Restaurant: Pronto Caffe
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
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
Food: 3 (based on what I tried)
- Italian cafe
- Casual/cozy restaurant
- Neighbourhood restaurant
- Daily features
- Family friendly
- Dine in/Take-out
- Tuesday-Wednesday: 11am-9pm
- Thursday-Saturday: 11am-10pm
- Sunday: 11am-5pm
- Closed Mondays
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:
- 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.
- 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.