Restaurant: Nicli Antica Pizzeria
Cuisine: Italian/Pizza/Wine Bar
Last visited: July 16, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Gastown/Downtown)
Address: 62 E Cordova St
Transit: Stadium-Chinatown Skytrain
Phone: 604 669 6985
Price Range: $20-30
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Authentic Neapolitan Pizza
- Fresh, high quality ingredients
- Italian imported ingredients
- Some local ingredients
- Very busy/popular
- Local favourite
- Modern & energetic atmosphere
- Moderately priced
- Long waits/lines
- 1+ hr dinner waits on weekends
- Wood fired oven
- Wine/cocktail bar
- Dine in Only
- No Reservations
- 11:30am to Midnight Daily
**Recommendations: Margherita Pizza, Bianca Pizza
Oh Vancouver, how you manage to make everything into a “thing” never seizes to amaze me. Pizza. It’s such a a simple thing, but it does require much technique to perfect one. There is an art, culture and style to pizza making so I don’t want to give it less credit than it deserves. On the other hand I don’t want to make it more of “thing” than it already is. In fact, I’m kind of glad it’s a “thing” because the pizza available before wasn’t anything to brag about, until now.
Nicli Antica Pizzeria has helped escalate the pizza hype, but at least they’re doing it right by offering authentic Neapolitan pizza made with fresh high quality ingredients. Yes, the pizzas are lovely, but are they worth the wait?
I warn you that if you come on a Friday night or weekend, you can expect at least an hour line up unless you come at 5pm, senior time. Personally, I hate line ups. I mean really who likes them? You never go to a restaurant thinking “ohhh I’m so excited for the line up!”, but there’s something about line ups that makes you think you’re missing out if you don’t get into one.
Just make sure you don’t take a first date here unless you know he or she isn’t boring, or you’ll be staring at borderline grungy Gastown for longer than you want. The place is packed so you can’t even sit at the bar and have a drink as you wait for your table. I came prepared and I was lucky to be in the gorgeous company of Darcy and Randall, the gentlemen from Call the Kettle Black, so I was thoroughly entertained.
After trying the pizza here I will say that it’s worth a 30 minute wait, and I think that’s a pretty long time too. I hope that doesn’t come across as diva-ish because god knows I am willing to wait in line and wear pretty elbow pads if I need to fight my way for good food. So just a heads up, if you want to avoid the line, and you’re here just to try the food, then you might want to come for lunch or on a week night.
It’s an open kitchen and the pizzas are hand made and baked in a wood fired oven at the precise temperature of 900ºF. It only takes 90 seconds before these authentic Neapolitan pizzas come out with a blistering tan. Some of the ingredients are precooked and just slightly warmed in the baking process, while others are tossed on after these pizzas come out. Regardless the ingredients are simple, fresh, and good quality, although at times a bit scarce. No, I’m not expecting “to the edges toppings”, but I just don’t want to fight for the best section of the pizza either.
The characteristics of a Neapolitan pizzas include a soft, tender and almost soupy centre and a chewy and crisp crust (not crunchy). It should also have a lot of blackened spots, which is called leoparding, and it should appear on the underside as well. Although I was hoping for more leoparding, the pizza did not disappoint even coming in with high expectations. I do think it could get marginally better, but it is an excellent pizza and I preferred it compared to the ones at The BiBo. I guess some could consider it quite pricey, and it is, but you’re paying for the whole experience. I think it’s expected for the area and ambiance, and justified if you value an authentic Neapolitan pizza with great ingredients, which isn’t easy to find.
**Now here’s an insider tip. But the previous kitchen management consultant at Nicli Anticia Pizzeria has actually parted ways and is now at Verace Pizzeria Napoletana and Enoteca, which is literally a 3 minute drive and a 9 minute walk away from Nicli according to Google. It’s by T &T Supermarket near Tinseltown. There’s rarely a line up, it’s surprisingly a bit pricier, and the atmosphere is more family style, but the pizzas are very similar! Here’s the Follow Me Foodie low down!
