Verace Pizzeria Napoletana and Enoteca

Restaurant: Verace Pizzeria Napoletana and Enoteca
Cuisine: Italian/Pizza/Wine bar
Last visited: July 16, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Gastown/Downtown)
Address: 189 Keefer Place (In round about next to T&T Supermarket)
Price Range: $10-20, $20-30

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

Food: 4.5
Service: 2
Ambiance: 3
Overall: 4
Additional comments:

  • Authentic Neapolitan pizza
  • Offers sandwiches/salads/calzones
  • Weekend brunch pizzas
  • Previous chef at Nicli
  • Fresh, high quality ingredients
  • Imported Italian ingredients
  • Some local ingredients
  • Organic vegetables
  • Hand made pizza dough
  • Gas fired oven
  • Moderately priced
  • Vegetarian friendly
  • Wine bar
  • Rarely a line up
  • Outdoor seating
  • Accepts reservations
  • Lunch/Dinner/Weekend brunch
  • Mon-Fri 11:30am – 3pm, 5pm-late
  • Sat & Sun – 10:30am – late

**Recommendations: Margherita Pizze, Funghi Pizze

What?! Another Neapolitan pizza place?! This sounds all too familiar and isn’t its biggest competition literally around the corner? Well yes, and no. It is another Neapolitan pizzeria specializing in Vancouver’s “most authentic and best Neapolitan pizza” and its biggest competition Nicli Antica Pizzeria is almost just around the corner. It’s literally a 3 minute drive and 9 minute walk away according to Google. I mentioned this in my Nicli post yesterday so I’m just repeating the facts.

Without being an US Weekly or Gossip Girl column I’m just going to state what I was told. The previous kitchen management consultant at Nicli has ventured off to Verace Pizzeria Napoletana and Enoteca. Yes, that almost means you’re pretty much going to get the same thing. The sous chef is also from The BiBo, so there’s some highly trained pizza staff here and style cross over. There are slight differences in the execution of the dough, oven, and the quality of ingredients, but overall Nicli Pizzeria and Verace Pizzeria are very similar.

I had actually received a private 15% off flyer from Verace to go try it out (it’s actually available to the public for the month of July through their Facebook page), but trust me that wasn’t the bonus or incentive. The incentive was that I had Nicli the day before and wanted to do a comparison. The bonus was that there was no line. Yes! Unlike Nicli, there is no line and they accept reservations. Mind you, the ambiance isn’t as sexy and fun as Nicli, and it’s a bit more family oriented and spacious, but it tries to be posh by still offering a full wine bar and some cocktails.

Since it is slightly outside of Gastown and located next to T & T Supermarket it kind of loses that cool and hip factor, but if you don’t care for atmosphere then you might as well skip the line at Nicli and just come here. As you can see, Verace is not a dive by any means, and it’s actually quite nice and European in style, but it’s just not as energetic and lively as Nicli can tend to feel. One atmosphere is not better than the other, but they’re just different and for different people.

I was actually very surprised that the Verace menu was a couple dollars more expensive and it caught me off guard. It has a larger menu than Nicli and even covers salads, calzones and sandwiches, but the prices don’t sit too well, with me at least. Considering a noticeable amount of people already have a hard time digesting the prices at Nicli, you would think Verace would undercut its competition, which is currently at the top of this “authentic Neapolitan pizza” game. I guess you give and you take, but I wish restaurants would just give more (within reasonable limits of course).

Price is not everything and of course atmosphere and quality of ingredients play a role, but really the differences aren’t enough to justify that much of a price increase. Personally I did like the pizza crust slightly better at Nicli Antica Pizzeria, and the service here isn’t attentive as it feels a bit short staffed, but the differences between the two are marginal. So what are the differences? Well here it is!

Verace Pizzeria Napoletana and Enoteca VS Nicli Antica Pizzeria

Verace Pizzeria Napoletana and Enoteca

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, 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 Nicli the night before and came to Verace the day after, 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.

