The East Hastings cousin to Main Street’s Campagnolo takes a more regional Italian focus, zeroing in on the cuisine of Rome (spoiler alert: the original Campagnolo is higher up on this list). “Camp Roma” dishes some fine exemplars of the Eternal City – particularly their Spaghetti Carbonara – but their pizza offerings are in the circular Neapolitan tradition rather than the rectangular pane romano style. Yes, Roman pizzas are made in rectangles, not circles, and its slices are square, not triangular (for evidence of this, visit Sciué on Pender).
Roma makes quality standards like margherita and marinara, but its chili-spiced bianca with provolone and cauliflower stands out as best in show, surpassing even the romana with olive and anchovy as a must-have on account of its unique taste. If they have a salsiccia pizza on special, be sure to pounce on it, remembering well that the restaurant is home to some genuine meat nerds who make their own charcuterie and sausages. Bonus: toasted angel food cake for dessert.
2297 East Hastings | Vancouver, BC | 604-569-0456 | www.campagnoloroma.com
Farina is the closest pizzeria to Scout’s office, so we know it intimately. The room is adorably designed, one of the first ever independent jobs by Craig Stanghetta, who has since done up the looks of several popular establishments around town (eg. Pidgin, Homer St. Cafe, Revolver, Ask For Luigi, etc).
But back to the pizza! The crust is fantastic. Not only does it travel well and maintain core temperature longer than VPN-certified pizzas (at least the few blocks back to our office), it also maintains an ideal thinness. It’s very close to Neapolitan authenticity, even achieving the gently blistered char on the outer edges with their gas-fired oven. Our favourite pizzas here are the quattro formaggi with mozzarella, parmesan, provolone, and ricotta (flecked with basil, natch) and the finocchiona with fennel sausage, provolone, parmesan and peppers. Update: an earlier edit said that PF didn’t have a liquor license. That is, of course, incorrect. Our bad.
915 Main Street | Vancouver, BC | 604-681-9334 | www.pizzeriafarina.com
We’ve been in love with this place since before it was even open. Five years ago, it was just so incredibly exciting to have an Italian restaurant of mentionable calibre open up close to our office on the border of Strathcona (Farina is half a block closer). We were already very familiar with the operators – Tom Doughty, Robert Belcham, Tim Pittman – from their days at Fuel (later Refuel) and well before then at “C” and Nu. We had every reason to be stoked for it…
Like Farina, they make a fennel sausage pizza, but we prefer Campagnolo’s version because it’s simpler, substituting chilies for peppers and therefore not distracting texturally from the sausage. They also do a pie with fresh herbs, ricotta, castelvetrano olives, and basil that knocks our socks off. The oven is gas-fired, but you wouldn’t think it. Bonus: good rear bar area with well-made Italian cocktails and solid but short selection of wines by the glass.
1020 Main Street | Vancouver, BC | 604-484-6018 | www.campagnolorestaurant.ca
Neapolitan brothers Dom and Frank grew up in East Van with the dream of one day opening a pizzeria – yada yada yada. The story of Via Tevere will charm the hell out of pretty much anyone, because it’s real and true and awesome, but the stars of the show here aren’t the people, it’s the gorgeous centrepiece wood-burning oven and the VPN-certified authentic pizzas that it produces.
The pies here kick ass as much as the little mustard yellow Fiat that’s perennially parked out front. Baked at 900 degrees for a little over a minute (never more than 90 seconds), they toe the line of perfection with beautiful crust blisters and a dreamy San Marzano sauce, arriving uncut at the table so as to maintain the integrity and temperature of the centre.
Faves include the prosciutto with fresh arugula and the Napoletana with tomatoes, fior di latte cheese, anchovies, and fresh basil. Bonus: superb, almost always celebratory atmosphere.
1190 Victoria Drive | Vancouver, BC | 604-336-1803 | www.viateverepizzeria.com
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
“Revolutionary” is a strong but fitting term to describe Nicli Antica, the sexy pizzeria that got Vancouverites salivating when Scout first broke the news of its coming back in April, 2010. Up until this point, Vancouver had never enjoyed a pizzeria certified “authentic” by the watchdog Vera Pizza Napoletana association, so it holds a dear spot in our hearts as the one that ramped up this city’s pizza game by a factor of awesome.
There are plenty of pizzas to choose from (including a sweet Bianca with rosemary potatoes and gorgonzola), but our fave is the Capocollo with fior di latte, red onions, capocollo, chili oil and plenty of arugula on top. And don’t miss their classic pasta e fagioli to start – think gigandes white beans, pasta, kale, and grana padano parmesan in a hot tomato and pork broth! Bonus: perfect tiramisu.
62 East Cordova | Vancouver, BC | 604-669-6985 | www.nicli-antica-pizzeria.ca
While I’ve not exactly made my appreciation for Barbarella a secret since its opening in 2011, it’s taken many visits to struggle my way towards this ultimate conclusion: they make the best pizza in Vancouver.