Verace Pizzeria Napoletana and Enoteca VS Nicli Antica Pizzeria
Nicli Antica Pizzeria
|Gas oven, 900ºF, 90 seconds||Wood fired oven, 900ºF, 90 seconds|
|Higher grade tomato used for Pomodoro sauce||Pomodoro sauce is not as salty|
|Generally pricier||Slightly more affordable|
|Tougher, chewier, thinner crust (natural fermentation)||Better leoparding, dough ferments for longer (better)|
|Larger menu, more options, brunch pizzas||More focused menu|
|Italian imported and local ingredients||Italian imported and local ingredients|
|More family style atmosphere||Energetic and trendier atmosphere|
|More affordable all Italian wine list: Red, white, rose, sparkling||All Italian wine list – Better selection of whites, reds and sparkling wines, 1 rose, cocktails|
|Accepts reservations, occasional line ups||No reservations, long line ups|
|Not VPN (Vera/Real Pizza Napoletana) Certified||VPN (Vera/Real Pizza Napoletana) Certified|
**I went to Verace the day after I had Nicli, just so I could make the comparison. Since I had them a day apart I could tell a difference, but otherwise I’m not so sure how sensitive I would have been given a wider gap.
On the table:
- Strawberry puree, rosemary infused gin, Triple Sec and Prosecco $10
- This was very refreshing and summery with bright flavours and the right amount of sweetness. It was quite “girly” though, but I like girly drinks.
- I could have used more rosemary because I couldn’t taste it and wouldn’t know it was in there unless I was told.
- The strawberry was rounded out with a hint of orangey Triple Sec, but it was stronger with strawberry.
- It was more on the sweet side than the piney earthy side and I could have used more aromatics and gin.
- The touch of Prosecco gave it bubbly character and slight zing that brightened up the flavours and opened the palate.
- Vodka, lychee liquer, grapefruit liquer, fresh squeezed grapefruit and lemon juice ad house made bitters $10
- This is one of their most popular drinks, and it was dangerous. It was another “girly” drink, but not as sweet as the special above and better balanced.
- This was almost like a grapefruit version of a mimosa without the bubbly.
- I could barely taste any alcohol although the heat of my cheeks told me it was in there.
- It’s refreshing, bright and summery with nice citrus flavours and fruity notes.
- It was very strong with grapefruit flavour and as sweet as grapefruit juice is with a good tartness to balance it out.
- It had the bitterness to it, which I personally enjoy and appreciate in cocktails. The bitterness was from the grapefruit peel and not from the alcohol which I personally prefer more.
- The lychee was faint and it came at the very end. Usually I’d want more lychee flavour, but anymore lychee and it would be borderline too sweet and almost like a dessert.
- It’s a solid drink which I enjoyed a lot, but it might not be particularly hard to replicate elsewhere.
- Pomodoro, parmigiano, fior di latte, basil $12
- The Margherita is the testament of how good a pizza place really is. It’s the most basic, and that’s also the reason why you order it.
- It’s all about the fresh and high quality ingredients which shows the philosophy of the restaurant. It will speak for the rest of the pizzas, since all the others are essentially based on this one.
- It’s served the authentic Neapolitan way, which is uncut so that the flavours stay in tact.
- The flavour was great, but I just wanted more fior di latte.
- I know the 3 basil leaves is authentic Neapolitan style, but I just want it to be good even if that means jeopardizing its “authenticity”. I love and hate that word.
- The flavours of the basil didn’t spread throughout the pizza and in Italy it would even if it was simply placed in the centre like this one.
- I loved the house made light and mild tomato sauce which was made from a good quality of tomatoes, but it’s not the highest quality San Marzano DOP tomato.
- The pomodoro sauce is a bit sweeter in tomato flavour and not as acidic. *Hint* Verace Pizzeria uses one grade higher tomato quality than Nicli.
