The BiBo

Restaurant: The BiBo
Cuisine: Italian/Pizza
Last visited: April 20, 2011
Location: Vancouver. BC (Kitsilano)
Address: 1835 West 4th Avenue
Price Range: $10-20, 20-30

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 3.5
Service: n/a
Ambiance: 4.5
Overall: 3.5
Additional comments:

  • Italian owned/operated
  • Sicilian/Italian chefs
  • Wood fired brick oven
  • Specializes in pizza
  • Fresh ingredients
  • Some imported Italian ingredients
  • Pasta/pizza only
  • Great for groups
  • Family style
  • All Italian wine list
  • Trendy/lively atmosphere
  • Plays old Italian movies
  • Tues – Sun 11am – 3pm, 6pm-late

**Recommendations: For pastas the Gnocchi with meat ragu (if possible) or Rigatoni Alla Norma. For pizzas the Pancetta & Gorgonzola, Boconne, Boscaiola and for dessert the chocolate pizza.

Sherman (who I have to thank for the photos) and I were invited here for dinner, so we did get to sample a good selection of their menu. I think I ate more carbs than most people eat in a week. At the end I was almost going hysterical because I was so full. Poor Sherman, having to keep up with me can be quite the challenge, but it’s fun!

So who’s the new kid on the block? Well he’s Italian. Definitely Italian. Oh and yes, so is the food! Carlo Lorenzo Bottazzi and Andrea Bini are the owners of The BiBo… and ohhhh I get it! I just realized why it’s called The BiBo! Bottazzi and Bini… I guess BiBo sounds better than BoBi. Anyways I’m totally assuming how it got its name, but it makes sense to me!

With neighbours Trattoria Italian Kitchen and Romer’s Burger Bar it looks like the idea of affordable dining in a trendy and hip atmosphere is a formula for success. Did I ever doubt that equation? No, not really and I’m glad it’s making a statement. But what really is affordable nowadays? Well let’s focus on the area. It’s Kitsilano. So a $10 gourmet burger (at Romer’s) and a $16 pasta (at Trattoria) and now a $20 pizza at The BiBo is considered “affordable”. Mind you, I don’t mind paying for the ambiance and I did like the ambiance here.

The BiBo is pretty stylish with a touch of glam and it caters to a rather uptown crowd. It’s more of a restaurant than a lounge, although the vibe is suitable for either. The sophistication and charm is in the old Italian movies that play on the big projection screen, in the corner and at the bar, but it almost acts as wall decor that plays into the scene.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – Cantina Tollo, Italy , vintage 2006,  Bottle: $38.00 Barbera D’Alba – Piedmont , Italy , vintage 2006-7 , bottle $ 32.00

The food is supposed to be the heart of the restaurant. With imported Italian ingredients, exclusive Italian wine lists, Italian chefs and of course Italian owners, this place doesn’t try to be Italian, it is Italian. On that note, the food could be really different and more subtle than what you’re used to in Metro Vancouver. Italian food has always been popular, but pizza (along with sandwiches, BBQ, and diners) are the “new” trends I see dominating Vancouver.

There’s definitely a focus on simplicity, fresh ingredients and staying true to traditional Italian tastes and recipes, but at times I feel like it got lost in translation. I get that authentic Italian food is simple, I really do. I’ve been to parts of Italy too, but theoretically speaking, I felt like I was paying for the imported ingredients rather than the flavour. I won’t compare it to “authentic” Italian pizza because we’re not in Italy, but I will base it on whether it lives up to what it claims to be. The passion is there, the quality of ingredients are there, but the execution struggles; so I’m not sure if people will appreciate the final product or simply feel it’s overpriced for something that tastes more or less satisfactory.

