by Andrew Morrison | It’s been a few years now since Vancouver’s long overdue pizza renaissance began. If we had to pin a start date to it, it would be December 3rd, 2008, the day that Campagnolo launched on Main Street.
For certain, there were already one or two places to get really good pizza in town (CinCin comes to mind), but Campagnolo signalled the start of what would eventually become a flood. And the torrent brought not only great pies, but also new intel and greater appreciation for the pizza-making process.
We learned, for example, what VPN stood for (Vera Pizza Napoletana – the association that certifies Neapolitan pizza “authenticity”), and we started to understand the flours mixes more and respect the provenance of the tomatoes that put zip in the sauce. We became mozzarella freaks, accepted the fact that good pizza seldom arrives in a box, and basically stuffed our faces happy in the knowledge that we never had to suffer the indignity of shitty pizza for lack of alternatives ever again. Truly, what a delicious difference five years makes! Vancouver is now fluent in Great Pizza, and has left the basic pidgin of Panago et al behind.
Click ahead to view the Top 10 Pizzeria’s In Vancouver and vote for your own #1 pick.
Don’t Argue might be the newest pizzeria in Vancouver, but it’s already so well loved that it’s a no brainer for this list. Their pies have everything going for them. Since Andrew wrote a story about the place just a couple of weeks ago, we’ll just crib from that:
I recently tried out Vancouver’s newest pizzeria, Don’t Argue, on the recommendation of Zulu Report columnist Nic Bragg. The 30 seater (estimate) is located at the very beginning of the Riley Park stretch of Main Street, just a couple of doors down from El Camino’s.
It’s on the stark side of charming in more ways than one. To begin with, they make some very good, uncomplicated pies, tossing the dough discs front and center (as you can see above). They don’t go the authentic Neapolitan VPN route, but it’s pretty close. Diners can expect a firmer-than-VPN crust (no immediate floppery) and a gently acidic tomato sting. If I had to pin them locally, they’re more akin to Pizzeria Farina than anywhere else. They use fiore di latte cheese on their Margherita and the basil is “live” on the line. Pizzas come in small (12″), large (18″), and Calzone, but if you’re just feeling a little peckish or flying solo they always have a few slices at the ready. A very limited but adequate selection of beer and wine makes it easy to choose a tumbler of Red Racer or a Sicilian Nero D’Avola for the win. Dessert is a panna cotta, simple but satisfactory.
There’s nothing to really dislike about the place, save for the first timer’s momentary lack of clarity as to whether or not it’s counter or table service (it’s the former). The prices are fair-ish (their Margherita costs a buck more than at Nicli Antica), and if you’re flummoxed because they don’t have a website or a social media program, tough luck. You’ll have to Tweet your dismay to the echo of their indifference.
The overall design leans a little towards the barren, but not in the modern sense. 1930′s is more like it, a la Norman Rockwell. The jukebox of CDs at the rear of the long room is discordant, but only in its ugliness (the tunes, however, are great). I really dig the seamless train station-style bench seating. Seriously, whoever did the joinery on that one deserves a case of beer.
3240 Main Street | Vancouver, BC | 604) 876-5408
To be honest, we weren’t huge fans of The Bibo when it launched in 2011. The needless braggadocio from the owners (boasting of their “most expensive and distinguished tomatoes” and other “extremely prestigious” ingredients) killed our appetites with unforced hilarity at first. But heritage hubris aside, there’s no denying the fact that they do make some fine wood-fired pizzas – 24 options in all; good enough for them to crack this list at #10.
In addition to the pizzas, they plate some quality pastas, too, like proper, slightly tongue tingling Penne Arrabbiata and a reasonable facsimile of Spaghetti Carbonara (never enough black pepper). Expect Italian wines by the glass and a beer list offering vernacular standards such as Menebrea and Peroni.
The service, sadly, is only ever truly consistent in its frustrating inconsistency. The decor is like the interior of an early 1990′s Lamborghini, which is to say humorously garish, and not at all the best thing about the complete package.
The most delicious thing on offer is their “Marco” pizza with pecorino cheese and ample sausage ($18).
1835 West 4th Avenue | Vancouver, BC | 604-568-6177 | www.thebibo.com
Nook is an easy restaurant to love but a difficult one to find a seat at. Even though they’re consistently packed, there’s no pretension in the air and the staff know what they’re doing, both in the front and back of house. The pizzas are a close approximation of Neapolitan authenticity (using a gas-fired oven), and we’ve never had one that we wouldn’t want to order again. Bonus: tidy drinks list and a charming room designed by Scott Cohen and Stephan Gagnon (see also Les Faux Bourgeois).
