Nicli's Next Door

Visit Nicli’s Next Door to Enjoy Italian Tapas

Bill McCaig from Niclis Next Door introducing us to the restaurant

Bill McCaig from Nicli’s Next Door introducing us to the restaurant

In Spain, small plates of food are known as Tapas.  In Italy they also have small plates, but the name is different: Cicchetti.  Whether you prefer to say Cicchetti or Tapas, the food at Nicli’s Next Door is very good and they have an excellent wine list!  I was invited with a group of other food writers to try out Nicli’s Next Door, which is next door to Nicli Antica Pizzeria (at 62 E Cordova Street, Vancouver).

Nicli’s Next Door was conceived as a place for a small snack or drink, while you waited for a table to open at Nicli Antica Pizzeria, but the chefs, David Tozer and Keev Mah, really produced some fantastic Italian and Italian-inspired dishes, going beyond the small snack, so now you can enjoy a great meal with shared plates with your family or friends.

Our Dishes

We were treated to:

Cicchetti E Stuzzichini (smaller plates)

  • Cold pea and coppa soup, with creme fraiche mousse, and citrus preserve
  • Bruschetta, capecollo, bacon and leek jam, and arugula
  • Arancini with pork ragu and San Marzano tomato sauce
  • “Not Scotch Egg”, made of Italian sausage, fior di latte, runny egg yolk, and smoked egg white aioli

Piccoli Piatti (larger plates for sharing)

  • Eggplant involtini, with house made ricotta, San Marzano tomato, lemon and thyme
  • Braised meatballs, with Marina sauce and house bread
  • Roasted Romaneso and sunchoke puree
  • Reginette with pork ragu napoletana and house bread

I enjoyed all the dishes.  The cold pea and coppa soup, came with the cold pea puree and the creme fraiche mousse separately which you mixed together.  Lovely citrus zing and lightness to this cold soup.

Cold pea and coppa soup with creme fraiche mousse and citrus preserve

Cold pea and coppa soup with creme fraiche mousse and citrus preserve

The bread that came with some of the dishes, btw, is all baked in-house.  It was all nice and crunchy.

The bruschetta had a leek jam that was so full of flavour together with nice smokiness from the bacon.

Bruschetta, capecollo bacon and leek jam and arugula

Bruschetta, capecollo bacon and leek jam and arugula

The arancini was quite large, and could almost be a meal in itself for small eaters. The pork ragu inside the arancini was full of savoury flavour.  One of my favourite dishes.

Arancini with pork ragu and San Marzano tomato sauce

Arancini with pork ragu and San Marzano tomato sauce

The “Not Scotch Egg” was a play on scotch egg, with Italian ingredients.  The egg part, really had an egg yolk in the middle, but around it was wrapped the fior di latte. So you had cheesey, creamy goodness, together with the egg yolk and the seasonings from the Italian sausage.

Not Scotch Egg

Not Scotch Egg

A bit larger plate was the eggplant involtini, which had a thin slice of eggplant wrapped around the ricotta cheese, and served with the San Marzano tomato sauce and the lemon and thyme spices. This dish was light, fluffy and creamy.  An elegant dish.

Eggplant involtini

Eggplant involtini

More savoury goodness from the braised meatballs (made with beef and pork), with the Marinara sauce and house bread.  I liked the fennel in the meatballs and the bright flavour from the Marinara sauce.

Braised meatballs with Marina sauce

Braised meatballs with Marina sauce

For a bit more vegetables we tried the roasted Romanesco and Sunchoke puree, and sunchoke chips.  A Romanesco is a vegetable that is a cross between cauliflower and broccoli.

Roasted Romaneso and sunchoke puree

Roasted Romaneso and sunchoke puree

Our last dish was the reginette with pork ragu napoletana. Reginette are strips of pasta with wavy edges.  To this you add a nice pork ragu sauce, and enjoy.

Reginette with pork ragu napoletana

Reginette with pork ragu napoletana

Wine List

I mentioned that Nicli’s Next Door has a very nice selection of wines, all by the glass, and all Italian.  For some at our table, the short wine list was a bit intimidating, but the list is broken down into a few categories to help you choose: Rustic, Lively, Elegant, Complex, Rose, Sparkling, and House.  If you can’t make a choice, they also have 3 different flights of wine you can try, with each flight having 3 different wines.  I had a glass of the “Elegant” Brancaia Tre Sangiovese blend di Toscana.  I chose it as it would be lighter bodied with a good balance of acidity and fruit flavours, and soft tannins, which should pair nicely with most Italian dishes at the restaurant, and I was right.  Enjoy!

Tricolore flight of wines

Tricolore flight of wines

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Check Out the New Food Menu at Poor Italian Trattoria Ristorante

Poor Italian sign

I love Italian food and Italian wine; and was thrilled to be invited to try the new menu items from the Poor Italian Trattoria Ristorante on 3296 E 1st Ave Vancouver. In case you didn’t know, this restaurant is owned by Tony Parsons, the TV news announcer that has been gracing the Vancouver airwaves for many years.  The restaurant has a very cosy feeling with landscape paintings hanging on the walls, Italian pottery scattered throughout the restaurant, and rustic terracotta coloured walls.