On the table:

Prosecco Pergolo – Mionetto, Italy Glass: $8.00 Bottle: $35.00

BiBo Tagliere Cold Cuts Platter – 4/6

  • Wooden platter of selected premium italian meats paired with focaccia $18
  • The platter shown was a bit customized with some of chef’s selected Italian cheeses. There is a separate cheese platter for $15.
  • I rarely order meat and cheese platters because it’s something I find I can make at home if I purchase from the right supplier.
  • The 3 types of meat included: a prosciutto that tasted like ham, a prosciutto cotto (Italian cooked ham) and lastly a classic prosciutto crudo, which was buttery, salty and good quality.
  • The 3 types of cheese included: Pecorino, Fontina and Taleggio. It was a good combination with a salty hard Pecorino cheese being my favourite, a mild soft Fontina cheese, and then a gamey medium soft Taleggio goat’s cheese, which I’m not too keen on.
  • The house made Rosemary Focaccia was quite good with lots of freshly baked crispy rosemary on top showcasing its natural flavours. It was thin and quite crispy with a fluffy crust and chewiness. I could have used a drizzle of olive oil though and that would have made it crispier. A sprinkle of salt would be nice, but it wasn’t necessary since the platter was full of salty ingredients.
  • It was served with a variety of olives from Italy which were house marinated in fennel seed, some sweet pickled pearl onions and a fresh caper berry which Sherman wouldn’t know about because I ate it.

Pasta

The pastas are simple with each one paying tribute to a region of Italy or a house hold recipe. I tried a few of their favourites, which are ones I would have ordered anyways. They were decent, but I wanted to see more use of fresh herbs and the flavours didn’t translate as well as the description, which are lengthy like my posts 🙂

BiBo Metteo – 3/6

  • This infamous recipe was invented by a close Italian friend and successful restaurant owner in Barcelona, Spain. Fresh made wide pasta paired with flavorful Italian Porcini mushroom sauce $18
  • The description made it sound like a big deal, but I found it okay and I expected it to be my favourite or the best of the three.
  • There were big pieces of plump stubby Porcini mushroom, but the sauce tasted a bit bland and simple like natural mushroom jus with a hint of cream.
  • There were some dried mushrooms that looked like black beans and it kind of made for a pasty sauce.
  • The noodles were rustic, home made thick pasta skins, but they were overcooked.
  • It was a pretty hearty and meaty vegetarian pasta, but the sauce was flat and the most exciting part were the large porcinis.

**Gnocchi – 3/6 (5/6 for the actual gnocchi)

  • Fresh homemade Gnocchi pasta served with the finest selection of finely chopped meat ragu’ or your choice of pesto or tomato sauce $16
  • The online menu says you can get a choice of sauce, but on the restaurant menu the gnocchi comes standard with pesto. I’d request the meat ragu although I haven’t tried it yet, but the pesto I found underwhelming.
  • 5/6 for the gnocchi and 2/6 for the sauce.
  • The gnocchi were missing the fork ridges, but they were still very traditional in texture and they just melted in your mouth. They were really creamy and reminiscent of ones I had in Tivoli. It was the owner’s mother’s recipe and it tasted like the excellent ones I had from Federico’s Supper Club as well.
  • Upon cooling down they had more of a bite to them, but I like the melt in your mouth super soft and tender quality they had when they were hot.
  • It’s a Ligurian pesto sauce which is the mother of all pesto sauces. It tasted noticeably different than even a good quality Italian pesto you would normally find.
  • It’s made with Lugurian basil leaves imported from Italy, which doesn’t have that slightly minty basil flavour that the leaves have here. I do question how much is used though because it tastes like it’s heavy with spinach and parsley too.
  • It’s naturally oily from the leaves, but it’s mild for a pesto. For the amount of sauce it had, it was actually quite bland and it needed some garlic and more sea salt.
  • I couldn’t taste any use of pine nuts or much Parmesan either so it lacked an overall saltiness and nuttiness.
  • The pesto sauce tastes like an herb puree and it’s almost clean and lemony tasting and I think shavings of Parmesan would have helped too.

