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Category: Italian Page 1 of 8

Mangia Cucina & Bar

Our regular food blogger meet-up brought us to “Mangia”, which came highly recommended by David of @pickydiner fame. He had recently met the owner at an event, and found himself impressed with his pedigree from Sicily. So we assembled for what we hoped would be an authentic Italian meal.

I have actually been to this refurbished house turned restaurant once before. But only briefly, as part of a Vancouver Foodster tasting tour. I was impressed enough to want to come back, and today was as good of a day as any. Especially with 4 other food enthusiasts in tow.

You walk up the front steps and enter through the door on the porch. Inside, the restaurant is warm literally and figuratively. The bar faces the entrance, and the dining area follows it, wrapping around the corner. Brick walls painted white, framed family photos, and as many narrow tables as the single floor allowed.

Our boisterous group (mostly because of me) were seated intimately at the very back. Where, our night began with a welcome glass of bubbles, which myself and David followed with two more cocktails.

 

The “Sicilian mocha” was a lovely spiked coffee, which would have also served as a nice aperitif. Vodka, averna, espresso, and chocolate. Light on the coffee, for those who like the flavour, but not its bitterness or caffeine.

The “Gin botanico” in contrast was a delicate cocktail with lemon and floral notes. A mix of pomegranate tea infused gin, tonic, and spices.

As for food, we ran through the menu as a group, ordering an item from each of the categories. Antipasti, L’Insalata, La Pasta, Il Risotto, and La Pizza.

Today’s starter special was a burrata salad made with arugula, prosciutto, Parmesan crusted croutons, and a whole round of burrata cheese; all drizzled in vinaigrette of aged balsamic reduction. This was a fresh start, simple and clean with the salty meat, creamy cheese, and crunchy croutons. It was exactly as expected.

The “Carpaccio di polpo” was declared as a “must try” on the menu. This was thinly sliced, slow cooked octopus, with salad leaves and an lemon oil vinaigrette. It ate more like a salad with the oiled up greens, fresh tomatoes, and briny olives. The highlight was the baby octopus, deep fried as a whole. I would have liked more of it with the salad, instead of the carpaccio. Nothing was wrong with it, it was just not memorable, nor did I get much octopus flavour from it.

Seeing it arrived at the table next to ours, we too wanted and ordered the “Arancina bomba”. A giant, twice cooked saffron risotto ball filled with mozzarella and topped with a pistachio pesto. This was quite the presentation. Easy to cut into and divide between 5. But the centre was mushy from the melted cheese, whereas you wanted a more firm risotto to parallel with its crispy shell. Texture aside, it served as a decent base, I just wanted something meatier and heartier to enjoy with it.

It is advised that you eat the “Spaghetti carbonara” right away; less it congeals and you lose the firmness of the noodle and the creaminess of its sauce. Parmesan cheese, black pepper, and locally cured guanciale in egg. Tasty, but I just wanted more of the pork meat for taste and salt.

The “Frutti di mare” delivered a bounty of seafood. Arborio rice with clams, mussels, prawns, and squid; cooked in white wine and a fish stock reduction. It is very fishy thanks to the stock, where as I would have liked it more garlicky. A milder risotto flavour, to be able to make out the individual mollusks.

The “Diavola” was a tomato sauce base pizza, topped with mozzarella, spicy Italian salami, and black olives. It was a decent pie, but not outstanding. The dough was moist, whereas I expected more crispiness from a thin crust, along with some blistering. It was also a little too salty for my taste, thanks to the cured meat and briny olives. I could have drizzled on some olive oil to help neutralize, but found it already plenty oily with pools of it on the pizza’s surface.

For dessert, we shared one of each of the options, minus the scoop of gelato available. Their “Tiramisu” was a single serving round, made more fun with a shot of amaretto on the side. You could drink it as is, but the intention is to pour it over the cake. The cake soaked it up like a sponge, and what was left over you could lap up like sauce. The 2oz gave the dessert a kick, but increased the dessert’s naturally soggy texture. The rest was traditionally done with mascarpone cheese, espresso, ladyfingers, and cocoa.

I am not a fan of soggy textures, so preferred the “Sicilian cannolo al pistachio” for its crunch instead. A house made pastry shell filled with sweet ricotta mousse, then topped with pistachio cream and a pistachio crumble. It tasted fresh made, and wasn’t too sweet. This would have been great with tea.

