Commercial Drive Food Crawl

April 2, 2011

Mary Macintyre's charming Little Nest (1716 Charles St., 604-251-9994. Littlenest.ca), just off of the Drive, is known as a kid-friendly dining spot, but we go for the former Lumière pastry chef's cakes, which can be purchased whole with 24 hours' notice. Swoon-worthy flavours like pistachio with rose-scented citrus icing, and pear and Marsala wine, are showstoppers.

The monster-sized panini at La Grotta del Formaggio (1791 Commercial Dr., 604-255-3911), a Drive fixture for over 30 years, are of the choose-your-own-adventure sort: fillings run from soppressata to smoked provolone, pickled eggplant to pesto basil mayo. No matter your selection, it stacks up to the most satisfying midday bite.

On Vancouver's precious sunshiny spring days, the lineup snakes out the door at Gelateria Dolce Amore (1588 Commercial Dr., 604-258-0006. Gelateriadolceamore.com) as gelato hounds patiently await the gargantuan scoops. The Grippo family handcraft their impeccable gelato in small batches, taking cues from artisan traditions of the old country. Flavour selection changes daily, but stick to classics like nocciola (hazelnut), limoncello, and panna cotta.

At JN&Z Smoked Meats (1729 Commercial Dr., 604-251-4144), Natasha and Zorica Jeremic's traditional cold-smoked meats are cured without nitrites or preservatives. Their smoked beef and pork tenderloin have a cult following, but it's the bacon that is the unsung secret ingredient in many a coq-au-vin.

You say Fratelli Bakery (1795 Commercial Dr., 604-255-8926. Fratellibakery.com), we say dessert (certainly their cannoli and trademark St-Honoré cake have fervid devotees), but the savvy arrive early to snag a loaf of Marco Cornale's bread, like the aromatic potato leek or crusty roasted garlic and cheese filone.

The wine list at Divino Wine Bar (1590 Commercial Dr., 604-258-0005. Divinovancouver.com) boasts astonishing depth, listing gems like a 1998 Condesa de Leganza la Mancha Reserva; chef Jefferson Alvarez turns out equally well-considered jewels from the kitchen, like Sloping Hill pork loin crusted with leek ash over celeriac purée in maple-walnut jus.

Quick with a smile and a story, Jack Elmasu has been providing Vancouverites with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern culinary treats at Mediterranean Specialty Foods (1824 Commercial Dr., 604-438-4033) for over 35 years. He carries an impressive selection of olive oils, halva, cheeses, and house-made tapenades, but it's the pistachio baklava that has us haunting the place. Baked daily, they're studded with creamy nuts, flaky, and delightfully sweet.

St. Augustine's (2360 Commercial Dr., 604-569-1911. Staugustinesvancouver.com) is a destination for Vancouver's legions of craft beer lovers. The staggering selection of 40 microbrew beers on tap rotates weekly to emphasize freshness. Head over on Cask Night Mondays and sample rare specialty brews like Red Truck's Limited Series Big Black Bock, a hybrid of two classic German-style lagers, or Moylan's Nitro Special Bitter.

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