"The soul of authentic Italian" – The Vancouver Sun

(May 12, 2011) Rustic, traditional dishes and mouth-watering Neapolitan pizzas make Bibo a standout

It’s a brave new world of food bloggers. The two who sat next to my table at Bibo, the new Italian restaurant on Fourth Avenue, were equipped with a big camera (with flash), leather-bound notebooks, and audible opinions about what they were eating. They interviewed one of the owners as they tried a sampling from the kitchen -it was a big production.

I was astonished. How could they! I refer to the amount of food they packed away.

Although I’ve sometimes wished I could cover two or three restaurants a night when time’s nipping at my heels, but that’s a long-shot fantasy. I think, however, these two could do it.

“It sucks to be ignored,” my partner groused at one point as our neighbours got the full Bibo. (I pencilled that into my spiralbound $2 drugstore notebook under the table.) However, if these bloggers’ write-ups of Bibo are positive, trust it.

I’d certainly recommend Bibo to anyone looking for Italian food, the Slow Food way. Like the movement that began as immunization against the likes of McDonald’s, Bibo’s co-owners do capture the soul of Italian food. Owners Andrea Bini and Lorenzo Bottazzi (surnames were cut and pasted to make up the restaurant name) are quite authentic themselves, having moved here from Italy. Bottazzi was in the wine industry and lived out his passion for wine and food internationally for work.

“I decided to make-a beeg jump-a to do what I like -my passion,” he says, accenting his authenticity. After researching locations, they zeroed in on Vancouver for the lifestyle and the niche opportunity. They join Nico Antica Pizzeria (Gastown) and La Ghianda (West Side), which also recently opened, offering excellent simple, homey Italian food, in my books.

Bibo uses quality ingredients for rustic, traditional dishes, which is great, but better still, the focused menu of antipasti, pizza and pasta menu is quite affordable. They hired a pizza maker from Naples to make Neapolitan style pizzas and a cook from Cioppino’s to carry out their vision of the menu. Bibo is very busy and reservations are recommended. Two flatscreens feature old Italian movies and a curvaceous Sophia Loren bounced around the screens during one of our visits.

A bresaola sharing platter ($16), featured lovely air-dried, cured beef with Parmesan, premium olive oil and arugula. I was eager to try the “olive oil tasting with bruschetta” ($16), but it was more about bruschetta with five different toppings than an “olive oil tasting.”

Pizzas ($12 to $22) are very good; crusts are rustic, blackened in spots, and have a bit of chew.

The top is slightly wet and slippery in the centre (the Neapolitan way), something I’m not fully sold on. They aren’t cut, which is a bit of a drag when your knife and fork mess up the topping. Once cut (or torn), you fold and eat.

Pizza tonno (mozzarella, red onions, tuna) was so simple but so good, with light bursts of good quality tuna and just enough onion to make it sing.

Quattro stagioni was busier with tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, mushrooms, artichokes, black olives (unpitted) and anchovies.

I sampled a couple of pastas ($14 to $18). Rigatoni alla Norma, a Sicilian dish, is intense with flavourful tomato sauce, grilled eggplant pieces and grated salt ricotta cheese. Gnocchi with meat ragu didn’t have as fine a flavour profile. There are a couple of dessert pizzas but I couldn’t do pizza after a pizza. Instead, I tried the bounet, a Piedmontese pudding with amaretti and cocoa, which I found bland.

Crème caramel was much like many I’ve had. Bibo is still a work in progress and Bottazzi readily admits he wants to improve service, which I actually found adequate (a hearty welcome from the owners went a long way) but great service would take Bibo over the top. On my visits, one of our servers seemed flat and indifferent but another was enthusiastic and engaging.

It seems the menu or the owners could give a shout out to ingredients -like the buffalo mozzarella from the Campania region, the olive oils, ranging from sweet and delicate to strong and bitter, matched like wines with dishes, the basil from Liguria with the perfect terroir for pesto-making and the porcini, from Alba, with, as Bottazzi says, “just the right flavour.”

By MIA STAINSBY for The Vancouver Sun
Published: Thursday, May 12, 2011
Retrieved: November 28, 2012

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