When looking for a place to happy hour, my guest suggested “Pronto” on Cambie. Although the drink deals was not meant to be, we did try vermouth flights and we were not disappointed by them.
This authentic Italian restaurant spans across two buildings, the bar on the left and the deli/cafe on the right. Given our party of two and a half, we were forced to the family friendly half. And being out of the bar meant happy hour specials were excluded, even for us grown folk.
The description on their website describes them best, ” Unadorned and straight forward. Old world yet modern”. It left like your nona’s kitchen with its honey comb tiles, freshly baked treats under glass, and a pantry well stocked with cans and preserves. The neatly pyramid-ed cans had purpose and made a great visual display. Cans of tomatoes, jars of pickled vegetables, and bottles of oil. All scattered around a homey style kitchen with stacks of plates, and a towers of soup bowls. Behind glass was a display of on the day made desserts: flavoured biscotti, panna cotta, tiramisu, and chocolate lava cake. We would later would pass on each, as the meal was already decadent enough.
The cafe was a blending of dark wood and light tile. Cozy with cubicle-like booths, and tables in more private corners. The entire left wall was outfitted with mirrors and barred off with wood strips. It gave the space a nice spacious, yet protective feel.
Given the mention of “prochetta and pasta” on their restaurant exterior, I was keen to try a little of both. However, I would be disappointed again. The prochetta was only available in one of their lunch time sandwiches. It use to also be a key ingredient an entree, but due to inconsistency of the preparation method, they decided not to serve it by the slab for dinner any longer. Sad, because this would have been my first taste of prochetta, and it sounds amazing. “Porchetta” is Italian style savoury, fatty, and moist boneless pork roast. The meat is layered with stuffing, meat, fat, and pork crackling, then rolled, spitted, and roasted, over wood.
Instead we ordered more appetizers. The “Seasoned Sicilian olives” included castelvetrano and Cerignola olives. They were a fresh and briny offering before some of the sharp liquors we were sipping on. The larger olives with their tiny pits were harder to eat daintily. I preferred the Granny Smith coloured green ones as they were on the milder side.
The “Walnut Pesto and Gorgonzola crostini” might not look like much, but it is one worth revisiting. The pesto was a thick spread, like peanut butter, in texture and appearance. A sandy, nutty flavour, with a hint of honey and the creaminess of butter and salt to balance in out. I have never had anything like it. Best enjoyed with the spread warmed and bread toasted.
By contract was the bold flavours of the “Stuffed medjool dates”, filled with Gorgonzola cheese and wrapped in prosciutto. I was surprised that it was served warm. These were three sharp flavours at odds with each other, each trying to stand out on its own. The date swelled with warm cheese, and the meat balanced the richness with its salted tang. But cured meat and the potency of blue cheese is quite the combination. Overall I found it interesting, but too rich to have more than one. And too sweet with the natural sugars of the date and the addition of honey drizzled over top.
We went with the “Rigatoni Boscaiola” pasta. A handsome serving of prosciutto, sundried tomato, and cremini mushroom; in a garlic cream sauce. Offered on both lunch and dinner menus, for the same cost, in the same portion size. The noodles were evenly coated in this light and airy sauce. A surprising realization as it made with heavy cream. By comparison, the individual ingredients stood out. The pieces of cured meat, dried tomatoes, and mushroom would have been more enjoyable cut down into smaller pieces, to better balance the pasta. And I wish we had some bread on the side, to sop up the extra cream sauce with, it was that good.
They had two flights, we had both: a Vermouth and an Amari flight. The former usually starts your meal by opening your palate as a fortified wine. It is infused with each distiller’s mix of botanicals and herbs, and served chilled. The latter ends the meal as a digestive bitter. “Bitters” are created by infusing a distilled spirit with an intricate blend of roots, barks, spices, herbs, peels and botanicals.
We were given our choice of four for each, not not knowing left from right, we let our bartender choose, basically just pointing out what we didn’t want.
The “Flight of Vermouth” went for $13. It was sweeter and heavier than wine, going from heavy to light with the rose to the white. Cocchi rosa, cocchi red, and vya extra dry. The centre was the richest of our trio, and my favourite. Each vermouth made a great accompaniment to the slices of salted cheese that they came with, and the bowl of olives we had ordered.
And the “Flight of Amari” for $15 made a great dessert. Amaro Montenegro, cynar, and limoncello. They were refreshing with the typical alcohol after burn. The first was the lightest, like biscotti with a sweet vanilla flavour. The middle one was smokey like cigarettes, with the acrid after taste of heavily distilled vodka. We liked the last one the most, it was like lemon flavoured vodka, with a mild flavour to start that grows stronger the more you drink.
I love an interesting washroom, and here they have two individual stalls worth documenting. Both spray painted in vivid graffiti style art. One the black and white backdrop for their mascot pig in apron with covered serving tray. The other, a mish mash of colour and words I had difficultly making out, but still appreciated.
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.
All in all, the drinks were just as rich as the food, and a little too much together, but there were no regrets. Everything was a new and worth while experience for us. A menu worth visiting more of. And maybe next time we can actually make it into the lounge for happy hour. Don’t deny your cravings.
3473 Cambie Street Vancouver BC, V5Z 2W7