Thursday, August 12, 2010

Impressions: Marcello Pizzeria & Ristorante

Marcello Pizzeria & Ristorante
1404 Commercial Drive
Vancouver, BC V5L 3X9
(604) 215-7760
(photo by Christa Engelskirch)

Of the several mediocre and overpriced meals I ate on a recent visit to Vancouver, BC (thanks for the crappy recommendations, Chowhounders), the Margherita pizza I ate at Marcello Pizzeria & Ristorante was unquestionably the low point.

(all other photos by Adam Lindsley)

Things started out promising, at least in my head. The building is the lone piece of welcoming architecture on a rather ugly block in dingy east Vancouver, and stands out pretty prominently as a respite from the unchecked seediness around it. The area directly in front of the building was also the only space on a Vancouver sidewalk that didn't assault my nose with a mélange of urine, feces, or garbage.

The wood-burning oven at Marcello's is probably the coolest I've ever seen. Don't ask me to identify the cultural significance of it, whether it's tribal or completely the product of someone's imagination. I just don't know, and neither did our server. Whatever it is, that towering head in whose mouth the burning fire cooks the pies is a sight worth seeing. And probably bowing down to. Note the fire extinguisher placed nearby in case the Pizza God spews flames in anger.

My friend and I started with the Margherita Fresca ($16.95). The "Fresca" indicates that the mozzarella on the pizza is fresh, not aged, which is what is served on their "normal" Margherita. I decided that if the Margherita was good, I would order a second pie, but if not, I wouldn't bother.

Several visual clues made my heart sink right off the bat. The crust wasn't charred, the cornicione (outer crust) was unrisen, and there was no basil at all on the pie. In place of the basil they had sprinkled a mix of dried herbs, and I suppose there could very well have been some dried basil in there, though that's not really the point, is it? I don't know how a pizzeria can call something a Margherita and not include its most basic components.

Biting into this "Margherita" was like chomping down on solid air. There is little to no salt in the crisp, crackerlike crust, little to no salt in the insipid tomato sauce, and no salt whatsoever in the fresh mozzarella added in thick, rubbery dollops across the pizza. Yes, sometimes fresh mozz can be a little on the bland side, but this took bland to a whole new level. It was so utterly devoid of flavor that I swear it actually leeched some of the precious life force from my tastebuds. Only by shaking a blizzard of salt and parmesan onto the slices could I extract any flavor from the wedge-shaped objects I with increasing unwillingness inserted into my mouth.

One flavor did manage to rear it head three or four times, though I wish it hadn't. These rare bites would result in the taste of burnt garlic flooding my mouth, though I don't know if the inclusion of garlic in the sauce was an accident or a conscious decision by the chef. Regardless, those particularly astringent bites made me grasp for my water glass to wash them down away from my tongue as quickly as I was capable.

My dining companion ordered the Ai Quattro Formaggi Gnocchi ($13.95, small), and it was fine. Nicely cheesy without being inundated by sauce, and I enjoyed the shell of crisped-up cheese on the outer layer of the pasta. The problem with this dish was the inclusion of chopped parsley. I despise the flavor of fresh parsley on pasta, and since it was chopped, it was very difficult trying to remove the little slivers from the cheese, making some bites overly bitter. But if you like parsley on your gnocchi, hey, you won't have a problem with this dish.

It was hard extracting pizza recommendations for Vancouver, BC, and now I understand why. Marcello's was far and away the one most suggested, indicating to me that most Vancouverites know little about pizza, simply because they have no frame of reference. A pizzaiolo wishing to craft true, flavorful Neapolitan pizza up there would make a killing. But if Marcello is any indication of the current scene, Vancouver, BC is a pizza wasteland.

OVEN: Wood


  1. Yeah, I've never had especially good pizza in Vancouver. When I saw your request, I thought: gee thee to an izakaya. That shit looks anemic and there's not much worse than the flavor of burnt garlic.

  2. Luckily, I did have some really good food there (Vij's Indian), but no pizza. There's a place called Nicli Antica Pizzeria that's opening up in a few months that's supposedly going to be the first true Neapolitan pizzeria in Vancouver, but I disliked the city so much that I doubt I'll be back anytime soon.