We were all in awe cutting into the “Torta di limoncello”, not knowing what to expect. It wasn’t the “Fluffy cake” the menu described, but more a firm sponge filled with limoncello cream, and covered with white chocolate and almonds. The lemon was beautifully fragranced. Tart and refreshing, this made for a great palette refresher to end our meal on.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Off the beaten path, the setting and the serving of this cozy restaurant makes it a great spot for authentic Sicilian. I definitely recommend this one as a unique date spot worth checking out. Don’t deny your cravings.

MANGIA
2211 Manitoba St, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1K1
(604) 620-5445
mangiacucina.com

Water St. Café

Admittedly I have frequented “Water St. Cafe” a handful of times, but on each visit it was for an event and during such an occasion the experience is much different. A full house with standing room only, and nibbles to graze on, as you sip on glasses of bubbles and wine. So tonight my guest and I were excited to join them for a simple dinner for two, in Gastown.

The restaurant is better known for their fine dining vibe, a modern upscale spot with dim lights, flickering candles, and white table cloths. The best seat in the house is definitely the corner table on the first floor. It over looks the cross section of Cambie and Water Street, with a clear view of the iconic steam clock. Not to mention all the folks taking photos of it, as it bongs and releases plumes of smoke into the night sky.

We were given a table upstairs, to be able to take in the live music they were promoting on this Monday night. That, and the restaurant was fairly business on what others deem a “slow night”. The server led us through a maze of large parties, past their marble counter bar, ascending up the carpeted staircase that spiral. On the second floor there are individual rooms for group events, as well as some pocketed seating that gave you seclusion for your party.

We were seated at a table for two with a view overlooking Gastown’s streets, right in front of the lit “stage”. A curtain of LED string lights set the stage literally. We arrived just as our local and live entertainment were setting up for their set. Across the evening they would perform melodic covers and their own music played across a guitar, base, and drums. I found the live music element a wonderful surprise, and was delighted to be able to take this in. It definitely elevated our evening and experience. That, and the food to come.

We enjoyed wine with our five dishes below, including the amuse bouche that came first. Instead of it being something the chef whipped up with left over ingredients, our amuse bouche was actually available for ordering off the regular menu, but in a more compact size for sampling. Instead of the “Smoked BC salmon plate, this was a bite each of smoked BC salmon served over a crostini with dill cream cheese spread. This was a great treat, a crowd pleaser elevated with the inclusion of red onions, crispy capers, and a sweet balsamic vinegar drizzle. All together a classic flavour that doesn’t disappoint. The balsamic lent sweetness to the assembly, the capers a sharp tanginess, and the radish some crunch.

Next we had the “Bison carpaccio” for our appetizer. Pink pepper corn crusted canadian bison, sliced thin as tracing paper, topped with shaved parmesan, truffle aioli, and crispy capers. This was a dish that had you choosing your own perfect bite. The truffle elevated it, and the freshness of the raw onion and the pepperiness in the greens came together, offering layered depth. Everything was wonderfully paired. Except I wanted a base with it, something to make this a heartier bite. Although at the same time, I didn’t want to dilute such an interesting flavour combination with a starch. In short, I wanted a meatier bite to the wafer thin bison I was enjoying so much.

For our vegetable course we had “Lamb lollipops and kale”. The perfectly prepared lamb made this salad a lot more approachable. Rosemary marinated, grilled lamb chops with charred radicchio, baby kale, and salsa verde. The lamb was good on its own, but the leaves it sat on offered freshness and a nice citrusy seasoning for the savoury meat. Alone, the kale salad had points of bitterness, and hints of mint.

The “West coast crab cakes” were declared a “Café tradition!”, so we had to give it a try. A blend of pacific rock crab, baby shrimp, and preserved citrus with fennel, arugula, and a saffron aioli. It was fragrant with the diced peppers, a notable taste paired with the sweet crab meat. As for the sauce you smear your crispy crab puck in to, it was mild enough that it doesn’t over power, but rather accented the lot with notes of marmalade on the tongue and in the nose.