What makes it so is its founding philosophical approach to what is fundamentally a very subtle and personal art. Co-owner and pizzaiolo Terry Deane, who made pretty much every single pizza in the restaurant in its first year, told me at the outset that he wasn’t interested in being enslaved by particular recipes, styles and methods. In other words, he wasn’t wowed by the whole Vera Pizza Napoletana movement. He trusted his own palate and instincts. “I just want to make pizza the way I like it,” he said.
And so he experimented, settling on a sourdough starter that would result in a crust that was a few microns thicker than Neapolitan and just a little bit thinner than the typical New York slice. The edges would still blister thanks to a Ferrari-red monster of a gas over that could blow 900 degrees with ease (the temperature they use during service is in the 890s), and it would maintain a good char taste without flopping after its 75 second (estimate) bake time. The tomatoes would be California plums instead of San Marzano plums, which is to say that they would be sacrilegious to, say, the comically house proud owners of 10th place Bibo. But here’s a little secret: I’ve been working with plum tomatoes since I was a kid, and I can tell you with confidence that the difference is most often completely negligible. I can tell if they’re one or the other when I’m dealing with a pasta sauce, but that’s only if I’m the person making it. In pizza? Never. Especially when it’s in the right hands.
Over the years, that fact has needled me and my attitudes towards culinary “authenticity”. I cling to it in my own kitchen and expect it in others, but in the end I appreciate that it is merely the stuff of fetishism. For what, really, does it matter?
Well, it matters often enough to make it worth contemplation. For instance, consider the proper Roman-style spaghetti carbonara with eggs and guanciale (mmm, pig face). It is infinitely superior to the North American mangiacake version made with bacon, whipping cream, and powdered Parmesan. If the latter tasted better than the former, we’d have a problem, but it never ever is. Indeed, 99 times out of 100, dishes are deemed and celebrated as “authentic” because they require no further tinkering for improvement. I make Parisian-style omelettes (specifically inspired by those at Cafe Deux Magots in Saint-Germain-des-Prés) at home with fines herbes – chervil, tarragon, parsley, chives – because they taste better than any other omelette that I know of. If I were to subtract a herb or add truffle oil or something equally dim, the overall concerted effect of the dish would be lost. It would cease to be – in my mind, at least – “authentic”.
Now, that’s one thing in my kitchen, but does authenticity matter in the restaurant business? I touched on the subject in a story long ago: “Authenticity”, I wrote, “is a loaded word in cooking, a shibboleth that confounds the uninitiated. It is the subjective stuff of myth, respect, pride, and entire days spent suffering fear and doubt over slow braises, crusts and stocks. Insecure cultures are buttressed by it. Organisations are founded to protect it. Restaurants are launched to exhibit it. And with so many cooks trembling with anxiety on account of it (while reaching for it), it’s no end of revealing that the overwhelming majority of diners remain completely unmoved by it.”
It’s true that some people don’t give a shit. For proof of that, walk into a generic pizza chain giant (of the calibre that regularly stuffs cheeseburgers inside the crust) and stare at a random customer munching on a slice for a minute and a half. Behold! Now that is a special kind of apathy!
But I like to think that Scout readers care. You probably wouldn’t have clicked from 10th place to 1st and read this far down if you didn’t (I love you for that, by the way). And if authenticity is a concern, it’s only ever trumped by taste.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. Most pizzerias that are self-celebrated as “authentic” would sooner fold than allow for pineapples on their topping line. “Hawaiian pizzas are the devil,” is the protestation. Ok, I get it, and I agree. Simple ham and little pieces of canned pineapple are hardly exciting, but what if you house-smoke and brown sugar those little babies up and throw in some extra hot capocollo, aged mozzarella and Grana Padano parmesan cheese? They make it at Barbarella, and it’s flippin’ revelatory (bottom right in photo set above). If that pleasure makes me a mangiacake, then I’ll take my licks and deal with it, because to believe that pizza has somehow already been perfected (and should now therefore be left alone) is a leap of faith that I’m not willing to take.
Don’t get me wrong. A “certified” Neapolitan pizza made by a passionate and trained pizzaiolo is the stuff of loud and messy tableside foodgasms, but if that passion and training is maintained and infused with both intuition and confidence (a la Terry Deane), well then…what is certification but mere words on paper? You can’t eat those.
That’s how I’ve always felt about the pies at Barbarella, and that’s why it’s #1 on this list.
We’ve included a reader’s poll on the next page, so click on, pizza lover, and have your say…
Pizzeria Barbarella | 654 East Broadway | Vancouver, BC | 604-210-6111 | www.pizzeriabarbarella.com
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.
You’ve read our findings. Now it’s your turn. Please vote for your favourite Vancouver pizzeria below.
The GOODS from Nicli Antica Pizzeria
Vancouver, BC | Beer and pizza – it’s become a classic Canadian combination. Whether it’s an after game celebration, before class quick bite, or dinner out with friends; beer and pizza is everyone’s ‘go to’ casual meal. It’s become so ubiquitous that most of us take it for granted. Not at Nicli Antica Pizzeria where they continue the century old tradition of creating Neapolitan-style pizzas the proper way – with love, by hand, using the only the best seasonal ingredients.
