April 17, 2024


Food never sleeps.

Review: Many thanks to its heavenly handcrafted pasta, Oca Pastificio is a person of Vancouver’s best new places to eat

5 min read

Pasta maker Greg Dilabio, right, prepares fresh tortelli at Oca Pastificio in Vancouver on Aug. 11, 2021.

Rafal Gerszak/Rafal Gerszak

Identify: Oca Pastificio

Spot: 1260 Business Dr., Vancouver

Internet site: ocapastificio.com

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Telephone: N/A

Delicacies: Italian

Rates: Five-class tasting menu, $60 a particular person (two individual min.) à la carte, $16 to $35

Extra data: Open up Wednesday to Sunday from 5 p.m. no reservations smaller patio

Oca Pastificio is a person of the most effective new restaurants in Vancouver, thanks to its heavenly handcrafted pasta accessible in five-class tasting menus.

It is also the most discouraging dining experience I’ve encountered considering that the begin of the pandemic, owing to its maddening reservation guidelines.

Let’s start with the superior things: the silky squash rotolo curled into crimped pompon florets draped with sage butter the tender tooth bite of eggy tagliatelle kissed by shiny, fruity sungold tomatoes puréed at peak ripeness the thumb-dimpled gnocchi “so gentle and fluffy you have to close your mouth before it flies absent.”

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The latter was an apt observation from my new friend Penny Thompson. And the story of how I ended up sharing a desk with her and legendary singer-songwriter Ann Mortifee consists of a charming twist of fate that soothed my nerves and gave this column a happier ending.

Rather of banging my fists and railing from the tyranny of wander-in-only seating, I am now simply shaking my head and wondering what can be accomplished to make Oca Pastificio much less a victim of its have accomplishment.

Chef and co-proprietor Greg Dilabio is a pasta artisan. For 9 many years, he labored alongside Adam Pegg, the very first Canadian Master of Italian Gastronomy (and Oca Pastificio co-operator), at the renowned La Quercia and L’Ufficio places to eat on Vancouver’s West Side.

Just before opening Oca Pastificio in December of 2019, Mr. Dilabio accomplished a next 3-thirty day period phase with Mr. Pegg’s gradual-food items mentor, Fiorenzo Varesco, chef-patron of the historic and very lauded Osteria Storica Morelli in Trentino, Italy.

Greg Dilabio understands the nuances that are able of transforming a starchy staple into the most important occasion.

Rafal Gerszak/The World and Mail

Mr. Dilabio understands the nuances that are capable of reworking a starchy staple into the main occasion. He appreciates that certain shapes give different textures that are better suited to unique sauces.

He devoutly follows the seasons, makes use of farm-refreshing substances from community purveyors who are as passionate as him. And soon after entire times of prepping refreshing dough, he spends the entire dinner change at a ringside station beside the bar, meditatively rolling, slicing, pinching and twisting the chalkboard specials to buy (some are extruded before) with a twinkle in his eyes and a beaming smile beneath the mask.

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I have truthfully by no means seen a chef look so material.

In Mr. Dilabio’s skilled hands, 3 or 4 classes of back again-to-back again pasta style more like a fragile examine in contrasts than a intestine-busting carbohydrate overload.

The daily tasting menu, which starts at five programs, but usually provides up to six or seven, is an superb deal at $60 a human being.

The menu constantly starts with antipasti (all DOP meats from Italy) and features an creative salad this sort of as olive-oil-poached rabbit with crunchy frisée from Hannah Brook Farm or ambrosial heirloom tomatoes from cult favorite Stoney Paradise.

For dessert, I’ve only had the enjoyment of a creamy-crackly hazelnut semifreddo, but the cafe seemingly also does an superb panna cotta.

The 22-seat room is tiny, but sweet with dim wood benches, black-and-white tiled flooring and exposed piping on the ceiling.

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The drink list is informal and strictly Italian – beer, common aperitifs, grappa, several amaros – and the wines are unpublished. Just inform the server what you are in the temper for and he’ll deliver a number of bottles to the table.

It’s a pretty small neighbourhood restaurant operate by a compact crew of five who naturally pour their overall souls into each individual shift.

But fantastic luck having in.

Right after opening in late 2019, the cafe was knocked off its toes from the get-go and hardly experienced time to capture a breath before the provincewide closings in March of 2020.

When eating places were being authorized to reopen, Oca Pastificio experimented with reservations. But you had to make them by telephone. There had been only two seatings – 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Property extruded spaghetti with tomato sugo di maiale and pecorino.

Rafal Gerszak/Rafal Gerszak

Just after the 2nd indoor-eating shutdown, Oca reopened with a no-reservations plan and there had been lineups just about every night time.

I ultimately caved for a special event. It was a Sunday evening. Typical manager Antoine Dumont (who didn’t figure out my title) designed an exception when I appealed by e-mail and saved me an early desk.

But we could not make it for 5 p.m., when the restaurant opens. The attendees who were being becoming a member of us experienced to hold out for their babysitter. So we finished up getting to rush via evening meal in buy to be out by 8 p.m. and actually experienced to beg for a 2nd bottle of wine even however we nonetheless had two pasta programs to consume.

The pasta was divine, but we still left with a lousy taste in our mouths.

The next time I went, I arrived at 4:45 p.m. The lineup was by now snaking down the sidewalk. When the doors opened, we (a party of two) snagged the really last table (established for four).

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The 6 persons at the rear of us were out of luck and would have to destroy a few of hours if they needed to be placed on the hold out record or else locate somewhere else to eat.

I felt terrible about hogging the vacant seats and invited two women of all ages who had been at the rear of us to sign up for our desk. As it turns out, one particular was the goddess Ms. Mortifee. We ended up acquiring the most excellent discussion and a dinner that I will recall eternally.

But that was just pure serendipity. Evening meal must by no means have to be this fraught.

No-reservation guidelines – which are getting significantly a lot more typical across Vancouver as coverage versus no-shows – are inhospitable.

How are diners meant to make programs? A five-system pasta tasting menu is not one thing you just drop in for on a whim.

It is also lousy business. If Ms. Mortifee and Ms. Thompson hadn’t agreed to join us, the restaurant would have been out about $300.

Salad with beef tongue celery and marinated peppers.

Rafal Gerszak/Rafal Gerszak

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