And for our entree we had the “16oz Ribeye steak and frites.” A grilled 16oz bone in AAA canadian ribeye, prepared medium rare. Smothered in a three peppercorn mushroom sauce and served with cajun seasoned frites on the side. We well received this classic. The perfect amount of fat to lean beef, with a pink centre. Easy to slice through with a peppery sauce that perks it and the fries up. Fully satisfied with this one. No complaints.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
In conclusion this was an amazing night. Everything was on point from the one or a kind view, to the cozy interior decorated with Christmas flourishes, to the live music surprising and delighting. And most importantly the food that was amazing, a classic menu prepared well and as expected on what typically isn’t a peak night. “Water St.” did not disappoint! Don’t deny your cravings.

WATER ST. Cafe
300 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B6
(604) 689-2832
waterstreetcafe.ca

Marcello’s Pizza Roulette

Today we were here as a group, visiting the Commercial Drive staple, “Marcellos Ristorante”, better known for their pizza oven that resembles a stone face. A cozy space with dim lighting, a lively atmosphere, and a light fixture made from reused liquor bottles.

We were here for their newest pizza feature, “Pizza Roulette. For the entire month of November diners have the ability to order a pizza that eats more like a game. It is served on a spinning platter, and one by one your dinner party spins the wheel and which ever slice it lands on, you have to eat it. The goal is to avoid the super spicy slice that has a ghost pepper hidden on it. A pepper so spicy that your order comes with liabilities waivers and a glass of milk for the after math.

The roulette pizza is typically the “capriccio” pizza, but one of our table mates couldn’t have pork meat. So we decided to make our challenge vegetarian, thus allowing everyone to participate. We each got our slice and to everyone’s dismay, no one got any ghost pepper. A few of us felt a tingle of heat from some chilli oil, but other than that there were no tears, and no pain.

We were disappointed by the outcome, although the “vegetariana pizza” was delicious, so it wasn’t a total waste. There was plenty of flavour and textures with their thick tomato sauce, gooey globs of uneven melted mozzarella, chunks of artichokes, strips of green pepper, and plenty of mushrooms, and onion to go around.

Since we were here, we then decided to enjoy a full meal with our “Roulette Pizza”. We ordered the “Meal share pizza” to support those in need. For every medium “Marcellos” pizza ordered the restaurant will donate a simple and healthy meal to a youth in need. And since you are here anyways, why not order a pizza that passes it on, and does good for someone else?

It starts with the same light pizza base with airy and chewy crust that all their pizzas do. And to it they add their herbed tomato sauce, a healthy amount of mozzarella cheese, topped with anchovies, black olives, capers, and onion. Each bite was different thanks to the inconsistent chunks of whole olives mashed, and the haphazard scattering of the salty fish and punchy capers. Interesting, but my favourite flavour profile.

I much rather their gnocchi. Their handmade traditional potato and egg dumplings are available in 4 different sauces, our table got 3 of them. The “Al basilico e pancetta” has their hand made gnocchi sautéed in a basil sauce, and topped with crispy bacon. The first bite was the best, but the one toned flavour did grow tiresome. It is best to share this one, instead of dedicating yourself to the whole bowl. The bacon did help to change the taste, but it also added saltiness and greasiness to the dish. The latter was visible in the puddle of yellow oil that pooled at the bottom of the plate. I would have liked gently blistered cherry tomatoes here, something fresh and bright to lighten up the serving.

Out of all their gnocchi we tried, I preferred the “Pasticciati Gnocchi”. Here, their in house made gnocchi is sautéed in a cream and meat sauce. The result, a classic pasta flavour that comforts with familiar flavours. The only thing I would have liked was some crispy garlic bread to rejuvenate the plate in between bites; which also serves as a base to sop up and smear on all that delicious tangy and slightly sweet pasta sauce.

The “Ai quattro formaggi” gnocchi was the most visually appealing. Double cooked, these hand made gnocchi, was coated thick in a 4 cheese blend, then broiled to perfection for a crispy crust and a stringy cheese sensation. I expected something similar to Mac and cheese in taste, but with a gooier chew that melts under the pressure of your tongue. What we got was a very distinct cheese blend, that was blue cheese forward.

Everything was heavy so far, so the “Caesar salad” with its fresh romaine lettuce was a nice side. And at this size, it was more than enough to share between our table, family style. Although truth be told, with the generous amount of Caesar dressing that coated each leaf, this was far from refreshing.