- The tomatoes in the pomodoro sauce were roughly pureed and it’s quite a fluid sauce, but not runny or watery.
- I feel like they drained a bit of the water content after the pureeing process, and tossed in some freshly chopped skinless roasted tomatoes at the end to keep the texture and intense flavour of the tomato.
- I could taste the puree of seeds and fresh tomato juice that’s not powdery or pulpy, but clean in flavour.
- The tomato sauce is pure and simple and not very salted at all, but naturally juicy and full flavoured.
- I appreciated the fact that the basil was put on afterward, but again the flavours and aromas of it did not extend beyond the leaves alone.
- A couple more slices of fior di latte would be nice too, and I felt like there was barely any parmigiano and I didn’t get much of its salty, rich and nutty flavours.
- The middle of the pizza is soft and tender, but not wet or soggy. Authentic Neapolitan pizza is actually quite wet in the centre.
- It was foldable, but only in the centre and the crust edge should have been foldable too.
- The crust was nice, thin, and even, and although it could have used more charring and leoparding (spotting), it was great.
- The crust was crisp, puffed, and very chewy, but not tough so it’s not tiresome to chew.
- The chew was actually very enjoyable, but it was still a bit denser and drier than Neapolitan pizzas in Naples.
- It had the perfect texture and almost a slight powderiness to it and I could have used a touch more salt because it didn’t have a particular flavour.
- It was quite plain tasting but it was all in the texture, which I found excellent.
- I expect the leoparding to come up more around the edges than the centre, even with the underside of the crust.
- The leoparding on the bottom was a bit lacking on all of the pizzas, so it didn’t have that charred flavour throughout and I did miss that. It was so close to being perfect.
- It’s a solid pizza, but a drizzle of olive oil which was at the table did the trick to enhance the flavours of everything.
- Pomodoro, parmigiano, fior di latte, prosciutto cotto, artichokes, funghi, black olives, basil $20
- This had the most ingredients, but I actually liked it the least out of three. It didn’t taste bad at all, but it was almost more like an antipasto platter on pizza crust.
- I do love toppings, but I found this one almost overwhelming with them and it was just a bit deconstructed.
- I couldn’t taste any of the cheese or the acidity and sweetness of the tomato sauce and that was overwhelmed by the tanginess of the tender juicy quarters of artichoke hearts.
- The olives were meaty and the mushrooms were Criminis and the prosciutto cotto was almost like ham and not that salty, although shaved paper thin so it had a melt in your mouth tendency.
- The extra ingredients also caused the pizza to get a bit wet and soggy in the centre.
- I find what Nicli is great at is the tomato sauce and crust, so when those components are overwhelmed, it almost loses its “special” factor.
- I did love the freshness, and I probably could have used Kalamatas instead of black olives, just because I do like the salty sharp bite and I found the black olives quite meaty and they fought the prosciutto cotto and mushrooms for the spotlight.
- The prosciutto cotto I was almost eating alone and that kind of defeated the purpose.
- I really missed the flavour of cheese in this pizza.
- Technically the pizza should be foldable if it was “authentic Neapolitan”, but it wasn’t although still very good.
- Extra virgin olive oil, parmigiano, roasted garlic, roasted onion, oregano, gorgonzola $17
- This was may favourite of the night. It had the most flavour built into the pizza and not just on top of the pizza. It was well layered with flavour and everything just flowed in perfect harmony.
- This was creamy, melty, tender and rich, but not heavy or greasy, and I could just really taste the quality of each ingredient.
- It was thin layer of a basic creamy white sauce which wasn’t particularly strong with garlic or herb flavours, but it was good and flavourful.
- I think it was the combination of parmigiano and gorgonzola that did it. The cheese really gave it that punch of saltiness that was lacking from the other pizzas.