  3. I agree with extramsg---stick to Asian food...and get over to Richmond as well. Vij's is awesome; did you have the lamb popsicles?

  4. Vij's was the only good food I had in Vancouver. If I hadn't eaten there, I would have (rashly) made the statement that there was no good food to be found in Vancouver. I got a lot of really bad recommendations from people on Chowhound. You'd think those people would have some notion of what good food is and isn't, but no.

    As for Vij's, I did not have the lamb popsicles, but I did have some incredible pulled/shredded pork dish that was crazy delicious.

  5. You went to the wrong spots, and in the hot summer the city does smell in various places as it has lots of people living in the city. A dingy block of east Vancouver can have a smell to it that is not easy to shake. Most cities are devoid of population in North America as people live in the suburbs. I have heard Marcello's is awful as well.

    Vancouver is best for its Asian and South Asian food as well as the fresh, local cuisine that uses seafood, produce etc from BC. There are literally hundreds of very good restaurants in the city. You should have gone to Kingyo on Denman, or Burgoo for comfort food on Main Street, Honjin Sushi in yaletown, or Mui Gardens (Malaysian food) for rock salt squid, spicy green beans and curried beef brisket to name a few.

    You also use the word "most vancouverites" when talking about a few comments on "chowhound" - that is a bit of a stretch. Chowhound is not very useful and I have been burned before too. I stick to zagat's and local word of mouth when I arrive at a city, as well as a dash of yelp (which is often not so helpful either) :)

    Vancouver isn't really a pizza city either, people are too healthy I think to make for a good pizza culture - and I don't mean that in a good way. Italy is a long way away from the pacific north west.

    Sorry for the scattered feedback but am writing in pieces while I wait for a plane, good photos and writing in your comments - you need to give the city another chance though.


  6. Hi, Cameron. I agree, I'm not using Chowhounders' advice again!

    I used the phrase "most Vancouverites" because the advice I was given for places to eat all came from people who live there. But you're right, I'm generalizing. That said, Marcello's was also rated Best Pizza by other Vancouver publications, not just comments on Chowhound, so I really do believe that not many Vancouverites have had access to good pizza, which really is a shame.

    Also, pizza doesn't have to be unhealthy (though if all someone has had is crap like Domino's, then that's a different story). Sure, NY-style is probably going to be high-salt content, but Neapolitan pizza is pretty simple: bread, tomatoes, fresh cheese.

    Thanks for checking out the blog, Cameron! I really appreciate the feedback. I do hope to return to Vancouver sometime to try Nicli, whenever that opens. Take care.

  7. If you're heading to Vancouver BC and want some fairly reliable food advice, try for one persons view on good food spots

    and goole 'georgia straight golden plates awards 2009' as 2010 hasn't come out yet. The great thing with the golden plate awards is that the categories are extensive, there's 1st/2nd/3rd so you get mutltiple options for each category and it's all based on reader choice so you get a more realistic response in some ways.

    Hopefully one day you'll have a better experience in Vancouver!

  8. Thanks for the tips. I knew there had to be better options for food in Vancouver. This is a good start!

  9. I have lived in the neighbourhood of Marcello's for about 4 years and have never been there. I don't understand how it's still in business, as everyone I know in the area has also never been there. In my experience, pizza in Vancouver is consumed by the slice on the way home from drinking, or from delivery to feed a crew of helpful movers.

  10. @Amy: That says a lot. I hope the soon-to-be-open Nicli Antica Pizzeria in Gastown is great. And if it is, that people keep it in business.

  11. Marcello's has a sorid history and I don't much about it but about a block away is Lombardo's tucked away some hideous 80's building labelled "El Marcado".

    Lombardo's was the family business until the wife and husband split. The husband opened up Marcello's and rumor has it hid family money to do it during the divorce leaving the wife to raise the kids and I presume struggle..

    Beside all that the pizza at Lombardo's is fantastic and they too have a wood burning pizza oven. I don't know if it's a fronted with a face or not. And like Amy, I have lived in the neighborhood for years and never ever been inside Marcello's.

    Good luck on the pizza hunt.

  12. "The area directly in front of the building was also the only space on a Vancouver sidewalk that didn't assault my nose with a mélange of urine, feces, or garbage."

    That's a shame. Commercial Drive is definitely not for everyone. (thankfully, in my opinion).