But the best in helping to clean our palate was the tzatziki sauce that came as a dip to our calamari. “Calamari alla griglia”, grilled squid with peppers and kalamata black olive. What we thought was an appetizer sized side was once again large enough to share amongst the table. Perfectly crispy rings with a great chew.

I also liked the “Tagliatelle frutti di mare” which was homemade noodle and a mix of seafood in a light creamy tomato sauce. Clams, mussels, shrimp, and squid; all covered in a tangy sauce with a pronounced fishy flavour.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Despite the disappointment of the Pizza Roulette, “Marcello’s” is still a great to go to for pizza and pasta. They are a staple in the area for a reason. Don’t deny your cravings.

MARCELLOS
1404 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, BC V5L 3X9
(604) 215-7760
marcellopizzeria.com

Nightingale revisted

It has been a while since I visited “Nightingale”, I was reminded of it thanks to the success of “Netflix’s” romantic comedy, “Always be my Maybe”. It centres around the restaurant industry and therefore uses several Vancouver restaurants as its backdrop. “Nightingale” makes an appearance as “Saintly Fare”, a new restaurant opened in San Francisco by our main character, Chef Sasha Tran. In the movie it is clear that the two storey restaurant with its bird cages and origami bird accents is actually “Nightingale” on Hastings at Burrard.

My original visit was right when it opened in 2016, and back then I didn’t have a very memorable meal, so was looking forward to reassessing it now, with all its new found success and film notoriety.

We arrived in time for happy hour cut off, Sunday to Wednesday from 3-5:30pm. So ordered their popular “buttermilk fried chicken” for $3 less. It was dressed in a spiced maple syrup with sumac and pickles. Not your classic fried chicken flavour, but just as crunchy and tasty in its sweet sauce and tangy pickles. Although I would have preferred this over waffles given its sweetness and natural alignment for brunch.

I was excited to see “Chicharron” on the menu, but was disappointed by its execution. I have had pork rinds before and given the nature of the restaurant, I figured it would be an elevated rendition. Instead, these were fairly dense crisps, heavier than I thought they would be, with a harder crunch. Not only was it tough to eat, but it lacked flavour with its simple charred lemon salt seasoning.

For our entrees we shared a pizza and a pasta dish. The “Summer squash” pizza was thin crust dough topped with Fresno chilli, mozzarella, san marzano, and fior di latte. It reminded me of a sweet Margherita pizza at its core. But with the unique starch and woodsy-ness of the sweet squash, balanced by the salty cheese and fragrant crispy basil leaves.

The “Chitarra pasta” was similar in its lightness. Rich in flavour and not in sauce, it was a little dry with the duck ragu, crispy sage, and pecorino romano. Overall it was tasty enough, but I prefer a saucy pasta and something less salty. With this, we finished a litre of water between us.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
It certainly is a nice spot, but the food just doesn’t satisfy as other pastas and pizzas at other restaurants have/do. Don’t deny your cravings.

NIGHTINGALE
1017 W. Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6E 0C4
604-695-9500
hawknightingale.com

Giovane Cafe, revisited

My friend has yet to try one of “Giovane’s” popular sugar buns, so when looking for a meal downtown, we headed to “Fairmont Pacific Rim” to indulge.

I find myself frequenting “Giovane”, not necessarily for the food or drink, but instead for the shopping. This unique cafe caters to hotel guests, and as such is attached to a gift shop of sorts. Here, they don’t offer your name on a key chain, or any tees that read “I visited Vancouver and all I got was this lousy tee shirt”. Instead they have a collection of great gifts like hand poured candles, colourful stationary, gourmet candy, men’s leather goods, and onsies for babies. And they frequently rotate this assortment, making them a great place to get any gift, for any occasion.

But I digress, we are here for the food. The “carbonara” with pancetta, egg yolk, shallot, garlic, and Parmesan. The pasta noodles were incredibly fresh, perfectly prepared with a firm chew in mind. This was lightly dressed in a creamy sauce, and salty with bacon and cheese. Although it was one tone and the flavour did wear out.

The “pescatora” with shrimp, baby clam, white wine, tomato sauce, and basil; gave you fresh seafood flavours with tangy tomato. This too needed more depth of flavour, although the mix of shellfish did help to keep things interesting.

