Pronto Caffe

Restaurant: Pronto Caffe
Cuisine: Italian/Sandwiches/Pasta/Pizza/Cafe
Last Visited: April 14, 2012
Location: 
Vancouver, BC (Richmond Central)
Address: 
3473 Cambie Street
Transit: SB Cambie St FS w 18 Av
Price Range: 
$10-20

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Food: 3 (based on what I tried)
Service: 3.5
Ambiance: 3.5
Overall: 3
Additional comments:

  • Italian cafe
  • Casual/cozy restaurant
  • Neighbourhood restaurant
  • Salads/Soup/Sandwiches
  • Daily features
  • Affordable
  • Family friendly
  • Coffee/Wine/beer
  • Lunch/Dinner
  • Dine in/Take-out
  • Tuesday-Wednesday: 11am-9pm
  • Thursday-Saturday: 11am-10pm
  • Sunday: 11am-5pm
  • Closed Mondays

**Recommendations: n/a

The location scared me! It’s not because the area is unsafe or anything, but I almost thought it replaced Los Tortas, the delicious little Mexican gourmet sandwich shop a block away. The area is full of small, family owned, mom and pop shops and it’s very neighbourhood friendly. It almost feels like the West End of downtown Vancouver and Pronto reminded me of Nook, but maybe a bit less energetic and even more casual.

There was quite a bit of hype when Pronto Caffe first opened last year and it was mostly due to Vancouver’s sandwich craze, specifically for the porchetta sandwich. From Meat and Bread, Big Lou’s and Pronto Caffe, the love for pork crackling was being rediscovered, or even just introduced for some. Being Asian I kind of grew up with roasted suckling pig and it’s extra crunchy rind, so it wasn’t a huge deal although the Italian version is different in seasoning.

I sat at my favourite spot in any restaurant – the bar (not because I’m an alcoholic, but it’s where all the action happens). It’s a small and cozy restaurant and it’s comfortable for individual or small group dining (2-4 people). The front of the restaurant features an open kitchen where the sandwiches and charcuterie are prepared, but the back kitchen is where the hot dishes are made.

The whole inspiration for Pronto Caffe was based on the pochetta, so I knew I had to order that. The owner is Italian and the chef here is also Italian. He actually came out a couple times and it turns out he just started working there, so the pastas and mains are likely different to what they may have served before. He’s making his own pastas, so unless they kept some old recipes, the menu should be rather new and it changes daily.

The menu was approachable and there’s a small selection of beer and wine. The service was friendly and the food was good from the couple things I tried. I think I was expecting to be a little more impressed though. As a neighbourhood restaurant it’s a good choice because there aren’t any line ups and the prices are affordable. The food also has more effort than what most would make at home on a daily basis. I wouldn’t go out of my way to come back again, but I wouldn’t mind trying more items if I was in the area. It’s a good lunch spot or casual place for dinner, but I wouldn’t call it the full entertainment for the night.

On the table:

Porchetta 3/6 (Good)

  • Slow roasted Italian pork served with lemon mayo and crackling $8
  • For being the signature item I expected more. It’s no Meat and Bread Porchetta Sandwich, but it wasn’t bad either.
  • It just lacked love and the recipe and execution seemed a bit routine. I doubt this is the quality they were serving when they first opened.
  • The bread is baked in house and it tasted like a crusty soft garlic bread, but with no fresh garlic, butter or olive oil, which would have helped enhance flavour.
  • There was a thin spread of house made lemon, herb and black pepper aioli, but I couldn’t taste it at all. I had to ask for a side of it which they were kind enough not to charge for.
  • Alone it was very lemony, but nothing very special so it could use some work.
  • The aioli added to the richness without adding flavour and the pork was rich enough already.
  • Although the sandwich came loaded with pork, the porchetta did sit in a warmer until it was ready to be sliced, so it did get dry.
  • The pork wasn’t completely dry, but it was on the drier side and the cracklings (best part) were crunchy, hard and chewy.
  • The cracklings had also dried out so they weren’t very juicy and just tough.
  • The pork was a bit fattier than most porchetta, but the fat was tender and not chewy.
  • I like when the fat is melt in your mouth creamy and moist, but in this case it was tender, but not creamy or juicy.
  • It’s a bit small, but I think it’s affordable for $8. I liked the bread better here, but the pork, sauce and overall sandwich I prefer at Meat & Bread.

**Gnocchi4/6 (Very good)

  • With Italian sausage, rapini, roasted red pepper and garlic $15
  • This was a daily special.
  • It was a rather small portion, but it ends up being enough for a small to average eater.
  • The gnocchi originally came with fennel sausage ragu, but I swapped it for the Italian sausage, rapini, roasted red pepper and garlic sauce served with the Orechiette (another daily special).
  • The handmade gnocchi was highly recommended and it turns out the Chef was the same one that made the gnocchi at The BiBo I liked so much – see here.
  • It was also the same chef that made the gnocchi for Portobello Ristorante, which was voted “Best in the City” by local paper The Georgia Straight.
  • Personally I think the best I’ve had for gnocchi has been at Federico’s Supper Club or La Quercia, but these were still very good.
  • They were a bit inconsistant in size and they still had no fork ridges, but they weren’t melt in your mouth creamy and tender and still had some chew to them.
  • I couldn’t really taste that potato texture and flavour, but they are good gnocchi, fine for the price, and satisfying in the dish.
  • I did appreciate the long curls of nutty salty cheese, but I do wish there were more fresh herbs tossed on top before serving. Oregano or basil would be better than the sprig of rosemary.