**Rigatoni Alla Norma – 4/6

  • An ancient Sicilian recipe, tomato, basil and maccheroni pasta served with grilled eggplant and seasoned salt ricotta cheese. This recipe is a true explosion of Italian flavor $16
  • This was really an explosion of flavour, but the flavour was predominantly tangy and savoury. It was a bold savoury though and some may think it’s too salty, but I didn’t mind it.
  • The thing is, is that I didn’t really love it to start, but it was after trying all three pastas that I realized that this one was the best one. It was actually very good, but it partially could have won by default too.
  • The rigatoni was a dried pasta and it was nice and al dente and the sauce was simple, but stood up to it well.
  • The eggplant flavour did get a bit masked although the pieces were tender and well prepared.
  • It was quite a chunky sauce with some red onions and the acid from the tomatoes came on strong.
  • I wish it was garnished with some fresh chopped basil though.

Pizza

“Our Italian pizza maker has been trained for four years by an extremely experienced and prestigious pizza master in Naples, Italy. Pizza is a masterpiece. It takes an elegant rhythm and skill set to product true Italian pizza. The recipe for the dough used exclusively at The BiBo is a very specific blend of diverse flours. All pizzas are crisp on the outside, soft and tender on the inside and it will melt in your mouth!” – The BiBo

Their description is what I’m basing my thoughts on, so we can scrap the idea of authenticity which can be argued for centuries. Given that “true Italian pizza” (Neapolitan) is supposed to be “soft and tender” in the centre with a crispy edge, I still found these pizzas to be too wet and soupy. They’re made authentically with premium ingredients, but the execution needs some work. The edges weren’t even that crispy and I really think they should pre-bake the crusts.

Nonetheless the pizzas are their specialty and they’re made in an open kitchen in their fire wood brick oven. They’re large and definitely shareable and you can ask for half and half of two kinds of pizzas and prices will vary accordingly. They come intentionally uncut which is how they’re served in Italy so that the flavours stay intact.

The edges were quite thick and fluffy, chewy and a bit tough, and it tasted similar to the focaccia bread from the appetizer. There was some leoparding on the bottom, but it still wasn’t charred enough so it lacked that fire wood flavour and almost flaky crispiness of a bubbly charred bottom.

Margherita Formula One – 3.5/6

  • Tomato DOP, buffalo, mozzarella, basil $22
  • The pizza of all pizzas and you have to love the “Formula One” name, they’re obsessed with that in Italy.
  • It was a really soupy pizza, but the ingredients were top quality.
  • It did melt in your mouth, but even if the crust is meant to be soft, the pizza was wet and a bit soggy – see my pizza intro.
  • The tomato sauce was fresh and transparent to the crust as it should be.
  • The San Marzano DOP tomato is the highest quality of tomato and it was sweeter and robust with tomato flavour compared to the other Italian tomato they used.
  • This may sound a bit “snobby”, but if you’re not into food, you will not see the value in this Margherita Formula One and probably think it tastes like a regular tomato… but if you weren’t into food you probably wouldn’t be on here too…

**Pancetta & Gorgonzola – 4.5/6

  • Tomato, gorgonzola, mozzarella, pancetta, basil $18
  • This was my favourite, but again soupy with the wet crust – see my pizza intro for comments on the crust.
  • The sogginess almost didn’t matter because the toppings were so good though. It was most flavourful of all I tried.
  • The gorgonzola was pungent and bold and not overwhelming.
  • The mozzarella toned it down and together with the salty bite of pancetta, it was a burst of flavour in one delicious bite.

**Boccone – 4/6

  • Tomato, mozzarella, pancetta, spicy salami, provola, eggplant $20
  • This was again soupy, but the ingredients were good and complex enough that the wetness was overlooked.
  • There was a nice tang from the tomatoes, salty bite of pancetta, although not crispy, and tender grilled sweet eggplant.
  • The smoky provola cheese with the mild melt in your mouth mozzarella made for a creamy sauce that stood up to the meats.
  • The salty salami actually packed quite the spicy kick and it was the last thing I could taste.
  • The ingredients were very well layered and complemented each other.
  • For comments on the crust see my intro for the pizza section above.