Overall, I am more excited over “Giovane’s” desserts then their food menu. Their sweet offerings are a lot more whimsical, creative combinations that change with the season. One such example is the “Pineapple ube” cake. It stood out from behind their glass showcase. And the best way to order dessert is with your eyes. I liked the contrasting colours of purple and orange. You could taste the pineapple and feel it’s fibres against the crispy layers. But I missed the ube completely.

And my guest loved the “matcha sugar bun”. A crispy coating of sugar over chewy bread, filled wall to wall with a fluffy cream. It wasn’t too sweet or too bitter with the matcha. Just a great treat to enjoy with coffee of tea.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The pastas were good, but not memorable, there are a handful of Italian places I would get my carb fix from first. But for dessert, “Giovane” is superb. Cakes perfect to celebrate an occasion with and desserts idea for indulging in. Don’t deny your cravings.

GIOVANE CAFE
Fairmont Pacific Rim
1038 Canada Place, Vancouver BC, V6C 2G8
604-695-5501
giovanecafe.com

Go Blue at Fiore

From July 18-29, 2019 South Granville is giving foodies a reason to trek up and down the strip, with their “Go Blue” festival. This is South Granville’s first ever blueberry-themed event. Over the next 10 days, a number of restaurants will feature BC blueberries in limited edition menus. And the retailers who don’t offer food, will be celebrating blueberries in their own way.

On the first day of the festival we were at “Fiore” where they had plenty of blueberries across their drinks, appetizers, entrées, and desserts. This cute little Italian restaurant, just off 12th avenue, is a bit of a hidden gem. They are brought to you by the same owners of “The Stable House Bistro”, another South Granville staple. Their goal is to make the neighbourhood more lively, and I can attest to that considering I use to work in the area and before the two, there were very little options in terms of where to eat or drink.

“Fiore” is a smaller restaurant, ideal for intimate conversations. Their space is pretty straightforward with wood tables, over a hard wood floor, and faux leather booths towards the back. The most memorable part of their decor was the central light fixture, outfitted with an arrangement of dried plant life. It set the tone of our rustic meal to come.

We got right to the blueberries, starting with their two themed cocktails. The “Blueberry negroni” with blueberry infused lillet, blueberry gin, and Campari. And the sparkling “Blanc de blue” cocktail with blueberry infused lillet and Prosecco. Both were a beautiful bluish-purple from the fruit’s colouring.

For appetizers they had two salads finished with blueberries. We got the “blueberry panzenella, with fresh blueberries, grape tomatoes, arugula, focaccia, and blueberry vinaigrette. It was a salad described as having plenty of croutons by our server, which sounded right up my alley.

Their antipasti platter also came with blueberries, a few in the compote that the single arancini ball (small fried ball of rice coated in breadcrumbs), sat it. The platter varies and today ours came with a lentil salad with pickled onion, a green fennel salad with smoked Gouda, a Spanish salsa, their housemade sausage patty, pepperoni slices, crusty garlic bread, and a dish of olive oil and balsamic. This was a lot for $20, and if you want more, they have a $40 and $60 board available for greater sharing.

Their blueberry entree is a “Blueberry and balsamic pork roulade”, served with summer vegetable and fried polenta. It was a fulsome dish with plenty of depth, well balanced by each thoughtful side. Juicy pork, starchy polenta with nice crunch, fresh green salad, and a sweet blueberry sauce.

For those who don’t want blueberries, their regular menu is also available. Like their “popular arancini ball”, similar to our one above, but with three times as many, and a beet gelee to enjoy it with. And you can’t tell in this photo, but each round is dyed pink on the inside from additional beet juice. Crispy and light, this made for a great tasty start.

The “Pappardelle bolognese” is one of their more popular pasta dishes with tender noodles coated in a slightly sweet tomato sauce, finished with salty Parmesan.

Their risotto is a lighter rendition of the firm, yet saucy, classic Italian rice dish. It is topped with mint, zucchini, and parsnip.

We were too full for dessert, but there is more blue to be had there. For more blueberry focused dishes, and what each restaurant is bringing to the table visit the link below.

GO BLUE ON SOUTH GRANVILLE

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A great intimate spot for classic Italian in the neighbourhood. And I am glad that they need other South Granville restaurants are giving diners additional reasons to visit them this summer. What a creative campaign. Don’t deny your cravings.

