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Category: Italian Page 1 of 8

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

Ask for Luigi, revisit

Looking for a dinner spot in Railway Town, my guest and I found ourself at “Ask for Luigi” for some pasta. And it was just as I remembered it, so long ago. My first experience with the intimate Italian restaurant wasn’t all that great, we ended sending all our food back, so I was curious to see how much they have improved since then. But it is worth noting that the service now was just as stellar as it was then.

For a better comparison, check out the original visit post here, almost 5 years ago. http://vieamaggi.com/ask-for-luigi/

This is a smaller restaurant, with tightly placed tables and the constant roar of conversation. The kitchen was towards the back, visible from dining area. Having everything in this one open room gave you the feeling of dining at home. Not to mention the building is basically a refurbished house. Though the hanging sign advertising “pasta” tells you otherwise.

The menu was a one pager, it still had a few of the same dishes that I remembered from way back when. And they still mentioned that, “Substitutions (are) politely declined”.

We started with a glass of white wine each. I know it is the custom, but I much prefer my wine served in a goblet with a stem. In this tumbler there is no letting the wine breathe, you can’t swizzle the liquid or smell it before it hits your lips. Here it is filled right to the brim (not that it is a bad thing), so my first two sips had me lapping it up from right off the table.

As for food, the menu suggests sharing and I agree, the pastas we had were great, but after a few bites you grew tired of the taste, and wanted to nibble at something else, to help change the taste.

My guest had the “Pappardelle and duck ragu”. We both liked the chew from a thick and flat noodle. The dish was seasoned with a tang, and plenty of shredded duck meat.

I liked peas so ordered the “Ricotta ravioli” with peas, mint, and lemon. It was a light and refreshing dish, and the pops from the peas did not disappoint.

 

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.
This visit did give me a better impression of them. However I ask some friends sitting at a nearby table how their meal was, and they noted their disappointment in the squid ink pasta. Like I did so many years back, they found it far too salty and generally unappealing. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

ASK FOR LUIGI
305 Alexander Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1C4
604-428-2544
askforluigi.com

Di Beppe Restaurant

Wanting pizza and to try somewhere new we found ourselves at “Di Beppe” this Saturday night. They don’t take reservations so we are pleasantly surprised to be told that the wait would be minimal, when we walked in, a little after 7pm.

You enter the restaurant via the cafe side. The two halves are split by a wall with a glass window and curtained door way.

You also wait in the cafe portion, leaving your name with their host. You are offered the ability to purchase a drink, while you linger in their waiting area of sorts. A couple of benches by the window and two free standing high top tables to lean against.

It was especially humid inside on this cold day. I would say the extra heat was from the visible bakery towards the back, but it was clear no one was currently working in the all glass space. But the proof of their work was still visible in the glass case at the counter. Buttered cookies in jars, cakes by the slices, and bars on wax paper for easy ordering and easier indulging.

When time, we were led into the darkness of the dining area. Orange glow from lamps, brick walls plastered with Italian posters, and concrete under foot. A warm and intimate space with the entire bar seated, each high top set, and all the closely sat table filled.

We were asked if it was our first time here, and since it was, were given a run down of their menu. Their wines are all listed with the price based on how much you want, 5oz, half a litre, or by the bottle. We ordered a 5oz glass of sparkling and rose and both came in the traditional Italian style tumblers for such an occasion.

We ordered a pizza and were given the option of having it “In pala”, as a round on a smaller board, perfect for two; or “Al metro” a 2 and a half feet long pizza served on a longer board. More pizza for $9 more. We went for the former to also have room to try one of their pastas. We wanted margherita and had our choice of the cheese that goes with it. Either fior di latte or di bufala for $4 more. I went for the creamier white cheese for more, with no regrets. You could tell the cheese was fresh, you got more of its flavour and it was well worth the extra charge. The pizza as a whole was bready. The crust itself was thick and crispy, we asked for butter given how wide it was and the amount of it that came unsauced. This way we ate it like bread. The sauce was sweeter and very tomato forward. It was globbed on thick and caused the crust under it to sag. And the fresh and baked basil not only added colour but some seasoning to the mix.

It was served on a metal rack with our second dish under it. This was space saving, but uneven, causing alarm when the board began to slide. A double decker way to share two dishes on a small table for two. Though it was challenging to to twirl and scoop pasta from under the wooden board.

For our pasta we wanted a white sauce to give us contrast from the red sauce on our margherita pizza. For each pasta option you have your choice of noodles between spaghetti or rigatoni. I let my partner have his preference, but I would have preferred the chewier pasta tubes instead.

This is the “carbonara” spaghetti with guanciale, pecorino (a buttery anchovy blend), egg yolk, and black pepper. With the first bite my picky partner declared it the best he had had in a long while. And luckily he couldn’t taste the salty fish, given his distain for all things seafood related. The pasta wasn’t saucy per say, but rich with fully coated strands. You could taste the lusciousness of the egg, and the heavy tingling pepper flavour that followed. And the crispy pieces of salty pork added extra spice and salt.

To end it all, our bill came with a “Crustoli” for us each. This is cannoli batter deep fried and dusted heavily with powdered icing sugar. Amazingly light literally and figuratively, lifting it up to our faces caught us off guard. The sugary powder stuck stuck to the roof of your mouth, but it was pasty without it. This proved to be a nice and unexpected way to end our meal. A much appreciated bonus.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Given how much my particular partner loved everything and considering how he finished his meal declaring, “Everything is good”, we will definitely be back. I too enjoyed my time here and would want to come back when craving either pizza or pasta. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DI BEPPE
8 West Corddova Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1C9
604-559-1122
dibeppe.com

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