Vegetarian Boccone – 3/6

  • Tomato, mozzarella, provola, eggplant $20
  • This is a house special vegetarian pizza and the eggplant was stewed in a tomato sauce first.
  • The eggplant was sweeter and the cherry tomatoes brought the acidity, but both were a bit under seasoned so their flavour didn’t reach their full potential.
  • I could taste the natural eggplant flavour here more than on the the Rigatoni Alla Norma though.
  • For comments on the crust see my intro for the pizza section above.

**Boscaiola – 3.5/6

  • Tomato, mozzarella, sausage, champignon mushrooms $20
  • This one was also good, but again soupy, however the sausage gave it nice texture and distracted me from the wetness.
  • The sausage was house made, crumbly, juicy and full of pork flavour with some fennel seeds.
  • I could taste every layer of ingredient and the sausage was the stand out, as it should be in this case.
  • For comments on the crust see my intro for the pizza section above.

Boscaiola with Porcini & White Sauce – 3/6

  • White sauce, mozzarella, sausage, Porcini mushrooms $20
  • I prefer the sausage with the red sauce because the acidity of the tomato played better with the sausage for me.
  • For comments on the crust see my intro for the pizza section above.

Bresaola – 3/6

  • Mozzarella, bresaola, arugula, parmesan flakes $20
  • This is hard for me to say because it was only one slice which was generously topped with lots of salty nutty Parmesan flakes. I’m not sure if the regular size is as generous with it.
  • This crust was actually quite crispy, especially compared to all the others, because it had no tomato sauce and it was bresaola (air dried cured beef) similar to prosciutto.
  • It was nice and savoury with fresh peppery arugula and it wasn’t too dry thanks to the bit of mozzarella underneath.
  • For comments on the crust see my intro for the pizza section above.

Onion & Mushroom – 2/6

  • Vegetarian: onion, mushroom and mozzarella $12-14
  • This one isn’t on the menu, but it’s one of their vegetarian options.
  • It was the sweetest pizza and although the red onions were crunchy, they were actually sweet and had no raw onion bite. They weren’t caramelized yet, but perhaps sweetened with sugar?
  • This pizza didn’t do anything for me and it was one of the non-wet ones, but the crust was still flimsy and oddly a bit tough.
  • For comments on the crust see my intro for the pizza section above.

Tiramisu – 3.5/6

  • The most heavenly Italian dessert. Made of Italian savoiardi biscuits dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of egg yolks, italian mascarpone and flavored with liquor and cocoa $8

  • It was really moist and creamy, but I couldn’t taste the espresso or any Rum. The liquid sank the the bottom so the bottom was wet and soupy.
  • The biscuits were really soaked so it lost a bit of texture and the Mascarpone came a bit unnoticed and it wasn’t as cheesy as I’m used to, but the texture was still great.
  • I wish they used bittersweet dark chocolate cocoa powder on top though because it almost seemed like hot chocolate powder.
  • It was still good and satisfying as a dessert, and I appreciated the fresh fruit garnish, but flavour wise it was mild and toned down.

This photo is a sampler platter. The Chocolate Pizza is on the outside and the Sweet Pizzicotto is in the centre. Portions are normally larger and available individually.

**Chocolate Pizza – 4/6

  • A pizza dough baked and smothered with a rich melted chocolate cream $14
  • This was actually quite delicious. The strawberries looked like tomatoes, it was cute!
  • They should offer it in smaller sizes though because I wouldn’t order it unless I was with 4, since it’s something I’d only want one slice of.
  • Usually when I see chocolate pizzas it’s the crust and then chocolate sauce on top, but this one was executed much better.
  • The crust was actually crispy unlike the savoury pizzas and it was generously filled with Nutella spread and semi melted good quality bittersweet chocolate chips.
  • It was sweet, but not too sweet and it was really good for what it was.
  • The top was drizzled with a watered down chocolate syrup, but I didn’t mind because there was enough chocolate filling going on anyways.

