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Pizza Palooza 2023

Recently, the Vancouver Foodster held his annual Pizza Palooza, a self directed walking tour to explore some local pizza available in Vancouver. There are so many pizzerias around town, and many more chain options to sort through, so it is nice to have him vet through the ones worth trying and direct our attention there, through this event.

And for the first time ever he has included a VIP experience with this. This allows those guests participating, the hands on experience of making their own individual pan pizza at Pizza Rubato Napoletana. Sadly, the timing wasn’t right and I was not able to attend this add on, but maybe in the future.

As for the tour itself, all ticket holders are assigned a starting point, in order to spread the foot traffic throughout the four locations of the tour. However, after the first point, you are able you choose which direction you head next.

Today we started at Pizza Rubato Napoletana
At 561 W. Broadway, in Cambie Village. We checked in as a group and were given the rundown of the restaurant, as we all took a seat. We learned they more recently opened a year and a half ago. And that their pizza is described as being thinner in middle and almost wet. Whereas the edges are puffed up and airy, reminding us of naan. This dough is what sets them apart, I haven’t had pizza quite like this before.

As for the toppings their selection includes classic options like margarita and pepperoni, but they also experiment with different combinations in their signature pizzas. For example their pistachio and ricotta pizza with a hot honey drizzle, and the lemon and fig jam number with fresh lime.

As event goers we were given the ability to either choose two slices from their pre-made and heated to order selection, or a custom individual-sized pizza, baked to order. We passed on the latter as we were on a time crunch, and there were many more pizzas to try and three more stops after this one.

Although, having said that, the baking process actually doesn’t take all that long. It is all done with a stone oven at the back of their kitchen.

Between my guest and I we went for their Figurati! RR with Evoo Base, Fior di Latte, DOP Parmigiano, Spicy Italian Sausage, Red Onions, Ricotta Cheese, and Chili-Infused honey. This was a playful assortment, where the texture of the crumbly cheese did throw us off, but the spicy honey brought it all together nicely.

I will mention that although the dough is my favourite part about their pizza, we did note that the toppings did not go from tip to crust and we were left with more plain dough than there needed to be for this, and the other slices below.

The Funghi Tartufo was Alfredo sauce, Fior di Latte, DOP Parmigiano, Mushrooms, Roasted Garlic, and White Truffle oil. A hearty vegetarian option with a good amount of truffle essence to go around.

The Pepperoni was a safe and classic choice. San Marzano Tomato Sauce, Fior di Latte, DOP Parmigiano, and Pepperoni.

And the Soppressata was the spiciest and the most flavourful of all that we shared. Alfredo Sauce, Fior di Latte, DOP Parmigiano, Hot Soppressata, Roasted Garlic, and Oregano.

As a whole, this was the most refined and gourmet of all our pizza stops today.

Next, we travelled to the the Strathcona area to the newly opened Pizzone Pizza at 848 Powell Street. During the time of this crawl they had only opened 3 weeks prior. And were so new that they had not even installed their sign yet. So their unlit banner was hard to spot between the bright Starbucks and Subway signs. The area wasn’t really a destination, but offered an easy pit stop for coffee and lunch, thus making this quick grab and go pizza shop a great addition to the neighbourhood.

Tonight they invited guests of the Pizza Palooza to help themselves to a slice or two of their fun fusion pizzas, all spread out across bar stools. There was even a dessert pizza that was quick to go.

At Pizzone Pizza they get creative with their toppings all set on a crispy crust. The addition of corn meal at the bottom of the latter gave it this extra crunch. Here, their toppings go right to the edges and they use a lot of fresh produce to finish off the pie.

They were showcasing their collection on rotation and the following is a couple that we got to try.

The Argentine Carne was Roasted beef, Caramelized onion, and Green Onion on a tomato Base. Topped with Chimichurri Aioli , Orange Segment and Lemon Lime wedges. This was the first time seeing oranges on a pizza and it worked. Salty from the meat, sweet from the fruit.