  13. @Jill: Thanks for the tip! I will try Lombardo's on my next visit (I wish people had recommended that instead of Marcello).

    As for the stink... Obviously I didn't walk every block of Vancouver, but I did walk around in a lot of different neighborhoods, including Gastown, downtown, Granville Island, Fairview, Richmond, south Granville, and Commercial Drive, and they all smelled like something different. Weird! (Stanley Park smelled all right, though).

    Thanks for checking out the blog!

  14. I lived in New York for 5 years before returning to Vancouver in 2006 and have been appalled at the state of local pizzas ever since (Though to be fair, while I was in New York, I was appalled at the state of local sushi - win some, lose some). At first, even though I was resigned to the fact that I couldn't expect to find a great slice every second block, I just thought I hadn't found the right places. Indeed, deep down inside, that hope still faintly burns and led me to follow the link from Neatorama to this post, hoping you had found some pizza bastion that I had overlooked. Though I've never been to Marcello's, based on your review, it seems par for the course in Vancouver.

    But over time, I came to realize that the restaurateurs were only partly to blame. A large portion of Vancouverites simply have no idea what good pizza is. The above reference to the Georgia Straight Golden Plate awards proves this. The 1st place prize this year and most goes to the abomination that is Flying Wedge, while Panago and Pizza Hut are tied for 3rd. Most people I talk to have no idea what I'm complaining about. Or maybe they'll recommend Nat's New York Pizza. My friends, Nat may in fact be well-travelled, but he's never been to New York. In any group ordering delivery or take-out, invariably someone will invariably insist on ordering a "Bacon Cheeseburger" pizza or something with chicken and barbecue sauce, while my suggestions of a plain cheese has always met with derision. Most by-the-slice places keep their pizzas sitting under tepid light bulbs and no one has ever had the thought of sliding a slice back in the oven for 30 seconds to rejuvenate it.

    That said, I have found a few places to fill my cravings with a tolerable slice. However, even these would only be mediocre or worse in any great pizza city. Expectations for this list should be tempered by the information that I was excited to learn that there was a Papa John's 50 blocks from my house.
    -Amore Pizza - a small place across from the library. Run by an Asian man who is actually who is actually enthusiastic about his pizza and excitedly told me about how he chooses his ingredients. Nothing amazing, and he takes some liberties, using edam and putting oatmeal in the crust. Nevertheless, one of the few places to actually serve the pizza close to hot.
    -Ragazzi Pizza - a pizza truck that just showed up last month at Burrard and Pender, only had one slice so far, but passable and promising.
    -Firewood Cafe on Cambie
    -Uncle Fatih's and Megabite - places locals may rave about, are really only appropriate at 2am while drunk as someone else suggested, and even then, somewhat disappointing.

    I'll take exception to some of your comments, I'll voraciously defend Vancouver as one of the most beautiful and livable cities I've been to (and judging from the date, I think you were here during one the muggiest, smokiest weeks I've experienced in Vancouver), but basically, if you're visiting Vancouver, skip the pizza.

    Though it is an unpalatable character trait of Vancouverites to complain about Vancouver and Vancouverites with sweeping generalizations,as I have just myself done. Basically any Pizza recommendation a Vancouverite gives you should be taken with a grain of salt and a lot of parmesan.

  15. @Anonymous: Thanks for the recommendations! I do think I managed to visit Vancouver during one of its muggier weeks, because there's no way the city could smell that bad year-round and still collect the accolades it does.

    An interesting note about the downtown Vancouver skyline while driving north over the Granville bridge: the city looks almost exactly like the "Limbo" section of the recent Christopher Nolan movie, Inception. Seriously, check it out!

    And thanks for checking out the blog. I do hope to sniff out some good pizza in Vancouver, one day.

  16. You know you were on Laughing Squid, right?

  17. @Jill: Very cool, thanks for the heads-up. The photo's been picked up by a few sites, but I wasn't aware of the Laughing Squid link. Thanks!

  18. Most Vancouver Chowhounders actually state "don't bother with pizza in Vancouver" - it is oft repeated there. Their most common recommendations are izakaya and Chinese food. If you stick to izakaya and Chinese, you will have a much better meal.

    Where else did you eat?

