by Andrew Morrison | Bufala, the new pizzeria from Wildebeest owners Josh Pape and James Iranzad, is now officially open at 5395 West Blvd (Arbutus) at West 38th in Kerrisdale. We broke the news of the 55 seater’s imminence exactly a month ago, so it’s been a quick turnaround (find out more about the build here).
Granted, it wasn’t a big construction job, but I like what they’ve done with the place. The booths and the communal table fit the room nicely, and the wee little kitchen bar is pretty adorable. My favourite thing? The corks piled high against the front window (see the first and last photos in the gallery below). These were collected over time at Gastown’s now shuttered Boneta, where the bartenders used to toss the corks behind a partition every time they opened a bottle of wine (I tossed quite a few myself). There must have been a thousand of them by the time Boneta closed last Christmas. It’s nice that Pape and Iranzad – both long-time regulars at Boneta - were able to save them and put them to decorative use.
Anyway, like a good sport I tried to eat my way through the menu last night with the help of friends and family, but I feel like I hardly made a dent. The feasting was fast and furious, but I took a few staccato notes, the first of which reading as follows: “the crust is really good”
And I mean really, really good. Rather than go the traditional Neapolitan “00″ Caputo flour route, they’re using a mix of bread flour and Pape’s family wheat flour (from Vancouver Island) with a sourdough starter. It’s turned out to be an excellent blend, and despite the comparative low heat/slower baking time of their double decker electric oven (compared to wood-burning ovens and most other electric ovens), the dough still achieves good char-pimpling and retains its heat and structural integrity long enough for a full pie to be enjoyed (ie. it doesn’t flop but can fold, libretto-style, without creasing). The taste is there – subtle, singed, superb - and so is the chew, which is consistent from rim to center. And to have the crust play a different tune, simply anoint it with any of the four different bottled oils provided (ham, parmesan, herb, chili).
As for the sauces, the rosso is made from Italian plum tomatoes (not San Marzanos) and the bianco is straight bechamel spread thinly with a hint of nutmeg. The toppings, mercifully, stay at home in both sauces, which is to say that they don’t slide around like messy, untrustworthy bastards.
And that’s a good thing, as the toppings are really what makes Bufala special. The house smoked ham and pea bianco pizza with truffle oil and taleggio, for example, is absolutely revelatory, on par with the best pies I’ve ever had at my favourite Vancouver pizzeria, Barbarella (It’s already 24 hours later and I’m still thinking about it). The unlikely bedfellow oxtail and kale pizza was also a winner on account of its originality and the punch of its roasted garlic, as was the far more standard (but equally impactful) pesto and ricotta bianco.
In all, there are 11 pizzas to choose from, and nearly all of them will lift your brow. Think bacon and clam, bresaola and horseradish, sausage and Wildebeest’s famous smoked castelvetrano olives, et cetera. Given the kitchen’s background in butchery and charcuterie, and the proximity of the Kerrisdale Farmer’s Market (across the street), every ingredient that makes it onto a pie is either going to be made in-house or vetted, hawk-like, for quality and provenance.
The menu also includes many starters (love that kale Caesar!), sides, and shareables, not mention a full spread of desserts, wines, beers, and cocktails. But it’s the pizzas that’ll make people swoon. The West Side – when it finds this new arrival in its midst – will almost certainly rejoice…
ABOUT PIZZA FABRIKA
Pizza Fabrika, a cozy pizza joint from restaurateur brothers Stephen and Michael Wiese, is a rebel with a good cause. Fabrika is a commonly used European term for “factory” and reflects the setting for this non-conformist pizzeria inspired by a working factory.
The pizza menu comprises of eight high-quality 12-inch pies fashioned using traditional methods, including a yeast-leavened sourdough created via time-honoured kneading techniques. The tomato sauce is a masterpiece made from D.O.P. San Marzano tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil and Kosher salt, and the Fabrika cheese blend is the perfect balance of full fat Canadian Mozzarella and Danish Fontina. The unique pizza offerings feature an array of modern, eclectic toppings such as duck prosciutto with fresh pea shoots; double smoked bacon with crispy pork crackling and house-made crème fraiche; and beer bison meatballs with spicy tomato sauce and roasted red peppers. All of which is complemented with original and tasty sides, salads and rotating dessert jars.
From the bar, guests will find a deliberate list of perfectly paired high-acidity wines from all over the globe and satiating beer options heavily focused on craft products. Wines will also be available in half litre carafes with a rotating local craft beer by the jug. Patrons hankering for a fresh order of their favourite pizza can call in and take out a sizzling 12-inch pie or come in any night of the week to enjoy the bold, energetic, unpretentious dining experience. The 25-seat pizzeria is centered in the bustling heart of the West End just steps from Coal Harbour, making it an ideal local dinner spot or an easy stop off to grab a pizza en route to Stanley Park, English Bay or the couch.
The GOODS from Pizzeria Farina
Vancouver, BC | Passionate about pizza? Pizzeria Farina is looking to hire an experienced Chef de Cuisine/Manager. Applicants must have cooking experience, possess strong leadership skills and most importantly be passionate about food. The Chef de Cuisine will be responsible for the daily operation of the kitchen including ordering, inventory and managing a brigade of wonderful people. Please send your resume to info [at] pizzeriafarina.com. Learn more about the Main St. eatery after the jump… Read more
The GOODS from Nicli Antica Pizzeria
Vancouver, BC | Everyone knows that the Italians are a passionate people – legendary lovers, great artists, superb wine-makers and amazing cooks who insist on only the finest ingredients. They don’t do anything by half measures and throw their heart and soul into the fine art of living well.
Starting Monday, March 3rd, Nicli will give you the opportunity to wine and dine like a true passionale Italian. Nicli is combining its amore of fine vino and Neapolitan pizza in a special three-course prix fixe Pizza Appassionato Menu for Two priced at $45. Each menu includes a shared antipasti, two pizzas and dessert. The Pizza Appassionato Menu is available only Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for either lunch or dinner and it will change weekly to reflect the seasonal availability of ingredients.
If that isn’t enough to set your heart a-flutter, each time a Pizza Appassionato Menu for Two is purchased, one name will be entered into a monthly draw to win a very special bottle of wine. Each month will showcase a different wine and the odds of winning depend solely on how many menus are sold during that month. March’s wine is a very special bottle – Flaccianello delle Pieve 2009 (100 per cent Sangiovese) which retails for $250. The only stipulation is that the wine must be enjoyed with your next meal at Nicli.
Monthly draws will take place at 4pm on the last Friday of the month and winners will be notified within 24 hours. Winners will also be posted to our Facebook page. Details after the jump… Read more
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.
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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