Arriving there, I was offered a nice light, dry sparkling Italian Prosecco while the appetizer-sized plates of the new courses were brought in for us to try.  The dishes we tried were:

  • Roasted butternut squash soup with acacia honey, Dungeness crab and grape seed oil.
  • 3 types of Bruschetta. House made crostini with i) traditional fresh tomato, basis and olive oil, ii) chopped mushroom medley with porcini and truffle, and iii) tuna with olive oil marinated artichoke hearts.
  • Beef Carpaccio made with AAA Alberta beef , finely sliced and served with truffle aioli and Parmigiano Reggiano.
  • Crab Cake with Scallop.  A giant diver-harvested Atlantic scallop balanced over a fresh Dungeness crab cake, served with a spicy pomodoro sauce and micro greens.
  • Ricotta and spinach filled ravioli in a tomato sauce.
  • Paccheri pasta and spicy Italian fennel sausage, with caramelized onion and San Marzano pomodoro sauce.
  • Braised boneless beef short ribs with roasted garlic and cherry tomatoes, fresh arugula and gorgonzola risotto
  • Deep fried cannoli tubes topped with marscapone cheese and chocolate
  • Lemon ice cream in a miniature ice cream cone

Appetizers

Trio of bruschetta

All the food we were served was delicious.  The first 4 items fall into the appetizer category. The butternut squash soup was very creamy and went very nicely with the pieces of Dungeness crab.  If you would like an appetizer, the trio of Bruschetta are all tasty.  The traditional tomato one and the mushroom medley both had a good amount of garlic, while the tuna one was light and citrusy flavoured. If you are on the more daring side, you may want to try the beef carpaccio.  This is thin raw slices of beef, topped with the garlicky truffle aioli and sharp Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. If you are a seafood lover, then try the crab cake with scallop.  The scallop slice was expertly grilled so it was still soft and juicy, and placed on a skewer atop the crab cake. The fresh hand-made crab cake was also cooked so it had a nice amount of crunchy texture, and tender inside.

Main Courses

Paccheri pasta and spicy Italian fennel sausage

The main courses covered 2 types of pasta and one risotto.  The ricotta and spinach filled ravioli in a tomato sauce could have been my overall favourite dish.  It was also the most simple.  The ravioli pasta was cooked perfectly al dente (as was the other pasta).  Inside was a mixture of ricotta cheese and spinach.  A simple tomato sauce was a nice complement to the richness of the ricotta and spinach filling. The Paccheri pasta and spicy Italian fennel sausage were very nice.  I had not seen or heard of Paccheri pasta before.  It looks like a very wide flat noodle that is rolled.  On top of this was the Italian fennel sausage and the spicy tomato sauce.  The pasta held the sauce nicely even though it was smooth. I think the amount of surface area covered by the pasta, allowed the sauce to adhere to the pasta.  Lastly the braised boneless beef short ribs was very rich and flavourful with a gravy/reduction made with roasted garlic and cherry tomatoes. To this was a creamy, rich gorgonzola risotto.  The gorgonzola was not overpowering so do not worry if you are not a blue cheese fan.

Desserts

Deconstructed dessert cannoli

The two desserts were both delightful. The first was a deconstructed dessert cannoli.  The cannoli tube was sliced into triangular pieces then deep fried, and topped with marscapone cheese and chocolate.  Nice texture between the crunchiness of the cannoli and the creaminess of the cheese. The lemon ice cream in a miniature ice cream cone was a simple dessert, but very refreshing with the citrus flavour cleansing your palate after trying the other dishes.

If you are wondering about their wine list, they have a wide selection of wines by the glass, which is important I think to keep you safe when you drive after your meal.

Sparkling Wines

  • Pergola Prosecco Brut DOC (Italy)
  • Mionetto Prosecco Brut DOC (Italy)
  • Sumac Ridge Stellars Jay Brut 2006 (BC)

White Wines

  • Valle d’Oro Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC 2009 (Italy)
  • See Ya Later Ranch Gcwurztraminer (BC)
  • Anil Macabeo 2009 (Spam)
  • Mt. Fishtail Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2009 (New Zealand)
  • Pentage Pinot Gris VQA (BC)
  • Dr. Loosen Riesling (Germany)
  • Tommasi Le Rosse Pinot Grigio DOC 2009 (Italy)
  • Bourgogne Montvallon Chardonnay 2009 (France)
  • Di Lenardo Pinot Grigio IGT (Italy)
  • Argiolas Costamolino Vermentino DOC 2009 (Italy)

Red Wines

  • Cecchi Chianti DOC 2009 (Italy)
  • Valle d’Oro Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 2009 (Italy)
  • Cal y Canto (Tempranillo – Syrah – Merlot) (Spain)
  • Rosso Bello R0ss0 Piceno DOC (Italy)
  • Di Majo Norante Sangiovese IGT (Italy)
  • J. Lohr Cypress Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (California)
  • Lucky Country Shiraz 2008 (Australia)
  • Kettle Valley Merlot 2007 (BC)
  • Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2008 (California)
  • Mt. Boucherie Pinot Noir 2008 (BC)
  • Tommasi Poggio al Tufo Super-Tuscan IGT 2008 (Italy)
  • Tedeschi San Rocco Valpolicella Ripasso DOC 2008 (Italy)
  • Cantine di San Silvestro Barolo DOCG 2006 (Italy)

I would recommend going to the Poor Italian.  As I mentioned, I really liked their pasta.  They have a wide range of appetizers to start off a nice lunch or dinner with friends or family.  Enjoy!