  19. stay. away. from. east. van.

    guaranteed better results

  20. @Anonymous: I got a broad spectrum of recommendations from Vancouverites, kind of a "What's X like in Vancouver?" consensus, e.g. "What's the best Mexican like in Vancouver" (people said La Casita - yuck) or "What's the best pizza in Vancouver?" (Marcello was the overwhelming answer).

    So as you can see, I got bum recommendations.

    The one exception was Vij's, which was amazing. I wish I could have dragged it back into the States with me.

  21. I can how that can happen. Pizza in Vancouver is atrocious. Mexican is even worse. I was taken to the "best" Chinese restaurant in Stockholm not too long was terrible.

    Portland has amazing Pizza. So if you are coming from Portland, stay away from our Pizza. Stay far away from our Mexican. (La Taqueria might be the only exception....but it is a lowly taco joint).

    Chinese and Japanese (especially our izakaya), however, is a different story. Tanuki is good, but the ambiance at a Guu is fun and frenetic.

    I love to eat in Portland...I prefer it over eating here in Vancouver. You guys have this casual farm-to-table thing nailed. And let's not even talk about you food carts....

  22. I think you were looking for the wrong types of food in Vancouver (pizza and Mexican). Vancouver doesn't have much of a Mexican population, and while there is a sizable Italian population in East Van, you're right that the city is just not known for great pizza. The best place I've been to is Zaccary's at 16th and Oak, but they're still not going to get you the traditional pizza you're looking for.

    When in Vancouver, look for dim sum, sushi, or Indian. Check out Go Fish on the seawall for some of the best fish and chips around. Part of finding good food in a city is understanding the city and its people.

  23. @Gabriel: Believe me, I wanted to eat Asian in Vancouver, as I had heard that there's a 33% Asian population there, but my traveling companion never felt like eating it, so I tried to please her by going other places. My loss.

    I thought they might have passable food in other cuisines than just Asian or Indian, which was also a mistake. But remember, these were Vancouverites giving me these recommendations.

    I did have amazing food at Vij's. Thank God for Vij's. Next time I'm in Vancouver (sans this particular traveling companion) I'll be eating nothing but Indian at Vij's and izakaya.

    Thanks for checking out the blog!

  24. Apparently Saskatoon pizza is even worse, by a large margin. Pity them.

  25. The ScoutMagazine website beats Chowhound in Vancouver. The guy who runs it - one of the local papers restaurant reviewers - is fair, funny and smart. He butchered Marcellos in a review a few months ago, and did NOT have many nice things to say about pizza in Vancouver in general.

    The next time you come here, avoid our pizza and you will be OK! The seafood is good too as long as you dont eat it at any of our waterfront restaurants. They are mostly ripoffs for tourists. If you like Chinese, go to Richmond. It is amazing!

  26. The only good pizza here in Vancouver is, and it's in a relatively crappy area (the south end of Chinatown; adjacent to the Radha vegan restaurant & yoga studio located conveniently above the Firehouse, one of our best remaining dive bars). Not exceptional (coming from a New Englander), but not bad at all.

    I'm sorry that you missed Go Fish, Siegel's Bagels (best on the west coast), Bandidas Taqueria (the only good tex-mex; from the people who brought you the only good pizza), Guu ("Japas" bar where the waitstaff is constantly and affectionately shouting), and the Alibi Room (the only good gastropub -- detecting a theme here?).

    Next time.

  27. @Lululime: Aw! If only I had known about that site before my trip. Thanks for the tip, I'll consult it before I return to Vancouver.

    @Alex: See, nobody recommended any of those places to me...which makes me think they're probably pretty good. They're going on the to-try list on my next visit!

  28. @Lululime - I would take Andrew's recommendations on Scout Magazine with a grain of salt. He recommended some real duds in that pizza article.

  29. Paraphrasing a Vancouver food critic, the best pizza in Vancouver is at Pizzeria Prima Strada in Victoria:

  30. @Anonymous: Mmm...the photos on the Prima Strada website look great. And the Mugnaini oven is another good sign. Methinks I must get myself to Victoria.

  31. I'm a vancouverite who moved here from Portland and every night I cry my self to sleep over the lack of decent pizza and mexican food in my new rainy city.

