‘Livia’ Nearing Launch on The Drive

Livia is coming along nicely in the old All Basha space at 1399 Commercial Drive. I took a look inside the corner space yesterday and was not a little shocked by the extent of the transformation…

And it’s not just the interior that has significantly changed. Owners Claire Livia and Jordan Pires have tweaked the concept some and even shuffled the staff deck. But first, for some background — here’s what we published about the upcoming new bakery and restaurant back in October:

The address – located on the northwest corner of The Drive and Kitchener St. – had already been pretty well gutted when Claire and Jordan showed me around yesterday afternoon. Save for an Coke fridge and multi-coloured paint job, little remains of the Middle Eastern restaurant and the little bakery (Elizabeth’s) that it once shared the address with. It’s as hard to remember the appearance of the no frills, quick-service shawarma joint as it is to imagine how a finished Livia might look.

When it’s done the 1,400 sqft space will have 40 seats inside and another dozen on the covered sidewalk patio. It sounds like they’re aiming to operate as a bakery/cafe in the daytime and then transforming into a relaxed, eastern Mediterranean bistro/trattoria in the evenings. That means they’ll be looking to convert the daytime take-out counter into a bar at night, which is to say a liquor license is definitely in the works.

They’ll have an espresso program, naturally, but I’m most excited about the food. Livia is a fantastic baker — a known entity in industry circles (full disclosure: we were proud to have her as a Scout contributor several years ago). She makes dreamy brioche, baguettes, challah, focaccia, cookies, cinnamon buns, cakes and macarons. She also supplies restaurants. (If you’ve ever had a burger or a chicken sandwich at Downlow, then you’re familiar with her awesomeness.) If you were unable to sample her baking at this past summer’s farmers markets, you can find her at the West End market tomorrow (Oct. 20) — it’s her last market of the season.

To develop the bistro/trattoria menu, Claire and Jordan have hired chef Deniz Tarakcioglu, who you might recognize from his many years of service in the kitchen at Cafe Medina. I haven’t asked for much in the way of detail on the food front yet. As you can see from the images below, it’s early days yet.

Early days indeed. Claire explained that since our first conversations they’ve decided to bring the food program much closer to her Italian heritage, and to that end they’ve amicably parted ways with consulting chef Deniz Tarakcioglu. Now filling that role is talented perfectionist Letitia Wan (long of Ask For Luigi, lately of Di Beppe, and recently spotted making fresh pasta at La Tana). I’m told we can expect things like soft polenta with roasted mushrooms and poached eggs; saffron croissants with lemon curd, orange blossom and pistachios; Roman crostini loaded with fresh mozzarella, anchovies and parsley; panzanella with radiccio, delicata squash and hazelnuts; and so on. It all sounds adequately nonna-like and delicious.

They aren’t far away now, as the photos below attest. Again, the transformation is a jaw-dropper. Check out the mosaic floors, a curving counter bar, cozy banquette, bent wood chairs (with matching wicker-seated highchair) and a floral installation by East Van’s own Rogue Florist. It’s looking beautiful in there, and I expect it will look (and smell) even better once all the stools are in and they have their shelves loaded with freshly baked bread. They’ve passed their health inspection and are on track for a soft launch at some point next week, possibly as soon as January 8th. Keep in mind that they’re starting as a day-only operation without a liquor license. They’re aiming to expand hours into evenings soon after they get the green light to pour.

Take a look inside…

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