Restaurants may be forced to shutter and dining-in is no longer an option; but luckily takeout is a go and pizza continues to be one of the easiest to do just that with. And this strange year, I am once again helping to judge Vancouver Foodster’s annual #PizzaChallengeYVR. Local restaurants are invited to pit their pizzas against one another, in hopes of finding the best in the city. And as it was for previous years, you are invited to try all the pizza competitors, then vote for your favourite as people’s choice winner. As a judge, I will be trying each myself and critiquing them on Taste (20 points), Originality and Uniqueness (10 points), and Presentation and Appearance (10 points).
And today, my first pizza stop in the challenge was Sciué. Their Yaletown location has erected a tent and is seating would-be cafe goers outdoors, under covered, kept warmed by heat lamps. And as soon as the weather gets sunnier, these plastic walls will come down, and their tables over cobblestone will become a hot spot.
With a handful of locations available, I am surprised that I am only just now visiting the chain. Everything is available for point and order within the cafe. Stacks of sandwiches, towers of dessert bars, and rectangular pizza available by the slice. We would start with their challenge pizza, and the reason why we came down in the first place, then explore the rest of the menu a la carte.
Their pizza is authentic Roman Style Pizza, similar to those found in the pizzerias of Rome. It is notably cooked straight on stone to enhance its flavour, and is served by the weight you choose. In hindsight, I wish we tried more than just one of their pizza offerings, as it was definitely my favourite out of everything that we had.
The La Ligure Nera is available by the slice, or as a whole pizza to go. Created by their Chef, as a tribute to his hometown of Liguria, in the Italian region. This striking pie combines traditional ingredients like pesto, roasted potatoes, and green beans with mozzarella cheese and fresh basil; then piles it atop a charcoal activated dough. Visually, this one is stunning, a pizza with a crust like no other. The hue allows the greens to pop all the more. Not to mention, when was the last time you saw green beans on pizza? As a fan of this vegetable, this was an extra treat to eat. As for taste, it felt more like a flatbread than pizza. Great seasoned and tender vegetables pair with a slightly dry breading. Though truth be told, we came later in the day and didn’t want to put the staff out by getting them to make a fresh pizza for us. Especially when there was plenty waiting behind glass, only needing a reheating. Worth noting is that the highlight was the perfect olive oil and herb seasoned potatoes, and they are featured on their everyday brunch menu (from 8am-3pm). Worth visiting for more alone.
Seeing as they make all their bread/dough in house, I wanted to try one of their paninis. However they were out of chicken on this day, and my first and second options were off the table. So instead we took their suggestion and went for the Focaccia Al Crudo. House made rosemary focaccia with proscuitto crudo, bocconcini, and mixed greens. It is toasted to order for melty cheese and crispy bread. Although, I wished that they added the greens in after the toasting so that they wouldn’t be wilted as they were here. This was my second favourite menu item of the night.
Ideally, I wanted to pair the above with one of their soups for dipping into. I was hoping for a rich and creamy, tangy tomato based one; and thought that was what I was getting with their minestrone soup of the day. However, it turns out that what I was imagining was the North American take on the classic soup. Whereas the traditional Italian version is sans tomato and is a more cabbage focused broth with plenty of hearty boiled vegetables resting at the bottom. Sadly no good for dipping, and not for me. Maybe more salt and seasoning would have helped in this regard?
Similar in critique was the Nonna Maria Lasagna. A beef lasagna with mozzarella, parmesan, bechamel, and Sciué’s rustic tomato sauce. It was cozy and comforting with its softened texture. Whereas I prefer a more flavourful bake with additional salt and seasoning; coupled with firmer noodles and crispier edges from burnt gooey cheese. This was good, but not quite what I was expecting. In hindsight I should have done some additional research, realizing this was not classic Italian style cuisine, but Roman instead?
And when visiting a more authentic Italian restaurant, you must not leave without trying their coffee. A couple of fulsome lattes with stunning art hit the spot.
In short, this is a fantastic option for a quick and tasty bite, with great service and a lovely set up in Yaletown. I will definitely have to return to try their brunch menu and pick up more of their fun Italian candy that taste like liquor, without the actual alcohol content.
126 Davie Street, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2V4