    I've had to learn to make my own pizza to fill this hole, but if I have to get take out then incendio or cambie firewood oven are acceptable. I also like the pizza at Abruzzo cafe, which is a small espresso bar just down the street from Marcello.

    But life is too short for bad pizza, I'm currently looking for work outside of Vancouver so I can move away. The people that love it here can have it.

  32. @Anonymous: Well, we are in the midst of a golden age of pizza, so there's still hope somebody will get on the ball and bring great pizza to Vancouver. Don't give up!

  33. I thought they might have passable food in other cuisines than just Asian or Indian, which was also a mistake.

    Come on, you're writing off a city's entire food scene because you couldn't get a good pizza and you relied on an unreliable website. There are many good restaurants in town, including non-Asian ones, some of which have been mentioned in this thread. Btw, I second the recommendation of Burgoo. It's a wintertime favorite of mine - fondue, hearty stews, biscuits, so good. I understand your frustration on the pizza front, but I wouldn't go somewhere like Mumbai and complain that the people don't know anything about food because I couldn't find a good bagel, nor would I look for authentic poutine in Portland (now THERE'S some Canadian cuisine for your consideration).

  34. @Gabriel: Well, it was a mistake, wasn't it? I asked Vancouverites for recommendations for good food in a variety of cuisines, and they failed me.

    Of course there must be good food outside the restaurants I hit, but the point is that I wasn't directed to them. I was directed to the bad ones.

  35. I'm sorry your stay was so awful. I assure you there is good food to be had in Vancouver, it just takes some digging to find it. I live in Victoria, so I have nothing to recommend, but if you happen to come here, I'll second that Prima Strada makes a damn fine pie.

  36. Sorry to hear you didn't have a good experience eating in Vancouver. Vancouver is definitely a great eating city for certain cuisines (particularly Asian cuisines).

    Chowhound is certainly hit or miss as the Vancouver thread is inundated by tons of posts asking about where to go eat, so it may be that the regulars on the thread who usually have great suggestions may have missed yours. I'm surprised to hear that no one suggested Guu and Go Fish in particular as they are favourite recommendations to visitors on the board.

    I' m curious... which thread did you post on? Did you ask only about pizza and Mexican? Sadly there is a dearth of good options (except for Dona Cata).

    I would recommend giving Vancouver another chance seeing as you didn't get an opportunity to try the main stars of the food scene. It would be like going to Portland and not having food carts or going to a craft brewery!

  37. Adam,

    Before you come to Vancouver next time talk to extraMSG and ask him for my contact info.

    There IS great pizza in BC but it sure ain't in Vancouver. With enough notice I can arrange a road trip.

  38. @twinkienic: Someone sent me an email notifying me of the same thing, that the thread I started on Chow seems to have vanished (if someone can find it, please let me know). In any case, I just asked people what the "best" was in any given cuisine, be it Mexican, Asian, French, pizza, etc. Given the recommendations I got, I do feel as if I didn't get to taste the true Vancouver! (Though Vij's was out of this world.)

    @Arne: I'd love to know where to find great pizza in BC. I've gotten some good recommendations for Victoria, though, so I'd like to take a trip there as soon as possible. Also, the guy opening Nicli Antica in Vancouver seems have the right ideals, but we'll just have to wait and see if the finished product is what I'm hoping it will be.

  39. I thought they might have passable food in other cuisines than just Asian or Indian, which was also a mistake.
    Well, it was a mistake, wasn't it? I asked Vancouverites for recommendations for good food in a variety of cuisines, and they failed me.

    So you thought Vancouver might have good cuisine other than Asian or Indian, but now you think not because you couldn't find good pizza or Mexican and some people on a website gave you bad recommendations. I think that's a bit silly, for the reasons I gave above. It's a matter of knowing what to look for in the city, understanding its population, and researching the strengths and weaknesses of its cuisine beforehand.

    I'm sorry you had a bum culinary adventure in the city, and I hope it will be much better if and when you return. I can't vouch for Chowhound, as I don't use it. But for stellar restaurants that aren't Asian or Indian, Lumiere and C are always near the top of the list. C specializes in local seafood and is run by the same guy who runs Go Fish, IIRC.

