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A sunny taste of Ricardo's Kitchen

AS I type this, it's like the Great Flood out there; it might be time to get to work on that ark.

AS I type this, it's like the Great Flood out there; it might be time to get to work on that ark.

With the weather forecast calling for mostly rain all week and the possibility of snow on the weekend, it's not surprising that thoughts turn to warmer seasons, drier climates and travel plans for them.

A sojourn to the Okanagan Valley has become at least an annual tradition for me, and these days there is more than ever for a food-loving, wineguzzling wet coaster to enjoy. One hot spot I haven't yet hit - and I have no excuse since it's been there for more than a decade - is Ricardo's Mediterranean Kitchen, located 15 minutes north of Kelowna.

"It's actually in Winfield, at the very north end of Kelowna," said co-owner Sue Miller, a former North Vancouverite. She was recently in town with husband Ricardo Scebba to talk up their cookbook, That's Amore. "I always say it's down between two trailer parks on a dead end by the railway tracks."

Despite being off the beaten path, and with little done in the way of traditional advertising, the restaurant has a devoted following, a wall full of awards, and an impressive social media presence.

In January for example - a time when many Okanagan restaurants tend to be quiet - Ricardo's was still full.

"I might have Tweeted that George Clooney was in the restaurant," laughed Miller, "but still." Their shared sense of humour and matching goals for the restaurant and their family speak volumes about their long running success.

When they opened Ricardo's in 2001, they did it with secondhand furniture and equipment, and had $12 left in their bank account the next day.

Their customer base grew by word-of-mouth, and the restaurant has since been refurnished. Ricardo's Mediterranean Kitchen is a member of Green Table, serves Ocean Wise Seafood, uses leftover water in its garden and provides a venue for community fundraisers.

"A lot of our business is repeat business. We want people to come back," said Scebba. He knows the key to that is consistency, and he tries to maintain it by keeping his staff happy and well trained. Many have been working there for years.

The key to it all is the food, and Scebba cooks it to order, using adaptations of recipes from his mother Concetta. She is the inspiration for That's Amore: From Ricardo Scebba's Mediterranean Kitchen. In her 70s now, she has survived breast cancer twice.

"She's a fighter," said Scebba. "That's what inspired us. It seemed like the right time to honour her by recording her recipes."

Not "fussy little tower food," the book is loaded with a host of casual comfort favourites, many of them popular dishes from the restaurant's menu. Recipes are easy to follow and result in full-flavoured dishes.

That's Amore is $24.95 and available at Save-On Foods on the North Shore. Scebba and Miller will be in store at the Park and Tilford location on March 31 to do a demonstration.

Ricardo's Mediterranean Kitchen is located at 415 Commonwealth Rd., Kelowna; 250-766-6810; www.

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