“I love stickies,” says Patricia Koyich. “I’m a big fan of ‘liquid dessert’ as I call it.”

Born and raised in Calgary, Koyich has been been in restaurants as long as she can remember, starting as a server at Boston Pizza and then on to more fine dining establishments. She had been accepted to study nursing, but while working for CIBC in Foothills hospital, she saw how different the reality was to her romantic perception, and switched to study hospitality management at SAIT. Koyich opened Il Sogno restaurant only two years after graduating.

In 2012, she was offered a teaching position at SAIT. “It was an opportunity to give back the future,” she says. “As I watched fine dining change over the course of the last fifteen years at Il Sogno, it caused me a great deal of anguish because I was raised in a house that wasn’t posh but the table was very important, so I really did assess what one restaurant can do impacting a city or what I can do impacting the future.”

It was a big decision because she knew it was going to take her away from Il Sogno, but as she explains, “It’s a larger voice, and without the younger generation understanding why we sit down and why we use tablecloths, why we want a beautiful glass of wine or these incredible ingredients that cost a little bit more, we’re losing our customer base as well as our future restaurateurs.”

So what bottle is Koyich saving for a special occasion?

While working as a server at Inn On Lake Bonavista, she was invited to a wine tasting at the Palliser Hotel. “I’m so nerdy that I just love information and I wanted to learn more,” she says. “I walked in and this incredibly boisterous, lovely comical man, Bruce Guimaraens, was giving a talk on the importance of Port, the history, and his family, and I just never forgot his demeanour and his energy. I thought one day I’m going to meet him.”

It’s said that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, and Koyich must be very lucky, as when Guimaraens next came to town the opportunity arose to run a winemaker dinner with him at Il Sogno. “It was a small room, so it was intimate and he was larger than life; he would hook the entire room,” she says. “At the end of the evening, when I celebrated a bucket list check mark, we sat and talked about the industry, and about Port, and about his life. It just was a really special moment for me.”

It became even more special as nine months later Guimaraens passed away, but every time his son, David Guimaraens, came into town he would stop by Il Sogno with the same style of storytelling that Koyich loved. Her bottle is Fonseca 2000 Vintage Port, “I bought this vintage as it was not only the year I opened Il Sogno,” she explains, “but it was also the vintage that David signed choosing ‘to the next generation’, so to me that’s him being the next generation of all those special moments, but also to the next generation of our future.”

And when will she open the bottle?

“When I open this bottle, I’m hoping it will be at the Fonseca property. When I travel for the first time to Portugal and visit the House of Fonseca, we have promised that I would bring it and we would pop the bottle there. I don’t know yet when that’s going to be though,” Koyich says, but she’s hoping in a couple of years. “I think twenty years would probably be the perfect time to open it, but 17 years would be good too.”

Photos by Ingrid Kuenzel

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