Vancouver’s best pizzeria is worth the trip to Kerrisdale
The masterminds behind Wildebeest have another hit on their hands with Bufala
July 7, 2016
Tucked away on the corner of 38th Avenue and West Boulevard is Bufala pizzeria—also known as the best pizzeria in Vancouver (at least according to the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards judges). With strings of light bulbs dangling across the ceiling above high-top wooden tables and plushy booths, it’s no wonder that Bufala has become a favourite gathering spot among locals. And don’t even get us started on the pizza. The pizza oven in the open kitchen teases customers every time its door is opened, releasing the delicious smell of freshly baked dough.
This combination of well-executed design and great food are telltale signs of a seasoned team at the helm. Owners James Iranzad and Joshua Pape are also the team behind Gastown’s Wildebeest and Kitsilano’s Supermarine. We caught up with Iranzad to learn more about the secret sauce fuelling Bufala’s success.
How do you feel about winning Vancouver Magazine’s Restaurant Award for best pizzeria in Vancouver?
That feels pretty good. It really does. I mean, I love the Restaurant Awards. We’ve been going for years. We’ve been fortunate enough to win a couple of other awards over the years for other restaurants, and so to win for Bufala is pretty special. There’s a lot of good pizzerias in town.
What is your secret for success as a pizzeria?
First and foremost, the pizza is amazing. I love it. I do think that it’s certainly my favourite in town, and that’s saying something. There’s a couple of others that I hold in super high regard, but I just love the dough. Baking dough is incredibly difficult, and when you get it right it’s pretty revelatory. So, I love ours, and I like the simplicity in which we do things and the level of quality. I think that this place really works because it’s humble and it’s just trying to take care of its neighbourhood, which is all we ever really wanted of it. And the fact that people like it all across town—that’s pretty good.
How did you go about choosing your beverage program?
We’re just really passionate about that stuff. We like to drink delicious things. For example, I feel like every Italian restaurant in the world has Peroni. This is a beer, there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s a good beer—but everybody has it, and I don’t like that sort of obligatory stuff. We don’t think that way. So, we brought in beers that are delicious for this menu and that are the right choice for this restaurant. Ninety percent of the beer offerings that we have are from local brewers. So, it’s more important to have something that is hyper-fresh, delicious, rather than something that’s been sitting in a shipping container coming over from Italy. And who cares? You know, it doesn’t matter that it’s from Italy. What matters is that it is as fresh and delicious as it can be. And the fact that I’m supporting all these awesome small businesses, the local craft brewers that are friends of ours? Well, that’s just a massive bonus. The wine list is very thoughtfully chosen. We bring in B.C. wines as features, but—I totally recognize what I’m about to say totally contradicts what I just said about beer—but, for us, deliciousness is always the top priority. It’s not like B.C. wines aren’t delicious, it’s just that wines that we get from Italy are better suited to go with this menu.
If you had to choose, which pizza and drink would you have for lunch?
We have a feature pizza that rotates roughly every two weeks, and that’s always worth ordering because we don’t change the rest of the menu very often. But the feature is always going to be something that is seasonally fresh right now. It might be that zucchini just came into season, so that makes it on the pizza with some fresh sausage that we made. My personal favourite pizza right now is the Calabria. It’s just slightly spicy and it’s delicious. For drinks I’d go with bubble. For lunch you have to drink bubble. That’s just the civilized thing to do. So a glass of prosecco or lambrusco, which is like a chilled sparkling red wine from Italy and it’s amazing with pizza. It’s what everybody in Italy drinks with pizza. You kind of have to wrap your head around it. We don’t drink a lot of chilled sparkling red wine anymore in North America. But if we can just get you to try it, you’ll be sold.
Are there any key ingredients that differentiate your pizza from others?
Some of it is kind of top secret. But, for example, we make our sauce with raw tomatoes, with fresh tomatoes as opposed to cooked tomatoes. I think that that allows for this lovely bright and vibrant kind of acidity to come through in the tomato-base pizzas that is delicious. It works beautifully with the dough we make as well too. The dough itself has secret ingredients I’m not allowed to share.
Why did you choose to have Bufala in Kerrisdale?
A lot of people told us not to do this, and I kind of smile about it now, because it’s worked out so well. First of all, the opportunity came up. This space had been a restaurant previously and it hadn’t worked out and I like this space—I love corner restaurants. I love when you look out the window you see nothing but green. I love all the light that comes in here. It makes it a really special place to spend time I think, regardless of the time of day. The style of pizza that we wanted to do didn’t exist in the west side that much. So that all made sense, and also I grew up here. This neighbourhood was under-serviced. It has some good places to go and eat, more so for lunch than for dinner, and we wanted to create a place where all of the people in this neighbourhood could come and hang out without having to drive across town.
After opening Wildebeest, why did you decide to open a pizzeria?
I love pizza. I mean I love pizza. I love to eat pizza and I would go out for pizza with my family a lot, and we always talked about doing this, because particularly when we first started talking about this a few years ago, no one was doing Neapolitan-style pizza in Vancouver. Then, Nicli came along, and Farina came along, and Nook, and other places started doing it before we got around to it. But it’s always been a passion and also we’re just creative people.
Do you have any other restaurants or projects on the horizon?
Definitely. Down the road, I wouldn’t be surprised if we did more Bufalas. It’s an incredibly satisfying project that we’re super proud of, and it’s one that I think could benefit a lot of other neighbourhoods in the Lower Mainland. Maybe we’ll end up seeing a Bufala in East Van, or in White Rock, or Burnaby, or Port Coquitlam, or North Vancouver over the years. We’re not so ambitious that we’re going to rush it, but we’ve definitely been talking about it.