Sweet Pizzicotto – 1.5/6

  • An authentic Italian sandwich dessert made with two layers of baked pizza dough and filled with a creamy yellow custard $15
  • I’ve never tried this before, but it sounded really enticing on the menu.
  • It was a carbohydrate heavy dessert and the description sounded better.
  • The custard wasn’t that sweet and it was either curdled or there was some ricotta in it, but it wasn’t cheesy tasting so I think it was curdled.
  • It was a whole lot of pizza dough with the custard and fresh blueberries in between but it didn’t do anything. I just felt like I was eating lots of pizza dough and only the top layer was crispy and the rest was chewy and tough.
  • Even if the custard wasn’t curdled it still didn’t have a great flavour and I’m not sure why it was brown because it didn’t taste like espresso or chocolate. It might have been a little liquor, but it wasn’t boozy.

I was lucky to get this special chocolate at the end. It looked like Italian Ghirardelli, but it’s actually a famous brand of chocolate originating from Milan, Italy. It’s delicious! It’s creamy soft chocolate and tastes like the inside of a Ferrero Rocher with whole hazelnuts in the top layer. Sherman wouldn’t know about this either because I ate his too.

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22 Comments

  • Bow says:

    In your quest for tasting this menu you ate enuff carbs for a week ! Mebbe the pizza was soupy ‘cos the canned San Marzanos weren’t drained enuff prior to chopping. The traditional Neapolitan pizza is cooking for 90 seconds in a 800 degree firebrick oven. Perhaps, in a very busy restaurant, if the pizza isn’t delivered immediately it could start getting soupy. I see your wine list is getting better and better. The gnocchi looks oversauced…never really tasted pine nuts in a pesto, always made mine w. fresh walnuts for stronger flavour. Beautiful pics too.

  • Sandi says:

    Wow- seems to me the Bibo guys went to extra effort while making your food. They look nothing like the pizza’s that we had! When my family and I went, the pizza’s appeared to be made with little attention to detail – toppings all clumped together, not at all spread evenly. And they were certainly not as generous with the topping when I went. Other than that, I thought it was just ok….service was certainly lacking on the day I went and I had the same soggy middle as everyone else has mentioned. Have to say, Nook is still my favorite…..

  • Linda says:

    wow another restaurant on west 4th! i wish all these places popped up when i was still in school! 🙂

    haha when i first saw the tagliere cold cuts platter i laughed at the sight of the lettuce – really weird idea for a garnish if i do say so and the fact that there’s only ONE caper berry is hilarious! i wonder if sherman ever knew there was one to start with – well if he didn’t before, he definitely knows now! 🙂

    your description of the BiBo metteo reminds me of pasta made with cream of mushroom soup! i find that if ppl make the sauce out of fresh mushrooms, the flavour is always lacking in complexity – dried mushrooms are the answer and i usually make mine like that and then use the constituted water in the sauce for an extra mushroom kick!

    i kinda wishes that all of their pasta was handmade – do you know if any of them are besides the metteo? i know you mentioned that the rigatoni was dried 🙂 the pesto sauce looks so neon green compared to other pestos – i wonder if they used very young basil – i tried doing that once and the flavour just wasn’t there! and pine nut and parmesan flavour is a must! i think i would’ve not liked this sauce either 🙂

    soupy pizzzzza???? =O my mouth was wide open when i read that almost all the pizzas you tried were soupy! i wonder if that’s what the restaurant meant when they said melt in your mouth! but wow – i’m still shocked right now… their tomato sauce probably needs to be a bit thicker and less oily or the crust needs to be a bit thicker – hopefully they change the recipe a bit even though the ingredients were uber fresh!

