West Vancouver has a new causal Italian kitchen and market. Stylized in the spirit of the Italian town square, where neighbours meet up to catch up and socialize. A convenient hub where you can grab an espresso and some baked goods to go, or stop by to shop ingredients needed for dinner.
From the team that brought Sciué, the Italian bakery and café located in downtown Vancouver, comes Casa Mia. The big sister with a spacious patio and modern dining room. Black, white, and red for a classic approach.
On this night guests were welcomed to wine. Because what is an Italian cafe without small glasses of wine, poured to the brim in either, white, red, or Prosecco.
But the Balsamic vinegar negroni is the one to try. The subtle tang of the balsamic is a gentle nod to their collection of non perishables and preserves for sale in their pantry.
Before our meal began, we were treated to a fresh pasta making demo by consulting Chef Alessandro Vianello, who has taken from his Italian heritage and local expertise to help create this approachable menu. (Scroll to the bottom for the recipe). The experience made me appreciate for the simple outlook Casa Mia has taken for its cuisine. And that minimalistic can be delicious, when the ingredients are of quality. The following is what we enjoyed family style.
The Vitello Tonnato is shaved veal with a tuna aioli, and capers. It reminded me of a cooked beef carpaccio platter. Tender and chilled, thin slices of meat that you can layer over their house made bread for a open faced sandwich. The non-dairy cream dressing gave the veal a mustard-like flavouring, and not at all fishy from the tuna, as you would expect. And the capers a tangy pop to add salt and a pickled freshness for balance.
The most memorable dish of the night was the Anchovy in Saor Toast with whipped lemon butter, raisins, pine nuts, house bread, pickled onions, parsley, tarragon, and radish. Much like the veal above, but this open faced sandwich was already dressed for you. This was a well balanced and perfectly curated appetizer. Everything was intentionally placed to create harmony in flavour and texture. The sardines were not overwhelmingly salty as one might assume. They were actually mild, running parallel with the pickled onion. Similarly to how the crunchy pine nuts played off the crispy sourdough toast.
Our table was a fan of the Burrata in red grape agro-dolce and olive oil. This was best with more bread as a base to better highlight the smooth texture of the creamy and runny cheese. I confused the red grape with cranberry, enjoying its natural sweetness that offset the richness of the quality olive oil.
Their pizza and pasta further spoke to their simple and clean cuisine concept. Minimal ingredients needed to make an impactful morsel. Margherita is typically my go to when sussing out a pizza I have never met. And Casa didn’t not disappoint, this was classically done and as delivered as expected. An airy crust with slight charring; topped with tomato sauce, fior di latte, fresh basil, and olive oil.
For something a little more flavourful, try the Puttanesca with tomato sauce, white anchovy, shaved red onion, olives, capers, fresh lemon zest and parsley. This was bold and familiar, considering the other anchovy option above. Each bite was different, finished with a strong flavour of sour lemon to counter the salty olives.
However, if you are only picking one, pizza or pasta? – My vote goes for the latter. And out of the 3 we shared, the Bolognese was my favourite for its chewy rigatoni pasta and zesty classic ragù, finished with Parmigiano Reggiano and olive oil. I was not shy in grabbing the last slice of communal bread and using it as an edible sponge to soak up all the excess sauce and bits of chewy and tender meat.
The Spaghetti alla Busara is a classic tomato based pasta with wild shrimp, cherry tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, fresh basil, and butter. Another refined and easy dish win. The shrimp was well prepared with plenty of sticky sauce to coat each in full.
By comparison, the vegetarian option of Spaghetti Pomodoro fell flat. It need a defining tang like that of black olives or capers; something more to add definition to the tomato sauce, Parmigiano Reggiano, olive oil, and fresh basil. Although, I guess this was like the margarita pizza in the world of pasta.
For dessert many of us were eyeing the gelato, but the restaurant did us one better in their Affogato prepared with espresso, amarena cherry gelato, and a amaretti crumble. This was dressed at our table with a hot shot being poured over the generous scoop of gelato. And then the two combined was topped with the coarse crumble for crunch. If it was not so close to bed time I would have had more than a taste. The tart cherry and bitter coffee are bedmates in this adult “ice cream float”.
And when you read Italian, most people think Tiramisù, so it was nice to have one available on the dessert menu as well. This was pretty standard: Italian mascarpone, lady finger cookies, espresso, and cocoa.
For something a lot more decadent, look to the Panna Cotta with chocolate custard, caramelized white chocolate, and a raspberry conserva. Textural it ate like mousse, dense for the chocolate lovers.
Casa Mia’s fresh pasta recipe:
Start with a well of 500 grams of double zero flour, pour in 250 grams of eggs. Here, our consulting chef used 2 whole eggs and 3 just the yolks. You want to whisk to break the yolks apart. Whipping and slowly corporatist in the walls of our flour wells. This method is advised by the chef, so that if you have enough flour, you can discard the remaining. Your goal is to have a put together ball of dough that you are able to knead for 5 minutes. After which you allow to sit, to deactivate the gluten within.
There is salt is non added in here, but plenty in the cooking water when you boil your pasta.
Next, roll out your settled dough with a rolling pin. Adding flour to your board and on the dough itself, to add texture to your fresh pasta. This process is called laminating.
You then take your flatten dough through the pasta extruder. You start on the lowest setting, folding and rolling it out – few times via crank-press. You will do this until your sheet is at the desired setting and thickness for the pasta that you wish.
When completed, you cut your sheets down to size and either slice, pinch, or press your pasta. In this example our Chef spoke to preparing pappardelle and tagliatelle pasta-noodles; using semolina to prevent both from sticking when cutting down to size.
It would have been nice to be able to dry our demo made pasta to see how it compares to premade and boxes dried pastas.
In closing, this is a lovely spot in the area, and sure to be a popular one once the sun is steadier and their house made gelato become in high demand.
2215 Marine Dr, West Vancouver, BC V7V 1K5