For a long time, eating pizza in Vancouver has meant either dial a pie or buck a slice, neither bearing much resemblance to the storied original pizzas from Naples, Italy. The bacon double cheeseburger pizza, paired with a zesty ranch dipping sauce, unofficially signified the beginning of the end of the “2 for 1 build-your-own” era, leaving curious cooks and customers scratching their heads, asking themselves “How did this happen?”, and “Now what?”.
It now appears that the answer was to push the reset button and return to a time when crusts were thin and not stuffed with rubbery mozzarella, high quality toppings were deployed with restraint, and the pies themselves were lovingly stretched by someone with some know how. The recently opened Verace Pizzeria, conveniently located not far from the Stadium Skytrain station, is among the first few local eateries hellbent on reviving the widely abused food. Intrigued, I jumped on the opportunity to check out their work.
The storefront features a sidewalk dining area, while a step inside revealed a space suited for tables of few or many (60 to 80 peeps). The room itself is classically rustic and earthy, helped along by the numerous shades of brown provided by abundant wood and leather, as well as the paint. The warmth of the colour scheme is nicely augmented by the constant flicker of flames from the 900 degree pizza oven, which also acts as a real eye magnet given the amount of action that takes place in and around it.
Pizza of this variety is strictly regulated around the world, and if the few rigid guidelines are met, the pies are can be certified authentic. “00” flour is a must, as are the famed San Marzano tomatoes, and the only cheese permitted is fresh mozzarella (cow or buffalo) and grated hard cheeses like parmesan or pecorino. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is generously applied whenever suitable (almost always). The pies are to be prepared in an ultra hot brick oven, ideally heated by burning wood. The owners of Verace have decided to forgo certification; the tomatoes, for one, aren’t San Marzano, but instead another Italian variety that was carefully chosen and deemed better by the Chef. The oven itself isn’t wood burning, which eliminates the need for an expert fire tender and the space required to store an unbelievable amount of wood. The gas oven allows the cooks to focus entirely on the correct preparation of the pie, instead of being intimately knowledgeable about the strange and unpredictable tendencies of a pile of burning wood.
The menu at Verace is large, and is comprised entirely of flavours associated with Italy. This means you won’t be finding any BBQ Chicken pizzas here. The classics are present (Margherita, Romana), as well as some not so classics that could be real crowd pleasers (one example features balsamic reduction, asparagus, truffle oil) as long as that crowd isn’t composed entirely of Nonnas. A variety of salads and antipasti are also available for those who require more than a nicely made pizza to be satisfied. The lunch menu has calzones, and the brunch menu apparently had to feature a variety of Eggs Benedict pizzas, complete with poached eggs and Hollandaise. Authentic? Nadda. Tasty? Probably. Ultimately the notion of 100% authenticity is limiting, and forgoing the certification affords the Chef a certain amount of freedom to separate Verace from the rest of the pack.
A food as approachable as pizza deserves a wine list to match, and so there is an ample selection of whites and reds, as well as some pinks and sparkles, all of which are offered by the bottle or glass. There’s also a well stocked bar for mixed drinks, and some Grappa for those who seek it.
Verace is one of a few places in town that puts their pies together in a way that’s at least close to how it’s done in Italy. The fact that there’s competition in this soon to be crowded arena can only mean good things for people who love pizza, which is approximately everyone.
189 Keefer Place | Vancouver
Open 7 days a week: 11:30am – 3:00pm and 5:00pm – Late Monday thru Friday, and 10:30am – Late on the weekend.
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