  • Mijune says:

    @Bow – Oh see that’s interesting… I love playing with the kind of nuts in a pesto.. but when I tell Italians then that… well some of them.. they hate it! For them you can’t mess with the pine nuts…. I just wish they weren’t so expensive!! I made a Middle Eastern pesto with walnuts and cardamom before 🙂

    @Sandi – Hi Sandi! Yes the pizzas we had were customized so we could sample more of them. Kind of sad that they don’t normally come with as many toppings as you say though… I wish I could see a photo of yours for comparisons sake… again I need to order on a regular night to test again. I’m sorry to hear that yours were not satisfying. Yeah apparently the soggy middle is how authentic Neapolitan pizza is… but I still found it to wet like you. I will have to try The Nook! Thank you for commenting and for your recommendation.

    @Linda – I think there were some dried mushrooms in there actually, but not enough and still lacked complexity.

    Nope they use dry pastas, but I don’t mind because dry pastas work well with rigatoni and the sauce. Also I don’t think they’re “high end” enough to hand make pasta. I can see your concern though 🙂

    Yup! You have to read my intro in the pizza section.. when they said “melt in your mouth” they did mean “soupy”… in a way at least… that’s what I meant by I’m not sure how this will fly with Vancouver tastes. The tomato sauce is supposed to be really thing so that you can see the crust though.. at least that’s how it is in in Italy… yeah that was my whole argument in this post though… I just don’t know if Vancouver will “get it” or “appreciate it” even if it’s “authentic”… argh that word is so haunting lol

    thanks for your awesome comments linda!

  • Bow says:

    Mijune, Lombardo’s still makes a great thin crust, tomato and basil pizza(go at lunch, it may be on special 1/2 price) and the slice of tomato/basil pizza at Whole Foods is quite good. Ragazzi makes a Magherita oringinale and others.Than there’s the afore mentioned Nook and the recent Nicli Antica. Canadian flour has a higher gluten content than Italian, might explain the burnt crust,
    Ps. Don’t forget the Steveston Pizza Co. although it’s not traditional.

  • Carly says:

    The pizzas catch my eye. I loved the pizza’s in Italy because they were simply complex. By this I mean they seemed to use a limited number of ingredients, but of the ingredients they use there is extreme diversity. Who knew how many types of “ham” or cheeses or mushrooms there could be!??!

    I look forward to trying this Tiramisu. Tiramisu was our wedding “cake”, so it holds a special place in my heart and I seem to try them all over!

  • Mijune says:

    @bow – I really like Steveston Pizza! I also love the pizza at Campagnolo! Yummy!! Yhanks for the Ragazzi and Lombardo’s rec! Didn’t know about the 1/2 price deal!

    @Carly – awww how cute!!! love Tiramisu as well! Where are some of your favourites for it in the city? yes the ingredients here are incredibly fresh which is great!

  • TimeToChow says:

    Mijune,

    I envy your the char and underskirt pic. Mine looks nothing like that,
    https://picasaweb.google.com/timetochow/BiboAndHapaUmi#5601924013028014306

    I prefer the topping at Bibo but fine the pizza crust/shell a tad better at Nicli. Hope to return to both soon to get a better sampling. There’s also T. Deane’s Barberella soon to be opened.

    Nice to have the option to the dollar(buck-fifty now) pizza. There is no doubt you can taste the difference.

  • Mijune says:

    TimeToChow – yikes! Your crust is white and it looks thick! i don’t think we got any “special treatment” because they have precise cooking time for all their pizzas… did you go when it first opened? It may have changed again? If you go again before I do can you please take another photo of the crust for comparisons sake… if it’s white.. i’ll be really disappointed. Thanks for including the link to your photo!

  • TimeToChow says:

    *find (sp?)

    I like the pizza a Bibo enough to return. I get the big picture of it being busy and them being new. Of course will take a pic. I think generally the initial reports are that Bibo=Soggy(soupy) crust. Again this may be a personal preference thing. Some prefer to fold the neopolitan pizza and eat it.
    The flavor profile of the ingredients are better than most pizza in town at the moment, hence worthy to be checked out. Though $$$ being a concern for many, some may be concern about the price point.

  • Mijune says:

    @TimeToChow – RE: find… did i spell something wrong? I agree with your points and am curious how your second visit will compare. Thank you for sharing as always.

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