Although Toronto is not a city without its virtues, the allure of Vancouver is undeniable and I have found that the greatest advocates of the city are Vancouverites themselves.
As a Torontonian, I could not help but feel pangs of jealousy as my West coast-dwelling companions preached about the beauty of living oceanside. Envy-inducing attractions range from summers spent rock climbing, kayaking and exploring the myriad of islands that dot the coast, to winters occupied with traversing the province’s mountainous precipices that are unparalleled to any other ski or snowboard destination in Canada.
Living in a temperate climate, however, comes the risk of a lifestyle dominated by rainy weather and unfortunately, the activities during the majority of my recent stay had to accommodate exactly that. With the rain restricting the number of outdoor activities to be had, the focus of my trip became more foodie than alfresco.
One restaurant of note I had the pleasure of enjoying during my stay was Nicli Antica Pizzeria, which opened in January and is located on the cobbled streets of Vancouver’s historic and picturesque Gastown district.
Nicli is not one to take reservations, so we arrived at the decent hour of 5:30 on a Friday to an already full restaurant and were forced to stand at the bar until a table freed up. Much to the discomfort of my crutches-bearing companion, there was no barside seating – an odd choice given the no reservations policy and thus inevitable throng of waiting diners. This inconvenience was soon forgotten, however, with the appearance of Toronto’s own Mill St. Brewery on the alcohol list—the certified organic beer that miraculously delivers a delicious bite without the bloating.
Once seated, we settled on the Misto Antipasti for one after our helpful server informed us it would be plenty for three. The appetizer did not disappoint; it arrived on a platter carrying a cornucopia of meats, cheeses, and other delights such as figs and roasted peppers. The array of charcuterie and its complements were exquisite both on their own, or in a pairing with the accompanying bread that had the texture and taste of thin, soft pizza crust, a preview for the restaurant’s pièce de résistance to come: the pizza.
Oh, the pizza. Knowing very little about Neapolitan pizza, my education on this very particular culinary art was twofold; I learned both about its history, and then my tastebuds experienced the finished product for themselves, created only according to very rigid standards. By rigid standards, I mean the application of San Marzano tomatoes hailing all the way from the foot of Mount Vesuvius in Naples, the use of authentic “OO” Caputo flour (considered to be the best Italian flour – anywhere) and crust width and thickness standards set by the European Union so specific you’d swear they hired someone just to check the measurements before delivering the final product to your table.
Although I’d be the last person to call myself a pizza connoisseur and regardless of how meticulous the well-respected standards were, it was undeniable that the end product was indeed delizioso. I ordered the pizza Diavola, which offered the scrumptious combination of parmesan, mozzarella, sopressatta, a spicy Italian salami, basil, and chili oil.
At a decent sixteen dollars, it sure beat the hell out of a return plane ticket to Naples to experience this piece of fine Italian dining at its origin. Nicli Antica Pizzeria was a marvelous little taste of Italy that was nearly enough to make me forget about the considerably less marvelous weather.
Nicli Antica Pizzeria
62 East Cordova @ Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia
11:30am to Midnight Daily
PH: 604 669 6985