  40. @Gabriel: I think you're misunderstanding me. I do believe there's great food to be found in Vancouver other than Vij's, it's just that it was a mistake in this instance to think that I could take the quick recommendations I got on Chowhound and expect them to turn out for the better. I'm anxious to return to Vancouver to try the bevy of restaurants people have recommended to me since this post (the ones you've recommended, too!), primarily the Asian ones.

    But probably not for pizza!

  41. Gotcha. Hope your next visit is a very pleasant and tasty one.

  42. @Gabriel: Me too! Lots more recommendations here to choose from. Plus pizza in Abbotsford and Victoria.

  43. @Gabriel - Agree on C (and to add Blue Water Cafe) as Vancouver does high-end seafood better than Portland. Pass on Lumiere - Portland had much better restaurants in that category.

    One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet is the City of Vancouver's virtual moratorium on the construction of wood-fired pizza ovens. I'm surprised that Nicli Antica is installing one. I hear that that project is delayed due to some City Hall related issues...perhaps the wood-fired oven (required for Neapolitan VPN certification) is at risk.

  44. Too bad your Chowhound post got deleted -- I'd love to know who gave you such lame recommendations. NOBODY who posts regularly on Chowhound would recommend Marcello's.

    But more importantly, it doesn't sound like you did a reasonable amount of homework yourself. Relying on a bunch of people who just like to eat and are volunteering their time to post reccos (even bad ones) is kinda caveat emptor, no?

    I use Chowhound extensively when I travel but I always read backwards to older posts and cross reference with other local blogs etc that I trust.

    Vancouver is not a perfect food city by a long shot, but you shouldn't have to eat bad food here if you pay attention, think for yourself and do a bit of realistic research. Next time, travel with someone who is interested in the food this city does well and you'll have a much better trip. Assuming you come back... and if you don't, your loss.

  45. @grayelf: You're absolutely right. Getting recommendations from Chowhound is usually a sound plan, but it's my fault for not doing more research into the recommendations afterward. I can blame it on the trip being pretty last-minute, but the fact of the matter is, I shouldn't have been so lazy. Lesson learned: follow up!

  46. I read all the YVR posts, daily, and I cannot recall your chowhound post, nor anyone recommending Marcello's. I think it's pretty clear that Vancouver does not have good pizza, it's been discussed ad nauseum on the YVR chowhound forum. That you said: "I got a lot of really bad recommendations from people on Chowhound. You'd think those people would have some notion of what good food is and isn't, but no"...AND..."I disliked the city so much that I doubt I'll be back anytime soon", I really would like to see that elusive post you made! However, blaming chowhound for your eating decisions seems lame though... First and foremost, food is subjective, no? Like grayelf said above, do some homework. Cheers.

  47. @ck1234: Thanks for checking out the blog. Can't explain the disappearance of my CH post. But that thread wasn't the only place from which I read recommendations for Marcello (there are several threads in which it's mentioned). True, I could have and should have read up on these recommendations more on other sites than just CH, but until I actually eat at a place, it doesn't matter how many people pan or praise it (hey, even Pizzeria Bianco, the best pizza I have ever eaten, has negative reviews), it is physically impossible for me to know for sure whether the food's worth my time. So the CH recommendations are the homework, or at least an important part of it. It's the actual eating that reveals whether or not the recommendations were any good.

    As for the "I disliked the city so much..." comment, that really has to do more with being grumpy about the shitty food recommendations than anything else, thus projecting a sour attitude onto my surroundings, although there were other factors that lead to me making that statement. Mainly unmet expectations. I just didn't find it quite as wonderful as some have deemed it. But that's my opinion; it's meaningless to anyone but me.

    Anyway, to summarize, when I visit another city, I have to rely solely on recommendations. In this instance I really didn't have much time to gather a large number of them, and I suffered for it (with the exception of Vij's, which I still crave). Usually Chowhounders come through. This time they didn't.

  48. Honestly, I only checked your blog because I heard what you said about Vancouver & our Chowhounds. I don't recall your post (and I read them all)...and it made me really angry, actually because I never saw your post to begin with...I don't like that you're blaming the board for your bad time in Vancouver.

    I rely on recommendations too, though, I use many boards and then some trial & error, like yourself. I even happen to like YELP because I can see all the photos of a restaurant's food in one place. But, I check ALL sites/blogs and then make my decisions. Sometimes I just don't agree with everyone anyway because food is subjective. I never blame a site or blog for bad recommendations...