Real Neapolitan Pizza = Vera Pizza Napoletana Association: The VPN Association is a not for profit association that safeguards and promotes the culture of the real Neapolitan pizza worldwide.  Verace’s owner/operator is VPN trained and certified by VPN, she trained in Naples VPN classroom and worked in one of the oldest pizzeria’s in Napoli’s historic district.” (From the Verace Pizzeria Napoletana and Enoteca website) Verace Pizzeria Napoletana and Enoteca is not VPN certified though.

On the table:

Fig e Rucola 2/6

  • Arugula, roasted figs, Gorgonzola, walnuts and tossed with grana padano, lemon and extra virgin olive oil $12.75
  • I love all the ingredients, but I found this salad really over priced and it was a very “make at home” salad.
  • It was very lightly dressed in olive oil and I could barely taste the lemon, except for a couple bites.

  • The roasted figs tasted like rehydrated dried figs and they were very small and few pieces and I was really hoping for roasted fresh figs especially for the price.
  • It had a decent amount of toasted walnuts and chunks of salty, creamy, rich good quality Gorgonzola, but minimal shreds of grana padano.
  • Overall I didn’t see the value in this salad considering all the ingredients were a bit hard to find under the generous amount of arugula.
  • It also could have used a good amount of sea salt, or just more grana padano, and freshly cracked black pepper.

**Margherita Pizze 4/6

  • Fresh plum tomato sauce, fior di latte mozzarella, grana padano, fresh basil and evoo $14.25
  • It’s the must order pizza if you want to tell what a pizza place can really do since everything is based on this one.
  • The tomatoes used are a grade higher than the ones at Nicli. Would I know this if I wasn’t told? No, probably not. On the other hand the pomodoro sauce tasted significantly different, but I thought it was just do to the salt content.
  • The pomodoro sauce here is noticeably saltier than the one at Nicli.
  • It’s interesting cause the one at Nicli was almost a bit under seasoned for me, but this one was almost too salty that I couldn’t taste the natural flavours of the tomato as much.
  • Since it used a higher quality of tomato I wanted to taste its flavour, but it just tasted salty and perhaps a bit more acidic and tangy rather than slightly sweet like Nicli‘s.
  • The drizzle of olive oil was more generous here and so was the amount of grana padano.
  • Nicli’s Margherita had more fior di latte which is great, but uses less grana padano, so the cheese flavour doesn’t come across as strong, salty or rich as Verace.
  • Since it had more salty cheese, I actually would have preferred the tomato sauce to be especially less salty.
  • Again, just like Nicli, I could use more basil leaves.
  • I get it’s the traditional Neapolitan style to have the 2-3 leaves, but I just want it to taste good and enjoy its flavour in more than 6 bites… and I think there’s room in the price to include 3 more leaves. Or call it a bonus and just include them.

  • The centre of the pizza is supposed to be soft and tender, and it was, but it was also a bit more wet than the ones at Nicli, and even slightly thinner too.
  • It’s not soggy like the crusts at The BiBo tend to be, but it is more wet, or moist (however you want to see it). Note: The sous chef was from The BiBo.
  • I didn’t find the crust as good as Nicli, and mainly because the chew was tougher.
  • I actually enjoyed the chew of the pizza at Nicli, but here it was more of a pull and it did get a bit tiring at times.
  • Also when it cools down it got much tougher compared to the cooled down crusts at Nicli.
  • The dough is naturally fermented here as opposed to Nicli, however that also means it isn’t given as long of a time to rise, which doesn’t allow the flavours to develop as much.
  • The oven is gas fired here as opposed to Nicli‘s wood fired oven. A wood fired oven makes for an authentic Neapolitan style pizza, although I was told the temperature is so high that it will almost achieve the same qualities as a wood fired oven would.

