DINER: Charlie’s Little Italian Opens Up In The Old Habit Lounge Location On Main St.

May 8, 2013.

by Andrew Morrison | Charlie’s Little Italian has just opened up at 2610 Main Street in the old Habit Lounge spot. It’s the same owners/designers as before (Nicolay + Edmonds + Pike + Devine = Cascade, Union Bar, El Camino’s), so it is clean, tightly wrought, and pretty well representative of the direction that the Mt Pleasant neighbourhood has gone in the last decade. The drinks from Nick Devine are typically flawless (dig the house sodas and his “Gianfranco Zola” cocktail), and the menu is pretty approachably priced. Regarding the re-design, I think it was smart of them to move the bar up front and center and to turn the rear area into a cozy series of nests. It looks right and feels better than Habit’s two previous incarnations (pre-fire and post-fire). The service – befitting a room that was just a few days old – was air tight and enthusiastic.

The food appears to purposely beat a retreat away from the Italian authenticity that has been trending up in Vancouver for the past few years (eg. regional specificity, Neapolitan stamps of approval, etc), and bewilderingly back to the mangicake styles of old. At least I found this to be the case with the pastas. To wit, there was nowhere near enough black pepper, pork fat, and Pecorino in the carbonara, the tomatoes were woefully weak in the bland pomodoro, and the bolognese was red and dry instead of brown and wet. Of course, that’s exactly what Vancouverites had gotten used to during the 20th century, but in the 21st each pasta can now be had in all their authentic glory at places like Campagnolo, Campagnolo Roma, La Buca, La Pentola, La Quercia, and Cioppino’s (among others). The proper ones just taste better, and making them isn’t rocket science, so I’m at a loss as to why Charlie’s went in for such middling versions, that is unless they are indeed aiming for mangiacake as an exercise in irony, as if it were some sort of comfort food retro Anglo-Canadian thing, an expressed yearning for the proto-typical Cipriano’s of yore, the kind of place where Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra were on a CD shuffle with Louis Prima and Rosemary Clooney (the red and white table cloth motif adorning the wall is a dead giveaway). If so, then Charlie’s is absolutely on the right track.

And I kind of get it, too. Personally, the usually well repressed food snob side of me was a little glad to see Vancouver move away from these sorts of treatments of Italian food, so I was more confused than disappointed. For others, it might be like slipping on a pair of comfortable shoes. What’s more, the bread was certainly delicious and the burrata was…well…burrata (the cheese of God), and there’s a lot more to the menu than the few bowls that had me blinking like a pup. And who knows? Maybe the pastas were total misfires by a kitchen guy on his first day (the place is less than a week old). But even if it is as Italian as a £5 note, that’s the way the cuisine was always done in this city. And today, with so much of it replaced by the real deal, there’s probably a lot of room for the “Mambo Italiano” milieu to be revisited. I mean, it’s not like it was never fun, right? My advice: have a couple of drinks and don’t think so much. Salute!

Charlie’s Little Italian is open for dinner 7 days a week from 4pm. | www.charlieslittleitalian.com

ALL ANTICIPATED OPENINGS

—————————————————————————————–

Andrew Morrison is the editor-in-chief of Scout and BC’s Senior Judge at the Canadian Culinary Championships. He contributes regularly to a wide range of publications, radio programs, and TV shows on local food, culture and travel. He live and works in the vibrant Strathcona neighbourhood, where he also collects inexpensive things and enjoys birds, skateboards, whisky, shoes, many songs, and the smell of wood fires.

  • ivo

    I am confused by this review Andrew…
    Go but dont expect much, or romanticize it’s blandness as nostalgia..?

  • Scout Magazine

    Yeah, pretty much.

  • Sharp

    Our food was horrible. Never going back.

  • Mike

    I had a great family meal there. I think you got the atmosphere pegged. Perhaps you had a bad one, as my carbonara was pretty money, with great balance of pig fat and pecorino. – is there ever really enough pig fat?!

The scout Community

49th Parallel Coffee Roasters Abbey, The Abigail’s Party Acorn Alibi Room Araxi Ask For Luigi Bambudda Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie Beach House Bearfoot Bistro Beaucoup Bakery & Cafe Bel Café Bestie Beta5 Chocolates Biltmore Cabaret Bishop’s Bistro Pastis Bistro Wagon Rouge Bitter Tasting Room Bittered Sling Blacktail Florist Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar Bottleneck Bufala Burdock & Co. Butter On The Endive Cadeaux Bakery Café Medina Caffè Artigiano Campagnolo Campagnolo ROMA Cannibal Cafe Chambar Chefs’ Table Society of BC Chewies Oyster Bar Chez Christophe Chocolaterie Patisserie  Chicha Chocolate Arts Cibo Trattoria Cinara CinCin Ristorante Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill Commune Cafe Cuchillo Culinary Capers Catering Curious Oyster Catering Co. District Brasserie Diva At The Met Doi Chaang Coffee Co. Earnest Ice Cream East Of Main Cafe Edible Canada El Matador Espana Exile Bistro Farm 2 Fork Farmer’s Apprentice Fish Counter Forage Grain Greenhorn Espresso Bar Hapa Izakaya Hart House Harvest Community Foods Hawksworth Restaurant Heirloom Vegetarian Homer Street Cafe & Bar Irish Heather Joy Road Catering Juice Truck Keefer Bar Krokodile Pear L’Abattoir La Buca La Mezcaleria La Pentola La Quercia La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop Lazy Gourmet Les Amis du Fromage Little District Local Philosophy Catering Lolita’s South Of The Border Cantina Los Cuervos Taqueria & Cantina Lukes General Store Lupo Restaurant Maenam Mamie Taylor’s MARKET by Jean-Georges Matchstick Coffee Roasters Meat & Bread Miku Restaurant Milano Coffee Minami Miradoro Mogiana Coffee Nicli Antica Pizzeria Notturno Nuba Oakwood Canadian Bistro Oyama Sausage Co. Oyster Seafood & Raw Bar Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts (PICA) Pallet Coffee Roasters Parker, The Pat’s Pub & BrewHouse Pidgin Pink Elephant Thai Pizza Fabrika Pizzeria Farina Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn Pourhouse Prado Cafe Railtown Cafe Rain Or Shine Ice Cream Rainier Provisions Re-Up BBQ Red Wagon, The Revolver Coffee Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. Salt Tasting Room Salty Tongue Café Savoury Chef Settlement Building Shameful Tiki Room Shebeen Whisk(e)y House Shelter Sidecut | Four Seasons Whistler Siena Six Acres Spotted Bear Tableau Bar Bistro Tacofino Tapenade Bistro Tavola Terra Breads The Stable House Thierry Thomas Haas Chocolates & Patisserie Timbertrain Coffee Roasters Truffles Fine Foods Two Rivers Specialty Meats Urban Digs Farm Uva Wine Bar Via Tevere Pizzeria Napoletana West Restaurant Wildebeest Wolf In The Fog YEW seafood + bar

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was .

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was .