Title: Oca Pastificio
Location: 1260 Industrial Dr., Vancouver
Web site: ocapastificio.com
Costs: 5-course tasting menu, $60 an individual (two particular person min.); à la carte, $16 to $35
Further data: Open Wednesday to Sunday from 5 p.m.; no reservations; small patio
Oca Pastificio is among the greatest new eating places in Vancouver, due to its heavenly handcrafted pasta obtainable in five-course tasting menus.
It’s additionally probably the most irritating eating expertise I’ve encountered for the reason that begin of the pandemic, owing to its maddening reservation insurance policies.
Let’s begin with the good things: the silky squash rotolo curled into crimped pompon florets draped with sage butter; the tender tooth chew of eggy tagliatelle kissed by brilliant, fruity sungold tomatoes puréed at peak ripeness; the thumb-dimpled gnocchi “so gentle and fluffy you must shut your mouth earlier than it flies away.”
The latter was an apt remark from my new good friend Penny Thompson. And the story of how I ended up sharing a desk along with her and legendary singer-songwriter Ann Mortifee includes a beautiful accident that soothed my nerves and gave this column a happier ending.
As a substitute of banging my fists and railing in opposition to the tyranny of walk-in-only seating, I’m now merely shaking my head and questioning what might be carried out to make Oca Pastificio much less a sufferer of its personal success.
Chef and co-owner Greg Dilabio is a pasta artisan. For 9 years, he labored alongside Adam Pegg, the primary Canadian Grasp of Italian Gastronomy (and Oca Pastificio co-owner), on the famend La Quercia and L’Ufficio eating places on Vancouver’s West Facet.
Earlier than opening Oca Pastificio in December of 2019, Mr. Dilabio accomplished a second three-month stage with Mr. Pegg’s slow-food mentor, Fiorenzo Varesco, chef-patron of the historic and extremely lauded Osteria Storica Morelli in Trentino, Italy.
Mr. Dilabio understands the nuances which can be able to remodeling a starchy staple into the primary occasion. He is aware of that sure shapes present completely different textures which can be higher suited to specific sauces.
He devoutly follows the seasons, makes use of farm-fresh substances from native purveyors who’re as passionate as him. And after full days of prepping contemporary dough, he spends the complete dinner shift at a ringside station beside the bar, meditatively rolling, slicing, pinching and twisting the chalkboard specials to order (some are extruded earlier) with a twinkle in his eyes and a beaming smile below the masks.
I’ve truthfully by no means seen a chef look so content material.
In Mr. Dilabio’s expert fingers, three or 4 programs of back-to-back pasta style extra like a fragile research in contrasts than a gut-busting carbohydrate overload.
The each day tasting menu, which begins at 5 programs, however typically provides as much as six or seven, is a superb deal at $60 an individual.
The menu at all times begins with antipasti (all DOP meats from Italy) and consists of an creative salad comparable to olive-oil-poached rabbit with crunchy frisée from Hannah Brook Farm or ambrosial heirloom tomatoes from cult favorite Stoney Paradise.
For dessert, I’ve solely had the pleasure of a creamy-crackly hazelnut semifreddo, however the restaurant apparently additionally does an impressive panna cotta.
The 22-seat room is small, however candy with darkish wooden benches, black-and-white tiled flooring and uncovered piping on the ceiling.
The drink listing is informal and strictly Italian – beer, basic aperitifs, grappa, a number of amaros – and the wines are unpublished. Simply inform the server what you’re within the temper for and he’ll deliver just a few bottles to the desk.
It’s a beautiful little neighbourhood restaurant run by a small crew of 5 who clearly pour their whole souls into every shift.
However good luck getting in.
After opening in late 2019, the restaurant was knocked off its ft from the get-go and barely had time to catch a breath earlier than the provincewide closings in March of 2020.
When eating places had been allowed to reopen, Oca Pastificio experimented with reservations. However you needed to make them by telephone. There have been solely two seatings – 5 p.m. and eight p.m.
After the second indoor-dining shutdown, Oca reopened with a no-reservations coverage and there have been lineups each evening.
I lastly caved for a special day. It was a Sunday evening. Normal supervisor Antoine Dumont (who didn’t acknowledge my title) made an exception after I appealed by e-mail and saved me an early desk.
However we couldn’t make it for five p.m., when the restaurant opens. The company who had been becoming a member of us needed to wait for his or her babysitter. So we ended up having to hurry by dinner so as to be out by 8 p.m. and really needed to beg for a second bottle of wine regardless that we nonetheless had two pasta programs to eat.
The pasta was divine, however we left with a foul style in our mouths.
The following time I went, I arrived at 4:45 p.m. The lineup was already snaking down the sidewalk. When the doorways opened, we (a celebration of two) snagged the final desk (set for 4).
The six individuals behind us had been out of luck and must kill a few hours in the event that they needed to be positioned on the wait listing or else discover some place else to eat.
I felt horrible about hogging the empty seats and invited two ladies who had been behind us to hitch our desk. Because it seems, one was the goddess Ms. Mortifee. We ended up having probably the most great dialog and a dinner that I’ll keep in mind without end.
However that was simply pure serendipity. Dinner ought to by no means should be this fraught.
No-reservation insurance policies – which have gotten far more widespread throughout Vancouver as insurance coverage in opposition to no-shows – are inhospitable.
How are diners presupposed to make plans? A five-course pasta tasting menu is just not one thing you simply drop in for on a whim.
It’s additionally unhealthy enterprise. If Ms. Mortifee and Ms. Thompson hadn’t agreed to hitch us, the restaurant would have been out about $300.
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