  • The crust was so thin it was almost transparent which is great, but it didn’t have as much leoparding as the Nicli crusts.
  • I could have used more blistering and blackened charred spots, especially around the edges.
  • In a blind taste test would I be able to tell the difference between the wood fired oven and gas oven? I actually don’t think so, but I could tell whose crust was whose based on the texture for sure.
  • For comparisons sake you can see my post for the Margherita Pizze at Nicli Antica Pizzeria here.

**Funghi Pizze4.5/6

  • Porcini cream sauce, roasted cipollini balsamic onions, mixed crimini, portabella, and oyster mushrooms.  Topped with fresh oregano, grana padano and evoo $18.25
  • I found this to be really pricey, but it was very good and I enjoyed it more than the Margherita Pizze. It’s comparing apples to oranges, but I happen to prefer the orange.
  • I thought the cream sauce was just a basic white cream sauce and I had no idea it was infused with porcini. I couldn’t taste that part and for $18.25 I think it deserves a drizzle of truffle oil, which would have been amazing.

  • There was a fair amount of toppings and ingredients, yet it didn’t weigh the pizza down or make it wet. In fact it was less wet than the Margherita, which was surprising since mushrooms retain so much water.
  • I saw the mushrooms and I tasted the criminis, but I could have used more portabella and oyster mushrooms for sure, so that was kind of disappointing since those ingredients are really where the price comes in.
  • It just wasn’t bursting with mushroom flavour, and I want a funghi pizza to be just full of robust, juicy and sweet mushroom flavours.
  • The cipollini onions were crunchy, pickled, and tangy and I liked them on the pizza, but I’m not sure if they should have been more soft.
  • I could taste the salty bites of cheese and I could have used some roasted garlic and even more flavour, but it was still very good and I enjoyed it.

  • Again it had a soft and tender crust, and I’m not sure if the oven is a bit uneven, but the crust had noticeably more of a charred smoky flavour compared to the Margherita.
  • For this Funghi Pizza crust in particular I could have been fooled that it was made in a gas fired oven.
  • The crust was even thinner than the ones at Nicli, and they’re almost transparent which is a good sign.
  • It didn’t rip or have holes either and the sauce never leaked through the crust.
  • It had a good stretchy tear, but was tougher and chewier than the crust at Nicli Pizzeria.

Desserts

I passed on dessert since they were offering similar desserts to what I’ve already tried before. I assumed their tiramisu would be similar to the one at Nicli Antica Pizzeria (here) and the Nutella Pizza perhaps similar to the one at The BiBo (here). As mentioned, two of the chefs at each of the restaurants are now at Verace, so I imagine some cross over in menu items and style. I’m not sure though, and there were a few other dessert options, so maybe I’ll give it a go next time. Instead I headed over to Amato Gelato to continue my Italian theme, see my post soon!

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22 Comments

  • Bow says:

    Pretty expensive salad…an Italian classic is slices of capicollo on a plate and a tossed baby arugula/sliced pears/oil & balsamic dressing on top,that may justify $13. More basil, please…I agree. I think a wood fired oven makes better food but that maybe just a figment of a romantic imagination; I know that charcoal BBQ grilling is much better than a gas BBQ. I like the Funghi pizza, looks good . These authentic pizzas are spare when compared to the Vancouver Greek inspired(Greeks opened many of Vancouver’s first pizza places) “everything and the kitichen sink toppings style”…a now defunct Victoria Greek pizzaria boast a spinch/feta pizza that weighed 9 lbs. It went broke soon after.

  • Erin says:

    Loved the comparison, thanks for doing this! I think I’ve driven past this, but rarely pay attention to anything in this particular area… if only because it’s next to Costco and Tinseltown… and as you mentioned anything beside T&T kinda loses it’s ‘cool factor’. I am downright SHOCKED by these prices, Mijune. Even higher than Nicili, which surprised me too. I think a trip to Italy is in order to get the real deal, for 1/3 of the cost; what do you say? 😉
    I wonder if the restaurant owners read your posts?? Do you ever let them know you’re doing a post on their restaurant?

