Dolce Vita in Victoria-by-the-Sea

Savour Victoria invites guests to experience a historic Island village and the tastes of Italy infused with local ingredients

Head West from Charlottetown along the Trans Canada for about forty minutes. Turn left onto the Shore Road, then right onto Causeway Road, and drive a few minutes with the sparkling waters of the south shore on the left and rustic cottages surrounded by bright green grass and potato fields on the right.

And those, my friends, are the directions to Paradise.

Well, that’s not the official name of the historic seaside village you’ll arrive at, but you’ll quickly come to see my nom de plume for Victoria-By-the-Sea is befitting. Victoria is one of those rare places that will simultaneously take your breath away with its charming streetscapes and stunning water vistas, while inviting you to take a deep breath, let your worries float away, and relax into the moment.

Beautiful Victoria-by-the-Sea//Photo Credit: Shannon Courtney/Salty

I love Victoria almost as much as I love food, which is saying a lot. Yet, in typical Islander-fashion, my summers tend to get filled to the brim with social engagements, around-the-house work and other commitments that end up curtailing any plans I made at the beginning of the season to escape to this little piece of paradise within an Island paradise.

Fortunately, there’s this Fall Flavours event called Savour Victoria which takes place each September, just as the first days of autumn arrive, and marries two of my greatest loves. And so it is that I found my way to this magical little hamlet on the south shore on Friday, the 22nd of September. It’s officially the first day of fall, but summer isn’t ready to take its leave. The sun shines brightly on the colourful, lovingly cared for homes and shops lining the streets of the small village.

Photo Credit: Shannon Courtney/Salty

This wasn’t my first Savour Victoria experience. In fact, I’d had the pleasure of attending the two previous years and been extremely impressed by the efforts taken, small and big, to ensure guests had a spectacular experience.   The 4 hour event features two main portions.  First, guests are invited to roam the village, enjoying appetizers and beverages at various venues and exploring the many quirky, intriguing shops en route.  After a leisurely hour and a half of roaming and chatting, guests head to one of three village restaurants to partake in a 4-course meal (the meal is the same, regardless of which restaurant you are seated at). Throughout the evening, guests have a chance to meet the celebrity chef host of the evening, as well as the many wonderful local folks that have helped maintain this vibrant village.

A map of the village guides guests to all shops, restaurants, and other venues participating in Savour Victoria//Photo Credit: Shannon Courtney/Salty

Every year I’ve been to Savour Victoria, the village has been decked out to the nines and this year is no different. The green, white, and red flags, Leaning Tower of Pisa photo backdrop, vintage bicycles, and European-inspired cafe tables point very obviously to an Italian theme. It takes a moment, but then I clue in to the reason for this theme: the celebrity host is David Rocco, well-known by Food Network fans for his show Dolce Vita, which explores and celebrates Italian cuisine.

Chef David Rocco pauses to pose for a picture with Salty’s editor in chief, Shannon Courtney.

I make my way to Victoria Cottages, where an older gentlemen is sitting on the porch, singing and playing guitar. It’s the perfect pairing to the warm apple cider spiked with spicy apple liqueur from Deep Roots Distillery and proscutto crostini. The sun is beginning to fall and I can’t help but marvel (again) at how gorgeous the views are.

Victoria Cottages//Photo Credit: Shannon Courtney/Salty

Photo Credit:Shannon Courtney/Salty

Pomme Proscutto Crostini//Photo Credit: Shannon Courtney/Salty

Back in the heart of the village, I find my way to the Studio Gallery where, much to my delight, I discover one of PEI’s very own wineries serving up samples. Matos Winery is located just a short distance east of Victoria in Long Creek. It’s run by Jaime and Heather Matos, a wonderfully hospitable and friendly couple that recognize me immediately from my visits to the winery. It’s hard to keep a low profile on PEI, what can I say? Inside I happily discover inspiration for a certain vegetable that’s filling up  my fridge: zucchini crostini to the rescue! The secret to the fabulous, delicate taste, I learn from my former French teacher and Savour volunteer, Heather Carver, is lemon-infused olive oil from Liquid Gold.

Jaime and Heather Matos of Matos Winery//Photo Credit: Shannon Courtney/Salty

Next up is a waterfront stop at By the Sea Kayaking, where more familiar faces greet me with samples of Upstreet beer and Day Drift craft sodas. A tomato-based chowder is on offer. I am starting to wonder where folks are going to find room for the four-course meal that still awaits.

Upstreet serves up its craft beers and sodas at By the Sea Kayaking in Victoria//Photo Credit:Shannon Courtney/Salty

Finally, saving my favourite Victoria stop for last is Island Chocolates. Oh to be a chocolate maker, what a wondrous life that would be! More Upstreet Beer is being served up, along with charcuterie topped with an oh-so-delicious blue goat cheese from Isle-Saint Jean Ferme. I go back for seconds, thirds, and, erm, fourths. I may also have purchased a few individual chocolates from Eric, who runs the shop alongside his mother and sister. There’s nothing quite like chocolate for the road.

Photo Credit: Shannon Courtney/Salty

As the skies begin to turn red with the sun’s fiery farewell,  I head to Beachcombers on the Wharf with my dining companions. Others are finding their way to The Landmark Cafe and Lobster Barn.

The sun sets on Victoria-by-the-Sea//Photo Credit: Shannon Courtney/Salty

Dinner service gets underway and the Italian theme continues. We start with Mussels Gratinate (PEI mussels stuffed with breadcrumbs and local cheddar cheese. Next up is a seafood risotto featuring PEI lobster. Oddly, none of my 3 dining companions is a lobster fan (?!), so I suddenly find myself with a feast of lobster meat topping my risotto. The main course arrives, a pork tenderloin (from local produce, Ranald MacFarlane) wrapped in herbed Tuscan bread and prosciutto, alongside fresh greens and PEI potatoes. Finally, with the sun gone and the stars poking holes in the dark sky, we close out the night with refills of Matos’ Chardonnay and a chocolate-infused cake topped with vanilla ice cream.

Then it’s time to bid farewell to our hosts, including the village itself. I’m reassured by the knowledge that whenever I return, Victoria will be waiting to welcome me with the same charm and elegance she always has. And in the meantime, I have road chocolates.


Chef Roark MacKinnon helps out with food preparation for Savour Victoria//Photo Credit: Shannon Courtney/Salty

The main event//Photo Credit: Shannon Courtney/Salty

About Shannon Courtney

Shannon is the co-founder of Salty and was its editor-in-chief for the publication's inaugural year. When she’s not writing about food, Shannon's either cooking, eating, talking, or thinking about it. Her food adventures have included milking a Jersey cow in Australia, almost overdosing on maple syrup in Prince Edward County, and studying local food systems in Vermont as part of her Master’s thesis research. Shannon is also a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and strongly believes you CAN make friends with salad.

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