Well, after months of hearing producer John Lenic rave about it, I finally checked out one of Vancouver’s hottest Italian restaurants last night. Truth is I would have dined at La Quercia sooner, but reservations have been very hard to come by. Fortunately, I was able to snag a table for two last night for a fine-by-me early 5:30 seating. It’s a tiny place with easy to miss signage but we managed to find it – eventually. As did most everyone else who had reservations on the night. By 5:45 p.m., the place was packed.
When it came time to order, we had plenty to choose from. There’s the regular menu and the fresh sheet (that boasts as many items as that regular menu), or one could choose to do Alla Famiglia dining for $40 or $59 which is essentially a homey Italian version of the Chef’s tasting menu. Our waitress informed us that the $40 version is comprised of five courses while the $59 version offers up 11(!) courses and is recommended for a later seating as it takes a good 2-3 hours to complete. Sounded great to me, but I had the feeling my wife wouldn’t be up for a lengthy stay, so I suggested the more manageable $40 option. My wife hemmed and hawed, then informed me she was going to order a la carte as she was steering clear of pasta and like starches (although that didn‘t stop her from “tasting“ my pasta – repeatedly). Since the Alla Famiglia option necessitates the entire table participate, I opted to put together my own little tasting menu comprised of half-portions of three pasta dishes that had caught my eye, two from the regular menu and one from the fresh sheet. Our waitress was more than happy to make it happen.
For her appetizer, my wife had the prosciutto e melone, an Italian standard – but there was nothing standard about this version according to my wife who loved the prosciutto but raved about the atypical melon.
For my first course, Spaghetti al’amatriciana, served with Smoked pork cheek, chillies, and san marzano tomatoes. Simply astounding. The spaghetti was perfectly cooked, just this side of al dente, with a sensationally sweet and smoky sauce. It was so good, I wanted to get up and tell everyone in the restaurant who had yet to order to seriously consider the spaghetti. Fondy sampled it – several times – and couldn’t stop talking about it for the rest of the meal.
My second course was the Agnolotti di Guido – Stuffed pasta, veal, chard, ricotta, and parmigiano. Whereas the spaghetti was bold and intense, the agnolotti were subtle, delicate in their flavoring yet no less delicious. Again, perfectly cooked, the way pasta is supposed to be served (note: those of you who prefer your pasta cooked to a straw-sucking consistency need not apply).
For our mains, Fondy went with the Anatra in due cotture – Duck breast, duck confit salad, red currants. She loved it.
My third course was a wonderful Pappardelle with chicken livers and guanciale that brought us back to pronounced (but not overwhelming) flavors – juicy little livers nestled in a mound of long, toothsome flat pasta.
Excellent all around. In fact, so good I’d even consider taking my notoriously critical Italian mother the next time she’s in town. (
Inspired by my outing, I dashed off an email to my buddy Carl. Two years ago, we dedicated many an outing to finding Vancouver’s best schnitzel. Last year, it was the search for the best hamburger. This year, we kick off Pasta Quest 2009! Makes me sad Marty G. is no longer in town.
Speaking of Martin Gero, I sent him an email the other in response to a comment left on this blog by a fan who had spotted him in Vegas wearing – seriously – a plaid suit! I wrote: “You’ve only been in L.A. a couple of months and you’re already dressing like David Arquette! WTF?!” He wrote back: “ RE: Plaid suit…it was a giant hit. A risk, I thought you’d be proud of. Wore it to the Bored premiere…Ted Danson called it the best suit ever…and I THINK he might have even been serious (cough).” He included a link to the aforementioned fashion statement: http://twitpic.com/hgig3
I dunno. I’m still unconvinced. But far me it for me to judge (as I am the least judgmental person you could ever hope to meet). No, let the public decide.