  • Mijune says:

    @bow – I agree… I would have settled with fresh roasted figs and pears though….capicollo I would consider bonus. The wood-fired oven thing I agree… could be figment of “romantic imagination”… loved that sentence! Yeah BBW is so different.. but here the pizzas cook only 90 second in such a hot oven… difference is minimal.

    @Erin – No problem! I had you guys in mind when I did it! 🙂 Oh and a trip to Naples?! I’m with you!! LOL! I’ve done the Northern part of Italy and Tuscany… so I have yet to try this real deal Neapolitan style pizza!

    This one they knew because they sent me the private 15% off coupon I mentioned in the intro. I’ll never go into a restaurant and say “i’m writing”… that would be… just not my style… but I’ll always state in the intro if they knew, or if I was comp’d, or any biases like that. Gotta stay honest right? Thanks for commenting Erin!!

  • Chris T says:

    Perhaps you should do some price comparisons on the menus before posting, Verace is less expensive on some pizzas and charges marginally more for others. http://www.nicli-antica-pizzeria.ca/menu?Food vs http://www.veracepizzeria.com/dinner.html

    I was at Verace on Friday evening and the pizza’s are much larger than Nicli’s, at least another 1/4 bigger

  • LotusRapper says:

    Great comparison, Mijune !!! Love your back-to-back field surveying for our benefit 😉

    I’ve not been to Nicli, Verace, Bibo or any other new Napolentana pizzerias that have recently mushroomed up (seems to be a new one every other week). Sigh.

    All this discussion about authenticity and tradition reminded me of Heston Blumenthal’s quest for the “perfect pizza”. For the Queen’s sake, man, he’s a Brit !! 😉

    Dough:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uOng2plzZA

    Sauce:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJQn_dzDutg&feature=related

    Toppings:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5E0GP1rkFRM&feature=related

    Now if anyone has about 10-12 hrs to spare to make a margherita pizza …………….

  • Mijune says:

    @Chris T – I did… that’s why I say it’s “generally” pricier… not all their pizzas, but a good amount of them … but they also have a bigger menu and different ingredients. The Margherita was $14.25 here and $12 at Nicli…. it just depends on what you order, but personally I found it pricier that’s all. Whether it’s bigger, I’m not sure, I didn’t bring measuring tape… but I hear you and next time I will pay more attention because there is value in size of pizza as well.

  • BeefChowFun says:

    You sure it’s not Versace Pizza instead of Verace?

  • Mijune says:

    @BeefChowFun – Nope, Versace is the fashion designer… Verace is this pizza place 🙂

  • Linda says:

    lol i love that the margherita pizze has a face!!! lol so cute 🙂

    wow, i actually saw this place being built a couple of weeks back – i’m a bit impressed that the decor is ok considering it was probably built in a couple of weeks! there is one trendy place in that roundabout area – i think the blenz there is uber fancy lol

    wow! the prices here are kind of crazy considering you could probably get something better for a lower price – i’m surprised too considering the area they’re in and that ppl may just go to fresh slice or uncle fatih’s down the block for only $2 a slice! or $1 lol but i’m glad both pizzas were delish!

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – lol I didn’t even notice the face lol!! But yes.. the prices didn’t sit too well.. $60 bucks… not cheap for a regular night and I didn’t order all that much.

  • Gup says:

    I really don’t see how one pizzeria is more expensive than the other. I went to both Nicli and Verace and paid roughly the same. At Nicli we ordered a diavola and margherita, a glass a beer and mineral water, came out to be close to 60 bucks with tip. At Verace I ordered Funghi and Capri with 2 beers and paid 65 bucks with tip. Is one really cheaper than the other when both are using quality ingredients? Honestly I don’t see the fuss. I think both are expensive but then again you expect that in downtown.