FIORE
1485 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver Bc
604-558-1485
fiorerestaurants.ca

Robba Da Matti, West End

Yaletown’s home spun Italian restaurant now has a second location, and tonight we traveled down to the West End, to check it out. Like the original spot, this spin off too has that hidden gem feel. Its discrete locale creates the intimacy you want in a quieter dinner. It isn’t on a Main Street, nor are there loud signs highlighting it. In fact, you wouldn’t know it was here, unless you were staying at the hotel adjacent. But unlike their Yaletown location, this one has plenty of room and a nicer patio to take advantage of.

Given the beautiful weather we took a seat on their out door terrace. Wood table tops and black whicker chairs, set to the confines of a gated in and covered lot. Our table was at the outermost perimeter, against a well trimmed hedge; under the shadow of a tree that would shed leaves and tendrils, reminding us of its presence. This was the perfect setting for our girls night out, minus those playing in the basket ball court with their boisterous commentary.

Since there were two of us, we ordered their “Date Night” option, basically its two of everything, plus a bottle of wine for $122. Two appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts. There are slight restrictions, but you are definitely saving, considering a bottle wine is around $40 to start with.

Our meal began with a complimentary dish of olives. Eaten with tooth picks and their pits spat out into a pinch bowl.

Our chosen wine came shortly after. You are basically choosing either red or white. We went with the Tolloy Pinot Grigio, kept cool in an ice bucket, at our table. With it, our server was quick to keep our glasses full. When we sat down she greeted us promptly, welcoming us in full. She was gentle and poised with a wonderfully sing song voice.

For appetizers we shared the carpaccio and fritters. “Beef tenderloin carpaccio”. Thinly sliced AAA Alberta beef tenderloin, drizzled with grainy mustard and white alba truffle oil. Topped with mixed greens and slices of Parmesan cheese. And accented with fresh ground pepper at the table. Delicate and delicious with the mustard as a nice zing. But I felt it need more substance, so we paired it with the “Mozzarella di bufala fritta” below.

Breaded and deep fried mozzarella di bufala bocconcini. Crispy and chewy, where I wanted crispy and gooey. The cheese was quick to firm and the nuggets concaved into themselves. Here, I expected to bite into balls of cheese. Still tasty, they reminded me of gussied up pub fare. It is served with a pesto sauce, but dipping into it really didn’t add anything to the overall dish.

For entrees I had pasta and my guest risotto.
The “Pesto and burrata” pasta, is exactly as it is named. The pesto is a blend of pistachio, pine nut, basil, and arugula. It had a bold, yet nuanced flavour that kept you going back for more. That and the pasta was amazing: the texture perfection. The burrata was best stirred in, to give the dish some creaminess.

The “Risotto alla Pescatora” (seafood risotto) did not disappoint. It was a bounty of tiger prawns, calamari, mussels, clams, and scallop. More seafood that rice to enjoy them with. The flavours were full with a warming dull spice. It was hearty and comforting, yet refined. This is one I would order next time.

For dessert I had the “Lavender creme brûlée”, it was a lumpy cream with a botanical flavour. I didn’t like the medicinal nature of the lavender all that much, but did fully enjoy the toasted sugar crust that topped it.

Similarly I didn’t enjoy the panna cotta either. You have your choice of topping between chocolate and raspberry syrup, and I think we made the wrong choice with chocolate. The featured dessert was light with the faint taste of cream, by comparison the chocolate (and the amount of it) overwhelmed. Its flavour was so pronounced that you couldn’t appreciate the simplicity and lightness of the panna cotta.

We enjoyed our time and their space so much that we ended up stayed longer, and sharing a second bottle of wine. This was a add on to the “Date Night”, and one I recommend if all things are going well on your date night.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I am already a fan of the beautiful plates and fresh pastas that “Robba Da Matti” is known for, but with this new space it elevates your dining experience with them. Plenty of seating, with room in between tables, you aren’t crammed in, like at their Yaletown spot. Come in during a blue sky day and enjoy the full extent of their patio. Truly a wonderful space to have a delicious meal. They deliver on their slogan: “fresh pasta, fine wine & a good time. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ROBBA DA MATTI
1906 Haro Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 1H7
604-423-3553
robbadamatti.com

Mordimi Bite of Italy, #pizzachallengeyvr

I was once again trying out a new pizzeria, thanks to Vancouver Foodster, and me being one of the three judges for this year’s #pizzachallengeyvr. This one was only two months old. But as I would soon learn, owned and operated by a highly experienced and passionate husband and wife team. They are not new the pizza game, having ran a pizzeria for over two years before, and a coffee shop prior to that.

