Continuing up the coast of the Pacific Northwest, beyond Portland, beyond Seattle, even beyond the U.S./Canada border, I found myself entering the beautiful city of Vancouver for the very first time. In the passenger seat, my beautiful girlfriend was navigating us through Gastown - the oldest part of town and original settlement of what was to become Vancouver - to a destination she would not reveal.
Lo and behold, she brought me to the only VPN-certified Neapolitan pizzeria in Vancouver, the well-regarded Nicli Antica Pizzeria. Nestled inside an old stable-turned jail for the city, Nicli owner-founder Bill McCaig did a magnificent job preserving the historical integrity of the building while simultaneously reinventing the space.
I really love the juxtaposition of the brick walls with the clean, white vaulted ceiling. And why not customize your oven to fit these aesthetics?
Gorgeous. Done so well, it feels like it was there back when it was a stable (wouldn't that be something?). Okay, enough of my blabbering about the ambiance, let's get to the pizza! Chefs Christopher Picek and David Tozer have done a great job preserving the Neapolitan authenticity required for their certification, while also getting a little creative.
Arugula doesn't get more fresh than that! After studying the menu, I ordered the obligatory Margherita, and another clever pie I've never seen anywhere else, but we'll get to that later.
Boom! Look at how vibrant this pizza is! To be honest, I usually hate when pizzaiolos place all the basil in a clump in the center of the pie, but this baby basil is too cute to pass judgement.
Awwww. The pizza, which sure enough was cooked in under 90 seconds, is exactly what I look for in an evenly balanced, evenly cooked Marg.
Soft, chewy, airy cornicione with a perfectly slightly-crispy shell, what more could you ask for in a crust? The sauce was bright, the fresh mozz not too liquidy, and a stellar balance all around. But what about this next pie?
Yumtown City. What might look like fennel sausage or meatball chunks is actually pork shoulder. Why is this not a thing?! I have to say, I love Neapolitan pizza, but at times I get a little sick of the same 10-15 ingredients that are 'acceptable' to use.
Oh yes. I'm having pizza flashbacks (the good kind). The pork was cooked to perfection, and keep in mind when pre-cooking/roasting/whatever they're up to, they need to account for an additional 90-120 seconds in a 900 degree oven, and there's nothing worse than dry, over-cooked meat.
For me, the pork stole the show, not necessarily in over-powering flavor (there's nothing I hate more than an unbalanced pizza), but as an idea. It was supported by an even layering of garlic cloves, basil, and dollops of ricotta that truly sang out in harmony.
Goodbye, pork shoulder pizza. I will miss you, but I will never forget you.