- Since the crust is almost unsalted, I did find that the salt had to come from somewhere, which means it should be in the sauce, from the ingredients, or sprinkled on top. Salt is not bad, it enhances flavour.
- I loved the roasted garlic and the roasted onions, but neither were sweet and I wish the garlic was a bit nuttier and saltier and the onions more caramelized and not just oily.
- I actually would have liked some freshly baked and dried oregano on top, because I find oregano one of those herbs that’s better on pizza when it’s dried than fresh, unlike basil.
- I get this is the style of Neapolitan pizza though. I just wanted that oregano flavour to linger longer and lend itself to the other ingredients too.
- Authentically it should be rosemary, but I didn’t mind the oregano.
- It certainly had the most flavour of the pizzas, but it’s also a white sauce pizza which is in a different category than a pomodoro sauce pizza.
- Again, technically the pizza should be foldable if it was “authentic Neapolitan”, but it wasn’t although still very good.
The pizzas are served with rosemary infused olive oil and chili infused olive oil. The rosemary olive oil was beautiful, rich, and woody and I was dipping my fingers in it. The chili oil took about 3 seconds before the spice really kicked in. It’s actually quite spicy and it lingers for a while. I did want the chili oil to be more well rounded and developed rather than just hot, but it did give spice to the pizzas.
- Classic with Marscapone cream and frangelico syrup $9
- A $9 tiramisu is pretty steep, so I was expecting either a lot of Marscapone, a lot of rum, or a combination of both. Or I was expecting “the best tiramisu” of my life. It wasn’t really any of the above, but it was good, just overpriced.
- It was incredibly strong with espresso and frangelico syrup, but more so with the espresso. It was almost to the point of being a bit bitter it was so strong.
- It was very soft and tender and the slice was quite shareable, but not huge.
- I couldn’t really taste the frangelico (hazelnut infused liquer) and it was more espresso flavoured and a bit sweet than anything.
- The layers were very moist and almost wet and I found the lady fingers a bit over soaked, so I couldn’t tell if it was lady fingers or just cake.
- The Marscapone cheese layer was so thinly spread in between the layers of lady fingers that it was almost non-existent, except for the layer on top. I really like tasting that rich creamy Marscapone cheese and I find that’s one of the best parts to tiramisu and I missed that.
- It had little bits of soft chocolate pieces which gave it a little texture, but I probably wouldn’t order it again, although good.
- With warm Okanagan cherries and amaretti $8
- I’m not usually a mousse fan, but when I saw the word “frozen” I was sold. It sounded interesting and unique.
- When it came out I thought it was going to be like a semifreddo, but it wasn’t. It was almost like a “cheat” to a semifreddo.
- It’s chilled, but not cold and it’s not icy either so it’s not as refreshing as something that’s frozen would usually be.
- It was in fact just a block of frozen chocolate mousse and it wasn’t rich, but it would be a bit much for one person because I found it quite sweet.
- It may look like the texture of ice cream, or even a popsicle, but it’s not.
- It’s not dense or hard, but it’s stiff (wow that kind of sounds bad… ) and it’s made with Callebault milk chocolate rather than a dark bittersweet one, so I did miss that richer bittersweet flavour that I prefer.
- The mousse did thaw, and when it thawed it just tasted like plain chocolate mousse.
- It had amaretti crumbs sprinkled around and it added a wonderfully crispy and nutty texture.
- I wish the entire slice of the mousse, or even just the top, was crusted with the amaretti crumbs as I find plain mousse can get a bit boring sometimes.
- The Okanagan cherries were prepared quite naturally. They were juicy and plump, and although I appreciate the use of local ingredients and see the intended West Coast twist, I would have preferred the more sour Amarena cherries for more of a contrast and authentic Italian touch.
- The cherries were cooked in a little bit of alcohol I think, which was cooked out. They were naturally sweet and delicious even alone and almost tasted like jumbo blueberries.
- I just didn’t find this as exciting as the description and a semifreddo would have been more exciting and appropriate.