The energetic atmosphere at Café Brio (944 Fort St., 250/383-0009, daily from 5:30 p.m., $15–29) is contagious and the food is as good as anywhere in Victoria . The Mediterranean-inspired dining room is adorned with lively artwork and built around a U-shaped bar, while out front are a handful of tables on an alfresco terrace. A creative menu combines local, seasonal produce with Italian expertise and flair. The handmade charcuterie ($5 each) is always a good choice to begin with, followed by the Tuscan-style fish stew or the Brio Family Meal ($40) designed for sharing.
One of the most popular restaurants in town is Pagliacci’s (1011 Broad St., 250/386-1662, daily 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5–10 p.m., $12.50–29), known for hearty Italian food, homemade bread, great desserts, and loads of atmosphere. Small and always busy, the restaurant attracts a lively local crowd, many with children.
Beyond the west end of Belleville Street is Pablo’s Dining Lounge (225 Quebec St., 250/388-4255, daily from 5 p.m., $18–36), a long-time Victorian favorite. Atmosphere in the Edwardian house is relaxed yet intimate, and the classic European cooking is well prepared and attractively presented. Everything is good, but the beef tenderloin topped with crabmeat and béarnaise sauce is simply the best.