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!!
- 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
|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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!