The Vietnamese Chilli Chicken was House Cooked Chicken topped with Green Onion and Mozzarella, on a Tomato, Hoisin, Sweet Chili and Garlic Base. Garnished with Slaw, Fresh Cilantro, Chili & Garlic Aioli. If you squinted real hard, this was like eating pho and a chicken banh mi all in one. Except with crispy dough instead of crispy bread or firm noodles. Tangy and flavourful sauces, plus crisp raw coleslaw was quintessential Vietnamese. This was very creative, leaving me wondering what a Vietnamese cold cuts and pate banh mi pizza would be like.

The Chicken Pesto Club was House Cooked Chicken Breast Filets, Thinly Sliced Prosciutto, Mozzarella, Red Onions & Fresh Tomatoes on a Tomato & Garlic base. Garnished with Fresh Avocado, Wild Rocket and Pesto Aioli. Zesty and full of fresh veggies, it felt more like a wrap, considering how light it was. However, this was messy to eat. The flavours fragmented, and not cohesive as a theme. And oddly, the avocado overpowered.

And as a vegetarian option they had a Paneer Tikka Masala with Creamy Marinated Masala Paneer Pieces, Sliced Tomato, Onion, Tomato Sauce Base, Sprinkled with Chili Flakes, Spinach leaves, Mozzarella Cheese. Topped with Garlic Aioli and Garnished with Fresh Cilantro. Once again with an assortment like this it didn’t eat like pizza, but something all its own. I thought this a great way to offer a meatless option with such punchy flavours. Spicy, but not so much that those unfamiliar with the flavour profile couldn’t enjoy this. This I thought would have been fun on a naan dough base, and I would like to see them take on a tandoori pizza or butter chicken one next.

The next two stops were side by side. We started at Casa Eatalia at 2638 East Hastings Street, Vancouver. More Italian grocer than cafe. Although on top of authentic, high grade imported Italian goods, they do offer Romana style pizza, served in rectangles.

During our visit it was a one woman show, as the lone clerk was mostly at the back preparing the pizzas fresh and then reheating them as necessary, all while tending to event goers and regular customers alike. She did her best, but the experience was not ideal as a result.

All their pizzas are made from semolina whole wheat flour, imported by the store owners themselves, and are available for sale here. This and many of their other goods are exclusive to them, flown in directly from Puglia; a region in Italy well known for their oils and grains. I was so impressed by what she explained that I picked up a bottle of truffle olive oil, truffle infused fettuccine, concentrated mushroom cream sauce, Parmesan cheese, and burrata. My guest too picked up some premium Italian goods the likes of pickled mushrooms only found in that region, fine gluten-free pasta, and dried Italian herbs. I would later use my groceries to make a pasta dinner.

Today Casa Eatalia‘s pizza selection included a margarita burrata, a potato rosemary, and a Porchetta with burrata and rosemary. The ingredients were fresh, the herbs well fragranced, but there was not enough salt or seasoning, plus I found the pizza dough dense and hard with the reheat. Honestly, I am chalking this up to the understaffing as I don’t believe such quality toppings could disappointed when well executed.

We then travelled next door to Di Olvia Tasting Bar at 2632 East Hastings Street, Vancouver. Despise this being a pizza crawl, there was no pizza here. Instead, we had free run of the space, sampling from their infused olive oils on the left and their flavoured balsamic vinegars on the right.

Each oil and vinegar came in a metal dispenser, and with a flip of a tap it free flowed into a small plastic sample cup. You were encouraged to either sip from this, or dip a piece of focaccia into it, to taste.

There were olive oils infused with blood orange, spicy whole pepper and cayenne infused olive oil, and one that tasted like wild mushroom and sage.

All the balsamic vinegars were pure from Modena Italy, organic, and non-GMO. Unique flavours of this included aged coconut, cinnamon pear, espresso dark balsamic, and even lychee; which happened to be my favourite.

The best part was combining both to find your ideal combination. A fun activity and a one of a kind way to shop.

In short, this is another successful Vancouver Foodster Pizza Palooza, and this still remains my favourite of all his self-directed tours to date.

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