A week after the Gastown Food Tour with Taste Vancouver, I’m up for another flavorful fling. This time it’s Taste Vancouver’s Little Italy food tour. I exchange BC Travel Writers for my husband and fourteen visitors and locals…a Californian couple off a cruise ship, a couple from Maple Ridge, a couple from the North Shore, a family from Coquitlam, and a mother/daughter celebrating a fifteenth birthday with a Selena- Gomez concert, shopping and…Taste.
Situated at the northern end of Commercial Drive (affectionately known as THE DRIVE), Little Italy got its name when post-World-War-Two Italian emigrants brought their gardens to what was turn-of-the-century Edwardian and Victorian properties. Earlier homes housed Canadian Pacific rail workers. The Italian influence was strong from the 1940s to 1970s. We discover a buonjourno 2016 influence.
Our tour begins at Fratelli Bakery which has been on THE DRIVE since 1997, and since 2013 has a twin bakery in New Westminster. We know it’s too soon for dessert, but we look longingly through the window at the cakes, flans, pies, pastries, squares, breads, cookies, biscotti…they even do weddings!
‘We’ll be back,’ says our guide, Nikolai, as we appetize our way to La Grotta del Formaggio (cheese cave) for a Panini with pesto, olives, artichokes and …cheese (with a meat option). Thank goodness for high end delis like this one that furnish Metro Vancouver with Mediterranean foods.
Falconetti’s Italian sausages are made on site (no preservatives or fillers) and served in a matchingly curvaceous bun. We’ll dream about that one while we sit ‘n’ sip sangria with peaches, grapes and pineapple. This east side grill serves dinner (small/medium/large plates with famous fries) & drinks, with a variety of entertainment.
Caffe Roma & Lounge does dinner, drinks and has multiple screens for sporting events. We twirl multiple strands of spaghetti in a luscious tomato sauce.
Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria uses low-gluten (and highly- digestible) flour with sweet orange-red tomatoes from the ashen banks of Mount Vesuvius. Their whole-milk mozzarella and romano cheeses provide the white; basil the green of the tri-colored nationalistic statement. What’s good for Queen Margherita is pizza-perfect for us.
‘Roll it up to keep all the ingredients inside,’ suggests our server.
Santa Barbara Market is an independent deli and grocery. Our samplers include a port wine-veined Derby, Charnwood smoked cheddar sprinkled with paprika, and an aged gouda. Cool grapes and smooth prosciutto (low on salt and long on aging) make a specialty pairing with produce, meat and cheese.
Gelateria Dolce Amore has a fourth-generation family saying: ‘La gioa di ben essere’ (the joy of well-being) and their homemade pies, cakes, and creamy café gelato (among many flavours) bring it on. If you’re bound for Brooklyn, try their sister store.
Continental Café, with a Main Street arm, jives your high-quality java for a fair price in a comfortable setting. Like many stores on THE DRIVE, they are independently owned and pride themselves on quality of service.
Okay, we’ve come full circle to the Fratelli Bakery whose recipes are original award-winners. We’ve got a Cannoli pastry slider with its creamy ricotta, cream cheese and mascarpone filling. This completes our Little Italy food tour with Taste Vancouver. We backtrack to fill our packsacks, then pack it back to the North Shore where the next Taste Vancouver extravaganza may soon materialize!