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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!