They currently call Hastings street their home. A little shop with a handful of seats and the operations out in the open, behind them. A counter with baked good for point and purchase, their stainless steel work space, and a chalkboard scrawling declaring that the “guy making your pizza is a pizzaiolo”.

The restaurant boasted an ever changing menu. Every Sunday they offer up a different brunch items like paninis, sandwiches, and frittatas. Pastas are available for lunch and included the likes of angle hair with ox tail and a carbonara with egg and pork cheek. Every Thursday the pasta of choice is gnocchi, every Friday it is a stuffed ravioli. All the chosen filling and ingredients are based on what our chef found fresh at the market that week, or what he himself felt like eating on the day. Similarly, the desserts get changed up daily, each, also hand made in house.

We made sure to reserve the ones we wanted first, lest they be purchased by the time we finished our meal. We were eyeing the doughnuts, or rather “bigné”, as the Italian way they were called. A tidbit we learned from our chef/host who informed us that “donuts” are the North American copy of the original Italian version (or debatably French version). Here, these doughy rounds are made from puff pastry.

The “bigné with yuzu cream” offered up a good change of taste with its fresh citrus flavour. It was filled full with cream and had a similarly flavoured topping crowning with blueberry and meringue bits.

The “Caramel cream bigné with almonds and peanuts” was my favourite. It was soft under your bite with the toasted nuts giving you crunch. It wasn’t too sweet, but the saltines of the peanut gave you that perfect balance of salty and sweet with the whipped caramel cream filling.

The “Pistachio cream and raspberry bigné” was a different experience. This was definitely a one biter, a little squeeze and all the cream came oozing out the sides. And at the middle of it, a nice sharp tang of fresh raspberry jelly. Given how great each of the above was, I can confidently recommend “Mordimi” as a spot worth travelling to, just for these desserts.

They also offer their take on a mille feuille with custard, a tiramisu cup, and a lemon meringue parfait.

As for savoury we first tried the “best pizza challenge” contender: “Boscaiola”, or “A walk in the Italian forest”. It was prepared in the traditional Italian fashion with organic flour. Yeast is not used to raise the dough, instead, it is allowed to rise naturally across 4 days. All the ingredients used are fresh and never frozen. All these practices make this pizza the healthiest in the competition, and as it is known in Italy: a healthy meal solution. Italian black truffle, potatoes, mushrooms, asiago cheese, and fior di latte. It was very light, you were able to make out the flavours of each ingredient, with the rosemary being most prominent. The potatoes weren’t heavy, but offered a good starch. Although out of preference, I did find it a little bland, having me look out for an oil drizzle or some chilli to give it a little life.

We also tried their “Mordimi Calzone”. It used the same pizza dough as above, just folded over and baked chewier. Here, the pizza dough was more like bread. A pocket of dough sealing chicken pesto, parmigiano, sun dried tomatoes, yellow tomato sauce, and fior di latte inside. I appreciated the large chunks of chicken breast meat. It was fully marinated in the tasty pesto sauce. The tomatoes offered bursts of freshness, and the light cheese an agent to bind them all.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
If you are looking for authentic Italian pizza from a discerning chef. A chef who cares about the quality of ingredients, and the tradition of pizza being one of the most healthiest foods available: come here and be sure to save room for dessert. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MORDIMI
2638 E Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V5K 1Z6
604-253-0765
mordimi.ca
To learn more about the Vancouver Foodster Pizza Challenge, visit the link. And then try all the competitors to vote for your favourite. http://vancouverfoodster.com/pizza-challenge/

Sopra Sotto, #pizzachallengeyvr

Today I was at the original location of “Sopra Sotto”, to visit yet another Vancouver Foodster Pizza Challenge contestant. With this one you have your choice of location between their two. You are invited to both, to try their entry and vote of your favourite in the “People’s Choice” category.

“Sopra’s” original location is on Commercial Drive, it features their fully stocked bar. Their second and newest location is in Burnaby, and this past week it celebrated its first year anniversary. This is a smaller restaurant, but other than square feet, it offers pretty much the same experience; even down to their eye catching wallpaper littered with colourful birds. Except the Burnaby location has a deep fryer and they take advantage of it, with a handful of variations to their menu. Deep fried street food like a battered calamari. I liked that this gave you reason to visit both locales.

