The Practice of Patronage at Padella Bistro

The struggle between quality and cost is at the core of every restaurant. How expensive it is to buy high quality ingredients and to lavish time, attention, and skill on dishes has to be balanced with the prices on the menu and getting bums in seats — customers aren’t the only ones that need to eat. And in an industry where owners take on so much risk, it’s rare to find a restaurant where the chef has real control over the menu. Thankfully for the residents of Estevan Village, Padella Bistro is one of Victoria’s clearest exceptions.

If you haven’t visited this spot yet, there’s plenty to look forward to. Co-chefs Kyle Gignac and Zoe O’Doherty, previously of the late La Piola, have created a locally focused menu that applies Italian-style cooking to the fruits (actually, mostly vegetables) of Vancouver Island. “We sometimes say we cook like an Italian would if they found themselves on the island,” says Kyle. “It’s all about fresh, local and what’s good right then and there.”


Fresh pasta made in-house is the star, from hand-curled potato gnocchi to the flat, ribbon-like tagliatelle, served with highlights like Salt Spring Island mussels, summer squash and double-smoked bacon. In appropriate bistro style, and befitting the restaurant’s small kitchen, there are under twenty items on the menu — but don’t worry, with much of the list changing seasonally, you’ll always have lots of new things to try. The menu is paired with a well-researched and hand-picked winelist by certified sommelier Vincent Vanderheide, who has helped build a very successful practice of Sunday evening wine dinners featuring representatives from a range of local vineyards.

some bottle at Padella

The unique menu owes its existence to the stellar relationship between Padella’s chefs and owner. It was only a couple years ago that the well-regarded Paprika changed names under the stewardship of owner Geoff Parker and became a casual Italian-style bistro. In 2013, Kyle and Zoe were hired to take over the kitchen and slowly began to shape it towards their vision — but it wasn’t until Calgarian real estate mogul Thomas Goszczynski purchased the restaurant almost a year later that Padella came into its current form.

IMG_9264With Thomas’ developer connections and capital, Kyle and Zoe were able to expand and improve the cooking space, buying additional equipment and as a bonus, painting the ceiling into a starfield. “So often a restaurant will keep pouring money into the front of house and leave the kitchen to rot almost,” says Kyle. “It was the first time in a long time that any substantial money had been put into the kitchen, which was crucial if we wanted to keep doing the things we’re doing.”

With a background in commercial property management but no restaurant experience, Thomas had realized the potential of Padella’s chefs in his frequent visits as a regular patron. For him, one of the clues was consistently hot plates and food, a level of attention to detail he noticed was absent in many other restaurants. “Before Thomas bought the place we simply knew him as this slightly peculiar man who was always complimenting us on the temperature of the soup,” said Kyle.

Now that Thomas owns the place, he’s happy to let the staff do what they do best. “It gives me pleasure to create a scenario where they can spread their wings and achieve their professional goals; I feel at home, I’m a part of it and I think it works great for everybody.”


For Kyle and Zoe, both of whom have been working in the industry for 25 years, it’s a dream job, and they are duly appreciative. “We feel good about what we do and bring a sense of ownership to it,” says Zoe. “We spend a lot of time here.” The two chefs plan to buy into a partnership with Thomas over the next few years to formalize their commitment to Padella. “Thomas has lived up to every single thing he’s promised,” says Kyle. “Everything he’d said he’d do he’s done, so we try to do our best back.”

“Thank you,” says Thomas, grinning from across the dining room. Kyle nods.

“Thomas is one of the good ones.”

Padella Bistro

2524 Estevan Ave.
Victoria BC.
V8R 2S7

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Vancouver-born photographer, writer and designer Sol Kauffman has had his hands dirty in restaurant kitchens for years, washing dishes and slinging pizzas. In 2008 he moved to Victoria to pursue a BFA in Creative Writing at UVic ...

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