  • Mijune says:

    @Gup – yup, they’re both pretty pricey pizzas.. but the ingredients, labour and location do go into it. Personally I just found Verace to be more expensive and for the pizzas I ordered it was more expensive here than at Nicli… I’m looking at it generally. I guess it depends on what you ordered. I just had a bigger bill here. Also they’re are both using quality ingredients but some are higher than others. There’s no “fuss” it’s just an opinion like your comment 🙂 Thank you for sharing your thoughts though.

  • LotusRapper says:

    We went to Verace last night for dinner. Lovely space, felt comfy and relaxed instantly. Sure this ain’t nearly as hip and happening as other nearby pizzerias, but it’s super family-friendly 🙂

    Service was friendly, quick and attentive. I give them 4/5 (if 5 is absolute perfect).

    We had the arugala insalate, the margherita and the quartro stagioni. Crusts were thin but I found them too soggy at the center, esp. the margherita. And the rims were more chewy/rubbery than my preference, perhaps due to the natural fermantation of the dough. The margherita’s only downfall was the scarcity of basil, only 3 leaves. I think 5 or 6 would look nice 🙂 And I really liked the tomatoes, the flavour really came through and I guess my palate leans to the saltier end of the spectrum, I found it just right.

    The quartro stagioni was pretty good but Jr. had most of it and he liked it a lot (anything with ham & pepperoni would do for him). If I were to nitpick, I would have preferred to see more pepperoni and less ham.

    The salad was all for Mrs. LR, since I’m kinda averse to arugula in such heaping amount. She liked it.

    Overall we liked Verace and give them 3.75/5 overall for now. I guess the big appeal for me is the large space, relaxed atmosphere/ambiance and the great service (which I hope is their norm, not exception).

    Now waiting to try all other new pizzerias which I haven’t yet !

  • Mijune says:

    @LR – lol! I love hoe you’re using the scaled correctly!! 5 is perfect! When ppl see 3/6 they think “bad”… but it’s actually good! 6 is like those “must order” things.

    The 3 basil thing is actually the authentic Neapolitan style. I prefer more as well, but because they are paying ode to tradition I can understand and try to let it go.

    The centre is a bit wet, but that’s another authentic thing as well.. although it shouldn’t be wet, but very soft and moist. So moist, not soggy… if that makes sense?

    I agree! Kid-friendly for sure! Being that most these hip pizza places are more for adults, it’s nice to have this option! I’m happy you have a great experience! I can’t wait for you to try Pizzeria Farina now! Well I still prefer Nicli… but all of these 3 choices do a fine job.. marginal differences.

  • Shimaceo says:

    Great review Mijune!

    I haven’t eaten at Nicli and I’ve only eaten at Verace once. The meal I had at Verace consisted of the burrata appetizer (amazing with what seemed to be a lemon oil and/or lemon zest), simple and delicious, then the fig and arugula salad, although a little pricey and sparse ingredients-wise I definitely found the flavor to more than make up for such a simple salad (would order again), and we finished with the Benevento pizza (Fior di latte mozzarella, roasted garlic, and bresaola. Topped with arugula tossed with grana padano and white truffle oil) – talk about “less is more”!- this pizza really made me so happy with it’s flavors, texture, etc.

    The location of Verace is wonderful too as I live in the West End and it’s perfect for a cruiser ride on the Seawall there and back. Oh, one other thing, their liquor prices are almost shockingly better than our usual haunt (which sells delicious pizzas at similar prices).

  • Mijune says:

    @Shimaceo – thank you for the update! I’m really happy they’re still good. Another nice place that’s a bit more casual to check out is Pizzeria Farina and Pizzeria Barbarella.. I have posts on both of those. Pizza is getting to be superb in our city!

  • Gray de lit says:

    Over priced and plain food , very bad service.
    The owner is not a very nice person so don’t try to complain

    I would suggest to stay away!!!!!

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