781 Denman Street | Vancouver, BC | 604-568-4554 | www.nookrestaurant.ca
Though it takes a far more elevated approach to the dining experience than most Vancouver restaurants (let alone its pizzerias), Robson’s legendary CinCin nevertheless boasts a wood-fired oven and has been churning out great pies since shortly before the Industrial Revolution. Seriously, it earned a place in the top 3 before any of the others on this list were even born.
So grab a seat at the bar, order a glass of 2008 Andrea Oberto Barolo (yes, they sell it by the glass – along with 30 others) and pick a pizza littered either with Calabrian nduja and mozzarella or wild mushrooms and fennel salami. Feasting like this at CinCin is one of the little gifts that Vancouver gives its learned initiates. It might cost more than the others, but treat the extra expenditure as an Ambiance & Service Tax and order another glass.
1154 Robson St. | Vancouver, BC | 604-688-7338 | www.cincin.net
by Claire Lassam | When Brandon Petit and Molly Wizenberg were playing with recipes before opening Delancey’s (their Seattle pizza restaurant), they tried tricking their home oven into getting hotter by putting cold wet rags on its thermometer. The pair did eventually get the temperature close to 900F, where the “Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana” says it needs to be for a proper Neapolitan pizza to blossom. The association also says that in order to be a true pizza it also has to be 35cm in width, cooked in a domed oven, be no more then 1/3 cm thick in the centre, and much more besides.
What I’m saying here, is that it’s virtually impossible to make “true” Neapolitan pizza at home. And if you try the wet rag trick, I am not to be blamed for whatever the effort incurs. It sounds like a terrible idea, no matter the dedication t0 authenticity. But good pizza does takes dedication. It takes skill, and if it goes right, it rewards magically.
My mission for the perfect, authentic slice in Vancouver needed parameters. I wasn’t going to slice shops, even though I love the odd slice. They sit under heat lamps and don’t hold up nicely all alone. That meant I needed to get a full pizza every time. I also only went to five places that aimed for authentic, thin crust pizza, and to make it the most fair I only went for the Margherita – the classic tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil pie (to match the colours of the Italian flag).
I started at Lombardo’s on The Drive, in the heart of what is supposed to be our Little Italy. They’d been around since 1986, I thought, and so must have learned a thing or two. Sadly, the dough was nearly flavourless, and it was way too chewy. The sauce was heavy, and the crust was to0 thick. The mission didn’t start out with a bang… Read more
Rarely do restaurants open on time, but Pizzeria Farina, as promised, opened its doors tonight at 915 Main Street (just off Prior next to The Cobalt). Since it’s just around the corner from our house we made a quick first pass to pick up some pies, which we made short work of in the park. Prices were very reasonable, and I don’t think we waited more than 15 minutes. It was cool seeing them immediately busy, a testament, no doubt, to the mean social media game they play. It’s way too soon to pass full judgment (first night and all), but I think their experimentation with crust paid off. I’ll be going a few more times before I give it a proper write up, either here or in the paper. Suffice it to say that I look forward to comparing it to others (eg. Campagnolo across the street) and attempting to place it in the burgeoning pantheon of Vancouver pizzerias. But there’s plenty of time for that. In any event, it sure is nice having another restaurant open in the hood. Keep ‘em coming!
We’ve invited the new Nicli Antica Pizzeria on East Cordova to join our GOODS section as a recommended local restaurant that is well worth checking out. They’re now proud members of Scout, and as such we’ll be publishing their news front and center and hosting a page for them on our list of independent goodnesses. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their support of Scout, and hope you’ll take this chance to get to know them a little better…
These shots came my way this evening…
The delay is driving me crazy. They’re looking to open within a week or so from what I hear. Never heard of Nicli Antica Pizzeria? Short story: it’s worth knowing about. Long story: I encapsulated a couple weeks ago:
If you’re a pizza wonk like me and have been patiently drooling for months waiting for the opening of Gastown’s Nicli Antica Pizzeria (which aims to be the first certified Neapolitan pizzeria in BC), then you’ll have noticed that their latest target date for opening (mid-December) came and went without any pizza in your mouth. Sigh. The good news is that owner Bill McCaig has hired his key staff, finished the floors, installed the neon signage, had his electrical and plumbing inspected, made an appointment with Intertek to test his Acunto wood-burning oven so that it meets ULC standards and released his menu (read it after the jump). The bad news is that work continues at 62 East Cordova, and we won’t – if all goes according to this new plan – be able to sup at the 40 seater until January (originally, he had hoped for early last summer). Double sigh. Oh well. Patience, right?
Proprietor: Bill McCaig
General Manager: Neil Gillis
Chef: David Tozer
Wine Director: Melanie Gravel
Bar Manager: Lachlan Henningsen
About Nicli Antica Pizzeria
Finally open and properly filling the void in Vancouver’s pizza scene is Nicli Antica Pizzeria. Immediately considered the best pizza in Vancouver by many, owner Bill McCaig’s goal is to transport you to Italy in one bite.