Wednesday last week (March 23rd) was probably the nicest day I have experienced all winter. The sun came blazing in the windows all along the backside of the Think! office and filled the entire space with warmth and natural light! It finally started to feel like spring (although that’s changed now that the weather has reverted back to being grey and dreary).
Earlier in the week Ben had invited everyone at the office out to lunch at a newly opened restaurant on East Cordova in Gastown called Nicli Antica Pizzeria. We had planned to go on Wednesday, and since it was such a beautiful day, instead of driving we decided to walk (Thank God I wore comfortable shoes, the walk took us 25 mins!)
For those of you (like myself) that have never heard of Nicli Antica Pizzeria, it is probably due to the fact that they opened about 6 weeks ago. They make authentic and traditional wood-fired pizza in the Naples-style (Neapolitan pizza…I’ll explain later on, and no it has nothing to do with the ice cream). They make their pizzas using only the finest and freshest traditional ingredients and their wood-fired oven, is authentic too – made from the stone of Mt. Vesuvius. Nicli’s pizza is formed by hand and cooked in a 900ºF wood-fired oven for roughly 90 seconds. This creates a pizza with the following:
- A light and fluffy crust which has a tiny bit of crunch
- Flame blackened blisters may appear along the crust
- A soft thin centre
- 27-30 centimetres in diameter
We got three different pizzas to split between Ben, Paul, Helen, Robyn and myself. Originally we only thought to get two pizzas…but they all looked so good that we figured we’d get the extra one and just have some excellent leftovers…but as it turned out there were no leftovers! The first pizza we ordered was the Capricciosa made with pomodoro, parmigiano, fior di latte (soft type of mozzarella made from cow’s milk), prosciutto cotto, artichokes, funghi, black olives, and basil. The second pizza we ordered was the Diavola with pomodoro, parmigiano, fior di latte, sopressatta (hot salami), parmigiano, basil, and finished with chili oil. And my personal favourite was the last pizza we ordered, the Bianca with extra virgin olive oil, parmigiano, roasted garlic, roasted onion, oregano, and gorgonzola.
An interesting thing to note is that with the Nicli pizzas (or any authentic Neapolitan pizza) the addition of sauce, cheese and other toppings creates a pizza center that is generally soft and moist. Because of this, Napolitanas traditionally eat their pizzas uncut with a knife and fork, or tear them apart manually and eat them folded “libretto” style. Now if you’re eating a pizza by yourself I’m sure this is a great way to do it…but when you’re sharing pizzas in a group this is a little awkward…I think we all would have appreciated a pizza cutter!
Ok, so now to explain a little more about Nicli’s and traditional Italian pizzas…what is Neapolitan pizza or pizza Napoletana? This is Naples-style, traditional pizza…nothing to do with the Neapolitan that is associated with Neapolitan ice cream. In Italy, there is a bill before Parliament to safeguard the traditional Italian pizza, specifying permissible ingredients and methods of processing (e.g., excluding frozen pizzas). Only pizzas that followed these guidelines can be called “traditional Italian pizzas” in Italy.
The owner of Nicli’s – Bill McCraig wants to have Nicli certified as a Vera Pizza Napoletana establishment (there is only one other certified VPN in Canada and that’s Libretto in Toronto so Nicli’s would be the only one of its kind in Vancouver). The first step of this journey is to go down to California and take the Vera Pizza Napoletana Americas Association course – which McCraig has done. According to the Vera Pizza Napoletana Americas Association, a genuine Neapolitan pizza must consist of the following:
- Dough consisting of wheat flour (usually type 0 or 00 – all this means is how finely ground the flour is and how much of the bran and germ have been removed), natural Neapolitan yeast, salt and water.
- The dough must be kneaded by hand or with a low-speed mixer.
- After the rising process, the dough must be formed strictly by hand, and may be no more than 3 mm (⅛ in) thick.
- The pizza must be baked for 60–90 seconds in a 485 °C (905 °F) stone oven with an oak-wood fire.
- When cooked, it should be crispy, tender and fragrant.
Quite a few of these guidelines are things that Nicli’s already does, so in my books they shouldn’t have any trouble getting the VPN certification (if they don’t have it already).
The following are a couple other pictures I took of around the restaurant. They’ve furnished it quite nicely even if it’s a little small (and always busy!)