But today I choose Commercial Drive location as our destination, as my guest has yet to visit either of the two; and I wanted her to have the original, flagship location experience.

Our dinner started with their appetizer special of the day. A burrata board with the fresh and creamy cheese dressed in olive oil and smoked balsamic. Served with lusciously thin prosciutto, and in house made herbed focaccia. This was a build your own ham and cheese sandwich, all grown up and delicious. This was an assembly of great ingredients that foreshadowed the quality of the food to follow.

The “Tagliatelle e Tartufo” came highly recommended. This is long and flat pasta made fresh in-house, served in a truffle sauce, featuring a variety of mushrooms and parmigiano. Oyster, protobello and shiitake; I appreciated the textures and distinct flavours of each mushroom in the mix. You also got the flavour of the promised truffle intermingled in the saucy cream. All together this made for a very elevated dish, one that paired well with the specialty pizza below.

And this was the main reason why I was here. Here, to try the “Contadina”. A fresh pizza with plenty of toppings to sift through. Taleggio cheese, smoked pancetta, cherry tomatoes, mixed mushrooms and green onions. Fire baked with a even blackening around the crust. You smelled the bake and all the charing of the toppings as it approached you. Salty with the pancetta, juicy with the tomatoes, and fresh with the spring onions. The latter was a first for me: the first time having green onion on a pizza. But it was the dough that I enjoyed the most, it made all the difference. I especially liked being able to cut the pizza down to size at our table. Each snip of these kitchen sheers heightened the already hands on experience.

 

To learn more about the Vancouver Foodster Pizza Challenge, visit the link. And then try all the competitors to vote for your favourite.

Pizza Challenge

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
A beautiful setting with fresh plates and attentive staff that matches it modern feel. However, my next visit to “Sopra” will be at their Burnaby location for some deep fried goodness. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SOPRA SOTTO
1510 Commercial Drive, Vancouver BC, V5L 2Y7
604-251-7586
soprasottovancouver.co

Don Francesco Ristorante Italia

This evening my guest and I were looking for a nice fulsome dinner before the Vancouver International Wine Festival Tasting hall event at 7pm. Wanting to keep our destination within walking distance to the Convention Centre we found ourselves at “Don Francesco”. I figured pasta would be the perfect base to follow plenty of drinking. Carbs to absorb the wine to come. The hard part, not ordering any wine to enjoy with our dinner with, especially as they had a lovely wine cellar by the entrance.

The restaurant isn’t all that noticeable from the outside, tucked into waterfront centre. I walked in 15 minutes to 5pm and had my pick of the place. The lounge with high tops to the left, the dining room with properly set tables and tented napkins to the right, and the bar with open kitchen at the centre. I chose a cozy booth in the corner, surrounded by red brick. It was tight packed (a warning I was given before I plopped myself down), with handsome grey crushed velvet upholstery and its own iron chandelier. Like all the other tables it was set with a white table cloth, white cloth napkins and a full assembly of cutlery and glassware. This was definitely on the finer dining scale.

The staff were attentive. Each and every one came to check in on me and ask what I wanted and if I wanted to order anything before my guest arrived.

To start with we enjoyed complimentary focaccia served warm with whipped butter and olive oil and balsamic.

The food came out fast, piping hot bowls of pasta on large white plates. Whenever available I always gravitate towards the gnocchi, if done right these little balls of potato and dough are amazing. “Gnocchi Gorgonzola” with a choice of cream or tomato sauce. My guest got a cream sauce so I got a red. It was simple and clean, tangy and bright with basil. A beautiful dish.

My guest had the more decadent “Lobster Linguine” with lobster meat, chilli flakes, lobster reduction, and herbs; in a light cream sauce. Although I wouldn’t really consider it a cream sauce, each noodle strand was saucy and moist, but not creamy or rich like a thick Alfredo. The flavours were very seafood forward, fishy with no missing any of the lobster essence.

 

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A lovely destination for wine and all things Italian. Great food, good service, and within walking distance of transit. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DON FRANCESCO
909 W Cordova Street, Vancouver BC, V6C 2G8
604-688-2000
donfrancescoristorante.com

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