Coming up in May are three Craft Beer and Pizza Pairing Dinners that may just have you appreciating beer and pizza with a whole new respect. “We are very excited to be partnering with three of BC’s top artisan breweries,” says Nicli owner Bill McCaig. “Like a wine-pairing dinner, it’s a great way to showcase the flavour profiles in the beer and how they complement our pizzas. For these initial dinners we are so pleased to be working with Parallel 49 (May 13), Driftwood (May 20) and Howe Sound (May 27). They demonstrate the same care and attention to beer-making that we do with our pizzas. We think this may be a Vancouver first and if they’re well received, we’ll do more.” Details and tickets after the jump… Read more
The GOODS from Pizzeria Farina
Vancouver, BC | Pizzeria Farina is looking to hire a part-time kitchen helper. A minimum of 1-year restaurant experience is required (student cooks are welcome to apply). The successful applicant will be responsible, presentable and most importantly, passionate about food and cooking. Please apply in person to Pizzeria Farina (915 Main Street, Vancouver) from Tuesday to Sunday at 4pm. See and learn more about the popular pizzeria after the jump… Read more
We’ve invited Pizzeria Farina to join our GOODS section as a recommended local business that is worth checking out. They’re now proud members of Scout, and as such we’ll be posting their news front and center and hosting a page for them on our curated list of independent goodnesses. We’d like to take this chance to thank them for their support of Scout, and for making Vancouver a more delicious place to live!
by Andrew Morrison | To think that I used to bitch about our lack of quality pizza! After the arrival of Campagnolo a couple of years ago, they’ve come in a rush with one popping up after another every few months. First there was Nook, then Tavola, then Nicli, then Bibo, then Campagnolo Roma and, most recently, Verace. Tonight we welcome the opening of Pizzeria Farina on Main, and then put our waiting caps back on for Novo and Pizzeria Barbarella, both of which can’t be that far off now. Think that’s enough? Me neither.
Enter the 40-50 seat Via Tevere Pizzeria Napoletana, which is scheduled to open at some point this Fall in the lovely old building at 1190 Victoria Drive. The new joint is owned by a pair of real deal Neapolitan brothers, Domenic and Giorgio Morra. You might recall that they opened East Van’s Ragazzi in 2003 (serving up hybrid NYC/Neapolitan pies), and doubled down with the Mobile Ragazzi Pizza food truck last year.
“Via Tevere” is the name of the street that their father grew up on in Naples (to this day it remains in the family as a summer retreat). “Our inspiration is a love of all things Neapolitan – the city, the people and most importantly the food,” Domenic says, adding that the menu will feature antipasti and pizzas that will “pay homage to the traditional pizzerias that line the streets of Naples.” All of the ingredients – not to mention the cooking methods and equipment - will be Neapolitan, including the restaurant’s pride and joy, a wood-burning oven.
It seems Vancouver’s “Year of the Pizza” is far from over. No complaints here.
by Andrew Morrison | It seemed like not that long ago I was a serial complainer about the lack of high quality, authentic pizza in Vancouver. Thanks to recent injections by the likes of Nook, Campagnolo and Nicli Antica Pizzeria, the bar has been raised, and I’ll be the last to complain whenever news comes that yet another option is one way.
NOVO Pizzeria & Wine Bar is coming to 2118 Burrard Street, just off West 6th next to Fifth Avenue Cinemas (formerly the Indendio West location). The 88 seater will boast over 2,000 sqft of indoor space with another 34 seats on a south facing patio. As you can see from the photos below, there’s still plenty of work to be done, but we can expect to see it sometime around the start of August.
NOVO will be the first ever restaurant from a pair of long-time East Vancouverites named Carmine Paradiso (best Italian name ever) and Roger Visona. Their dream is to serve up real deal Neapolitan pizza made in a wood-burning oven, just like in their ancestral homeland.
Scott Fitch (ex-Figmint, Feenie’s, Hilton Vancouver) will be in charge of the front of house. He detailed this information in an email this morning:
Staying true to their Italian roots, Carmine and Roger traveled to Los Angeles to train at the North American branch of the Vera Pizza Napoletana (VPN) – an association established by the Italian government to preserve the techniques, tradition and art of Neapolitan pizza making. From there, the two friends spent another six months developing their menu for NOVO – and incorporating the preparation techniques learned at VPN.
The dough for each of NOVO’s Neapolitan pizzas will be made from “00” stone-ground
Caputo – the number one choice of pizzaiolis (pizza makers) in Naples – and then aged 72 hours, a technique that gives the dough an array of complex flavors. Add some fresh, quality ingredients and buon appetito… you have the perfect comfort food.
Along with an expansive wine bar, classic Italian cocktails and rustic pizzas that will be fired up in a 900-degree wood-burning oven – which naturally imparts flavour into every pie – NOVO features a full menu that includes antipasti, salads, panini and a variety of home-style pasta dishes reminiscent of their childhoods (think chicken ravioli soup, gnocchi, Bolognese and fettuccini carbonara).
Sounds pretty sweet. For decor, they’re shooting for an old-world feel with modern, elegant touches, “the kind of place one might come across while strolling a side street in Naples or Rome.” We wish them luck. Break a leg.