    PS: You said this: "As for the stink... Obviously I didn't walk every block of Vancouver, but I did walk around in a lot of different neighborhoods, including Gastown, downtown, Granville Island, Fairview, Richmond, south Granville, and Commercial Drive, and they all smelled like something different. Weird! (Stanley Park smelled all right, though)".

    I have lived here all my life and except for working near the fish plants on Venables in the summer, I have never seen or smelled anything dirty in this city like you said. Any visitor I've ever had here (all from USA) has remarked how "clean" our city is.

  49. @ck1234: I wouldn't take what I say about Vancouver too personally. This blog entry was only my perspective during my one visit, not the definitive Vancouver experience for everyone who visits. Regardless of whether or not you or anyone else has personally smelled it, the city really did smell bad during my visit, and was far from clean, with litter everywhere. My traveling companion can back this up. We both had heard wonderful things about Vancouver and its cleanliness, and the fact of the matter is, on this visit, it didn't deliver on those expectations. I'd have to spend a lot more time there to say Vancouver is definitively anything (although I think "pizza wasteland" is probably pretty accurate, according to the other Vancouverites who have responded to the post).

    Don't let it get to you. It's one guy's opinion, based on my experiencess, and your experiences aren't going to change it.

  50. No worries Adam, I just needed to put my 2 cents in on all your asinine comments you wrote about Chowhound & Vancouver. I'm done.

  51. Hi there, I don't know if anyone recommended Campagnolo to you or not, but it offers just 5 pizzas and other really authentic and well done Italian dishes. I haven't tried every single pizza yet, but I can tell you the ones I have eaten have all been delicious.

    Marcello and Lombardo's are both passable - I wouldn't necessarily call their pizzas horrible - but I have noticed, the bigger the pizza you get, the sloppier and soggier the middle of the pie gets. They're both definitely fork and knife pizzas.

  52. @Debbie: Actually, no, nobody's recommended Capagnolo to me, but I checked out the menu, and it looks promising. It's going on the list for my next trip to Vancouver. Thanks for letting me know about it!

  53. I don't recommend Campagnolo's pies if you are looking for Neapolitan. Great toppings, but the crust is often hard and leathery. Campagnolo is good for other dishes...just not the pizza.

    The only good Neapolitan pie anywhere near Vancouver (and is still north of the 49th) is in Victoria at Pizzeria Primastrada.

  54. Here's the sole reason I am opening
    Nicli Antica Pizzeria: I couldn't find a decent pizza in Vancouver. Antica = Authentic, and I am 100% committed to bringing that to each and every pie. The oven is an Acunto from Naples and I've had people come looking to work at my restaurant just because I've brought it here. The dough mixer is a Pietro Berto from Vicenza which handles the dough so much more gently than a spiral mixer - which provides a much more tender crust. I'm trained in the Napolitan pizza arts, and I am absolutely stoked to bring it to Vancouver. We have awesome food in this city, and the next food group to experience an upgrade is pizza.

    We are still waiting on our building permit which should be granted in approximately 1 - 2 weeks. Then about another 7 weeks of construction to completion. December 2010 - Authentic Neapolitan Pizza hits Vancouver proper.

  55. Two words: Prima Strada. At least for now until we... have Nicli Antica!

  56. @Bill: I'm excited for you. I'll be seeing you when I'm Vancouver again.

  57. 1) Vancouverslop isn't something I would recommend to get recommendations from.

    2) Vancouver has some pretty amazing food. Like one person said we are a very southeast asian/fusion oriented City. Try Kingyo or Guu for fusion Japanese tapas. Or Sushi Hachi which I think beat a meal I had at one of the best restaurants in the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo.
    Sushi Hachi does require reservations. Do NOT go to Tojo's. Their sushi is badly cut and extremely overpriced. Do NOT go to Tojo's.

    3) Marcellos is a regular italian place. It is okay. It is not anything to consider amazing.

    4) Go to Serious Pie in Seattle or Prima Strada in Victoria for amazing pizza.

