balls with shrimp and pesto mayonnaise. We wrapped things up with the prosciutto and arugula roquette pizza. Time ran out on this date for me to try one of the tantalizing desserts.

There were so many more items on the menu I have on my list to try on future visits: the many other pizza; steak with sea salt from Sicily; grilled chicken rosmarino; grilled Atlantic salmon with an Italian medley of sides; grain-fed veal scallopini; and a wide array of pastas.

I was not aware that Pacini served breakfast at most of its restaurants until 9 am weekdays, with an Italian brunch on weekends.  The Presto Lunch specials, from 11 am to 3 pm weekdays, are a real hit. Charbonneau said that a few years ago Pacini listened to its clients, lowering the prices of some lunch items and introducing “Presto” as the name suggests as a way to make sure people are in and out of the restaurant in good time. You get the bread bar and lunch choices ranging from $12 to $14.50.

Watching the Calorie Count

All of these dishes are smart choices. With the Italian salad accompaniment, they contain less than 750 calories, more than four grams of fibre and more than 15 grams of protein per serving, and as with all of its dishes, zero trans-fat. You can replace any of the pastas with whole wheat penne. Those meals will contain nine grams more fibre (36 percent of the recommended daily intake).

With dietician Nadeau’s influence, Pacini has eliminated all artificial Tran’s fats from its menus, reducing the salt in recipes by one ton per year, creating gluten-free and allergen-free dishes, and they have introduced EpiPens in all restaurants.

Pacini restaurants

The pizza prosciutto roquette

Pacini doesn’t pretend to be a health restaurant,” says Nadeau. “We aim to help you discover foods with exhilarating flavours and textures. We love good Italian food, but we take your arteries and blood sugar to heart! Whether you are diabetic, hypertensive, allergic to nuts or gluten sensitive, we are committed to continually improving your choices to suit your needs.  Everyone deserves to take a break from cooking and travel to Italy for a gourmet meal in our restaurant!”

Nadeau says she thoroughly enjoys her new role at Pacini. “A few people asked me what a dietician is doing at Pacini,” she laughs. “We have a lot of items on the menu for those eating carefully and there are more to come. I am proud of the healthy salads we introduced and we are making efforts in other areas. This is my mission.”

Allergen-free dishes are produced and packaged at the Ange Gardien factory to minimize the risk of cross contamination and presented in individual containers that have been sealed for added safety.

Pacini has developed a menu for people who want to reduce their consumption of gluten. This   is not for people with severe allergies or intolerances to gluten because of the possible risk of cross contamination. A wide variety of gluten-free appetizers and main dishes is available at all times.

In the not too distant future, Pacini will introduce calorie counts in its menus.

Pacini also has quite an extensive selection of wines and cocktails to choose from.

New Pacini restaurants are opening every year. If you’re  interested in becoming a Pacini franchisee, contact Lafleche Francoeur at (450) 444-4749. Pierre Marc Tremblay is the owner and innovator of Pacini Restaurants.

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