Real Neapolitan Deal Coming At Last With “Nicli Antica Pizzeria”

April 21, 2010.
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Nicli Antica Pizza owner Bill McCaig outside the construction site at 62 E. Cordova in Gastown yesterday

Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!

UPDATE: IT’S OPEN! TAKE A LOOK HERE

A few weeks ago I wrote an article for the paper about Vancouver’s rather underwhelming pizza scene, lamenting that after quite a bit of local research I’d found much better on a trip to Toronto (at Libretto) and even across the Strait in Victoria (at Prima Strata). The absence of quality, authentic pizza is one of the biggest complaints of local foodies, and they have good reason to bitch. It’s an embarrassing hole in the fabric of our otherwise excellent food city, one that should be filled a long time ago.

Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that we are finally getting an authentic Neapolitan pizzeria. The bad news is that it won’t arrive until July.

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Yesterday I met with Bill McCaig at 62 East Cordova in Gastown and got a happy earful on his plans for the one-story building, which he purchased last January. It’s a huge open concept space, about 4,000 sqft in total. He’s dividing it into two properties, one for retail and one for the project of his dreams: Nicli Antica Pizzeria.

Despite the Scottish surname, Bill is Italian on his mother’s side (“Nicli” is her surname). How he got here is an interesting story. He grew up in Ontario, took business marketing at Conestoga College, and went into a line of work that was far from the restaurant trade. After a decade in the wrong trade, he decided it wasn’t for him. He dropped it all (despite success), and went back to school, this time to the Cordon Bleu chef’s school in Ottawa. He worked in hotels, moved to Calgary to work garde manger at Capo, and after dining at that city’s Pucinella pizzeria, he moved to Vancouver (2008) with plans to open one of his own.

He traveled throughout northern Italy last summer, sampling pizzas along the way with his new bride, and went down to California to take the Vera Pizza Napoletana Americas Association course – the first stepping stone in getting a pizzeria certified as a Vera Pizza Napoletana establishment. There is only one certified VPN restaurant in Canada, and that it Libretto in Toronto. I was there just a month ago, and it kicked ass on every pizza I’d ever had before.

McCaig has every intention of having Nicli certified, which would make it the first and only one of its kind in Vancouver. In my conversations with him he’s put checkmarks beside all my food-nerd queries. Will the flour be “00” Caputo? Yes. Will the tomatoes be real San Marzano’s? Yes. Will the oven be wood-fired? Yes. It’s already been purchased and is sitting in storage in Langley – an Acunto, made in Napoli. And so on. This guy isn’t screwing around.

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There won’t be any pastas or main courses, just some antipasti, maybe some cured meats, and roughly 15 pizzas either inspired by tradition or strictly adhering to tradition. “You’re not going to find any pineapple here,” he assured me. It will be licensed with a 12 globe system for his wine program, with each temperature-controlled globe holding 7 bottles at a time.

The design is being taken care of be Shearer out of Calgary, and won’t impress much upon the 100 year old building. McCaig wants to keep it small and simple (“like La Buca”) with just 40 seats, including those at the 10-12 seat bar facing the pizza oven. There will be no delivery (he shudders at the suggestion), though take-out will be full on.

July can’t come soon enough. Avanti.

ALL ANTICIPATED OPENINGS

  • http://deleted K

    YES!

  • http://www.barbourswelliesandwine.blogspot.com Stephen Bonner

    Excellent addition to the hood and East Cordova Street. Looking forward to some great old school pizza. The globe wine preservation system is interesting; but I’d be pretty concerned about mixing 7 bottles into each globe ~ I’d make sure staff are tasting each bottle to avoid any corked bottles that would ruin all the rest.

  • http://butterontheendive.ca Owen Lightly

    This is really, truly exciting. I want to work there.

  • Pat

    Finally!
    I always said that this city needed an authentic fire oven pizzeria. I was even thinking of opening one in a few years when I had everything together after culinary school. He beat me to it.

    Montreal has some great Forno pizzerias and probably the best I have had is Bottega in Little Italy Montreal. Also with a wood burning Napolitan oven.

    Good Luck with Nicli Antica. I’ll definitely be there in July!

  • Bill

    @ Stephen: Definitely, absolutely and without a doubt checking each and every bottle for any signs of being “off” prior to adding them to the wine service system.

  • JC

    I am so SO excited about this. I had Motorino in New York a couple months ago and haven’t stopped craving it ever since.

  • Katharine

    YES, YES, YES!!!! Can’t wait!

  • LEE

    In the meantime… if you want some DELICIOUS

  • LEE

    what i meant was… in the meantime, if you want delicious, authentic pizza…Try RAGAZZI PIZZA located in Vancouver… Not only can you pick up, but they will deliver as well. All the ingrediants are fresh, the crust is thin and the taste is truly authentic… Take it from an Italian who likes her pizza!!!

  • helena

    I agree with Lee. Try Ragazzi PIzza!! Vancouver already has an excellent pizza place… It’s the best kept secret… Now revealed!!!

  • Andrew

    Praises to you, Mr. McCaig, for bringing forth a food long neglected in our town. Once you have been over to Napoli and tried a pizza at the best (Da Michele, Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo, etc.) you know the reasons why it is so important to follow the strict Napoletana laws regarding pizza. I/we needed this! I will be knocking at the doors of 62 East Cordova very soon.

  • Quinne

    Finally! My husband has been looking everywhere for this authentic pizza and there has been nothing here in Vancouver. He makes some amazing pizza here at home – but we really want to try an authentic Napoli pizza (without the flight cost to Italy!)

  • Pat

    Any news on this restaurant? Really looking forward to its opening.

  • http://nicli-antica-pizzeria.ca Bill

    Hey Pat,

    We’re still waiting on our building permit approval from City Hall. The City stated they would be releasing it around August 9th. Thanks everyone for your enthusiasm and we’re going to ramp up construction just as soon as we are able.

  • patrick

    yyyyyyyyyyyuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmerssssssssssss!
    Cant wait! Gastown really is turning into foodiville! I love it!
    Best of luck…great concept!

  • Pat

    Thank you Bill for writing in personally. Good luck with the rest of the contruction. Then the fun part starts…

    Can’t wait to see the end result. I will be there first day!
    Would love to talk to you about job oppurtinities aswell when the time comes.

    Thanks.

  • http://nicli-antica-pizzeria.ca Bill

    Ok: so the Building permit was granted without the Electrical portion being checked over. Apparently the permit is supposed to be checked by all departments and then it is granted, but the right hand does not always know what the left hand is doing. I’m still hoping for a December opening and an update will be coming.

    If anyone is interested in working at Nicli please check
    http://www.nicli-antica-pizzeria.ca you’ll find a link there.

  • Nicole

    I have been waiting for you to open for months…my mouth is watering and I am ready to become a regular. Please let the permit gods be good to you and hope to be eating there soon.

  • ibeep

    I’m surprised to see that there will be about 15 pizzas on the menu, given that most pizzerias I’ve visited usually adhere to a limited number between 2 (marinara and margherita) to 6 or 8, like Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix (6 pizzas) who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, De Michele (2) and Vincenzo Costa (6 I think, I have a copy of his menu at home) and others in Naples. I will also check out Una’s an others in New York in Janurary. Of course many other pizzerias throughout Italy have expanded menus, but they were larger venues with more cooks/chefs and other items besides pizzas on the menu. Looking forward to trying the place out someday soon, best of luck, Bill!

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