  • It came with a decent amount of Italian sausage and I just wish they were as generous with the house roasted bell peppers.
  • The rapini was also all chopped up and used sparingly, so I wouldn’t object to bigger and longer pieces of that too.
  • The sausage was house made, very fresh and made with a good amount of fat keeping it very juicy.
  • The meat was well seasoned with black pepper and I think thyme, rosemary and some fennel.
  • The sauce seemed like olive oil and browned butter with some chili flakes infused into it and it wasn’t super garlicky, but there was some garlic flavour.
  • It was a good amount of sauce coating the gnocchi and the dish was very flavourful with a nice heat to it, but it wasn’t spicy.
  • There was a bit of “holding back on ingredients”, but I would still order it again.

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Pronto Caffe on Urbanspoon

14 Comments

  • LotusRapper says:

    Mijune said: “It just lacked love and the recipe and execution seemed a bit routine. I doubt this is the quality they were serving when they first opened.”

    Exactly my feelings. Pronto is sort of in my backyard, so you’d think I’d be there often, given Cambie Village’s culinary landscape, right ? Nope. We were some of their first customers in the first weeks/months they opened, and sorry to say, I got no love from them (and vice versa). Maybe first impressions can be the last impressions, because during my first two visits there, service was disorganized (very green staff) and discordant, something that shouldn’t even happen in a small venue like theirs.

    The porchetta originally was sliced, not cut up in cubes like you had. And the 3 or 4 I’ve eaten were always on the dry side, lacking adequate complementary flavours in the dressing. In fact I kept the salt shaker on hand to add flavour to the sandwich, so ’nuff said. Other dishes are ok generally.

    Somehow the place just lacks this intangible, indelible, unquantifiable dose of “TLC”. Maybe for me that’s the ultimate un-appeal more than the food itself. For (much) better sandwiches, I just keep walking down the block ’til I get to Los Tortas ….. 🙂

  • Bow says:

    Tough go, an Italian joint in the heart of the new Chinatown…the prices look good but if the execution isn’t right, like Lotus Rapper says, it’s a one time try…not a repeat. Pronto has to connect with its customers to keep them comin’ back…you don’t have to serve the BEST food but good food at good prices, along with making new customers feeling welcome, as well as recognizing old ones. A neighborhood joint has to belong to the neighborhood. Case in point is
    Trafalgars, Chez Meme, Les Faux Bourgeois, Phom Penh, etc., etc.. supported strongly by locals.

  • KimHo says:

    I have overgrown the porchetta craze long time ago. Nowadays, I get a baguette and stop by a Chinese BBQ shop for a pound of roasted pork. For $10 or $11 total, you can easily make three or four of those sandwiches.

  • Bow says:

    @Kim, some of the best Chinese Roast Pork comes from a little shop on Hastings, just past Nainaimo, at Top Farm Market. I also like the pig at the Sing Yee and I know lottsa people like Master Hung’s.

  • LotusRapper says:

    Hey Kim – and if I were you, I’d set up a little cardboard “pop-up” stand on the corner of Main & Pender, slap them BBQ pork into them mantous from T&T, slather up some Lee Kum Kee gloop, and sell each “Cha Siu San-wich-chie” for $5 (or two-fer-$8.50, with a free fortune cookie to boot). Give her ’til Labour Day and you’re a wealthy man !! 😀

  • KimHo says:

    LR, unless it was somewhere closer to the Downtown Core (Georgia between Granville and Burrard; Robson Street and so on), I don’t think Chinatown will work. Given $5, I could go to Kent’s Kitchen or New Town Bakery for some quick snack. That aside, that might be a good business opportunity. Heck, I am certain it will beat Meat & Bread or Re-Up!

  • LotusRapper says:

    For sure …… Asians can undersell everyone else ! 😀

  • LotusRapper says:

    Oh great, now I got a hankering for Kent’s Kitchen’s 10W-30 oily specials !

  • Linda says:

    haha KimHo, if you were going to sell san-wich-chies (LR lol), don’t forget to add your version of momofoku’s “pork buns”… can totally sell those for $5 a piece too! 🙂

    anytime you don’t have a dessert at a restaurant, i see it as a red flag.. that and the fact that you didn’t order anything to drink either! lol nah, i know this place isn’t somewhere you’d get either but the dishes do look a little less stellar… i wish the there was more selection too but i guess given the space, they don’t really have much for options

  • LotusRapper says:

    @Linda – there’s a Dairy Queen nearby over at Main & 12th (inside joke with Mijune) ………

  • Linda says:

    @LotusRapper – haha her and her dairy queens 🙂

  • Mijune says:

    LOL I will never live up to the DQ thing… that one post will die with me.

    -LR – I agree with your comments on this post… all of you make some good points. LOVE Las Tortas… a lot.

    They do have a new chef here atPronto, so I really hope things start to change. It’s a great spot and good for the neighbourhood and I would consider trying it again if I was in the area…

  • LotusRapper says:

    Sorry about the DQ thing. I won’t mention it again :-O

    Speaking of tortas …….. mmmmm

    http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/14/1675114/restaurant/Mount-Pleasant-Main-Street/Sal-Y-Limon-Vancouver

  • Mijune says:

    @LR – lol no!!!! not at all!! It’s funny!!! I’m the one that DID put a post on it lol.. and yes MMM Tortas!!!!

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