  58. @Anonymous: Thanks for the recommendations! I did end up having some pretty amazing food in Vancouver at Vij's. Wow. So good. I'm not a huge sushi fan, but fusion Japanese tapas sound great. I'll add it to the list for my return trip.

    Also, for Seattle pizza, you should definitely hit Delancey in Ballard. Best pizza in Washington.

    Thanks for checking out the blog!

  59. Nicli Antica Pizzeria open as of 8 February 2011.

  60. just found this post...hi!

    oh i hate it when people don't enjoy themselves in our great city. you did indeed get a bum rap with marcello, it's the sneakily fancier and ultimately sham exact copycat of lombardo's, which is located in a mini stripmall on commercial drive in a very unassuming location. you have to know about it to find it. the divorced wife owns and runs lombardo's, the staff is warm and friendly and some have been there forever -- you can feel the difference just walking in. sure you're eating in a stripmall but it's the food you're after!

    many different types of pizza styles on commercial drive alone: greek style pizza at sunrise pizza (thick, tons of greasy cheese, crunch crust, doughy points); the dollar slice variety (which on commercial drive, there's probably 8 shops and growing). a place called pizza garden just re-opened and re-branded with a new "neopolitan" style pizza for $2/slice. they have a semblance of a woodburning oven and they use caputo flour. i've had it a few times now and it's got a char with a chewy crust, but a little inconsistent. pretty good though for $2!

    if you prefer neopolitan style pizza you won't like campagnolo's pizza. but it's a fresh and modern italian place to visit in a take-a-chance location.

    i agree with the poster above: tojo's STINKS, it is astonishingly overpriced. toshi's on main and 16th however is very good, fresh, decently priced, japanese owned and operated.

    phnom penh is the other spot i recommend to all visitors. it's a cambodian chinese place in chinatown on e.georgia. best chicken wings perhaps ever (light batter, salty and slightly sweet served with garlic and lime dipping sauce) and the beef on rice with egg is an extreme favourite.

    and i just read about THIS opening up, also just off commercial drive:

    vancouver is definitely known for asian cuisine! i can't say i've ever had good mexican food here except for made by friends. i'd love to find a good spot though. and you must go for dim sum! and even hit the food courts in any richmond (suburb of vancouver) mall -- you'll feel like you're in hongkong.

    also do the person who said "avoid east van" ?? that's ridiculous and close-minded.

    anyhow next time you're headed to vancouver, email me and i can send you lots of recommendations!


    lyndsay ^__^

  61. @lyndsay: Thank you for your lengthy and very informative comment! I'll keep my eye on Pizzeria Barbarella and post something when it opens in March; that photo certainly portends greatness. When I return to Vancouver I'll check back with you for more recommendations (I still crave Vij's).

    Thanks for checking out the blog!

  62. I moved to Vancouver a year ago. My wife and I are dining out on a regular basis. Vancouverites are absolutely convinced that their city has a great food scene, but it does not. Most of the people who are excited about the food scene here have never lived outside of Vancouver or BC and don't know what they are talking about. Of course, Sushi and South-East Asian food is very good. Otherwise there is very little to be found, and both, my wife and I are quite frustrated about that.

    Indian is okay, but cannot compete with what I am used to from Toronto or New York, both of which have a large Indian community. (Vij's is always highly recommended, but one restaurant does not constitute a "scene")

    There is no very good restaurant for Western European food (French, Italian, Spanish,...), and the few ones that are acceptable are often over-prized. However, I have to recommend one Italian place that does not offer pizza, but otherwise very good food: La Quercia. For good Canadian food I find Pair Bistro very good, too. Both of these restaurants are in Kitsilano, and most people don't know about them.

    As for the Pizza, you won't find a good one in Vancouver. Campagnolo is okay, Nook barely passes the test, and the rest is terrible. Nicli Antica is open now, and we will try it out once they will have had their initial run. The only certified Neapolitan Pizza in the whole of Canada is at Libretto's in Toronto, and the Pizza there is absolutely fantastic - on par with the pizza I have eaten in Italy (I am actually from Europe).

  63. I have eaten at Libretto's and it is the best but the new Vancouver Pizza joints are giving it a run. Nicli, Pizza Farina, Campagnolo, Bibo (haven't tried it but heard decent things about the pie) are all top notch. All doing a variation on classic Neapolitan.