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We're back in Victoria and the eating is still sublime. The best dinner dish of the trip has been a home-cooked paella charred over a wood-burning grill to deeply smoky, crusty bottomed perfection. (Thanks, Sierd. Please open your food cart soon.)

That said, the baby octopus at Zambri's is no sloppy second cephalopod. It is actually the most amazing, meltingly tender octopus this professional hoover has ever suctioned. (And a local seafood product to boot.)

After being marinated in vegetable broth, the chopped morsels are dredged in cornstarch and flash fried to create a light, crispy skin that yields to a gelatinous interior so creamy the thinnest tendrils almost liquefy on the tongue. Wow, now I remember why I've been yearning to return to Zambri's for so long.

Of course, this isn't the same old Zambri's. This is the new and improved Zambri's, recently relocated to the splashy, wood-and-glass curvy, LEED-certified Atrium Building on Yates Street. And even though the short migration (only one block away) seems to have served the restaurant's expanded menu very well, the move has hit a few road bumps with customers that still need to be hurdled.

The original location, squeezed into the back of a strip mall between a drug store and a supermarket, was quirky and quaint. It was fine for what began, back in 1999, as a small, casual, family-operated lunchtime trattoria. But as word of mouth spread and the awards piled up, the restaurant grew to include more seats, dinner service, a small bar and a private function room.

When the lease came up for renewal and the opportunity to move arose, it seemed like a no-brainer for owners Jo and Peter Zambri, a sister and brother team who, respectively, run front and back of the house. The architect of the new building was a friend. The developer was a loyal customer. They were moving into premium, ground-floor space with double the seating capacity and two patios - one outside and one in the Italianate, soaring seven-storey piazza-like interior.

Shame their clientele seems to hate it. When you ask around Victoria, people are oddly non-committal. "Bit of a fish bowl," some say about glass-walled dining room. "I'd be interested to know what you think," they pointedly reply.

Jo Zambri is at her wits' end. "When we ran the other space, people always said it was the worst location ever. Now the same people are telling us the new room is too big and there's too much light. I honestly don't know what to say."

Me? I'll tell you straight off that I think the room is cheesy. I don't mind all the glass. The acoustics have been comfortably cushioned with soundproofing under the tables and discreet ceiling panelling.

But the indoor patio is a far cry from Milan's Galleria Vittoria Emanuele. And as a second-generation Italian, I can't help but cringe at the restaurant's sponged faux-Tuscan paint job, clichéd guitar soundtrack and haphazardly hung Venetian masks, all of which smack of a North American, red-sauce tackiness.

Does the design really matter? No, except that it does clash with the food, which is fabulous and authentically true in spirit to the old country.

The bigger space has allowed chef Peter Zambri and his new partner Louis Vacca to do much more. They now, for example, bake all their own bread. The Calabrese loaf - dense and chewy, with a crispy crust and tangy taste of sourdough - is impeccable. And for the first time, the kitchen has a deep fryer, which allows them to cook the octopus ($10) I so adore.

They also have a double-deck pizza oven. Their dough is perfect - thin and bubbled, but not burnt, and pliable enough to fold. The tomato sauce is perfectly balanced with nary a hint of tongue-plucking acidity. We had the Salsiccia & Finocchio ($15), with an assertive fennel cream and firmly chunked homemade sausage (made daily, which the new kitchen also permits).

Pappardelle with duck and olive ragu ($19) is also flawless. The pasta is perfectly cooked al dente, the sauce is slick and chewy.

So why is everyone complaining? "We're trying to bring our customers up with us," our server says to me, a stranger, as he tries to explain why regulars are balking. Zambri's is now following a very strict no-substitution policy, which old customers from the counter-service days are having trouble understanding. I can see why they're doing it. But the way it's being explained - as a very strict, top-down philosophy - is patronizing. And I can see why customers are offended

I like the fact that the cooks at Zambri's can change their dishes "at whim," as it's explained on their menu. For example, my cornmeal ricotta cake was moist, sweet and fluffy with a creamy blood-orange sauce. If I had visited on a different night, the cake may have been a lot drier - as our server had warned us.

In the end, if the chef is allowed to change his recipes at whim - which I believe he has the right to do - then customers should be allowed to complain about changes without being made to feel stupid.

Zambri's: 820 Yates St., Victoria, 250-360-1171