With Italian tapas, Nicli's Next Door is more than a place to wait
It may be physically attached to Nicli Antica Pizzeria, but Nicli Next Door stands alone.
Bill McCaig, who owns the popular Gastown pizza place, originally conceived of a space where people waiting for a table could have a drink and a bite to eat. (Waits at Nicli Antica, which doesn't take reservations, can reach 40 minutes on a busy weekend night.) But when I visited for a recent media preview, it's clear that Next Door could be a destination in itself.
Nicli's Next Door opened officially on July 11. While it shares an address with the pizzeria (62 East Cordova), diners can't walk inside from one to the other; they both have separate street entrances. Right now, Next Door is unmarked, but a sign that was handcrafted by John Lennig of Big Top Sign Arts will be up shortly.
Inside, it's a lovely room with a warm, easygoing vibe. At the entrance, there's a very cool mosaic on the wall made out reclaimed fir ends, all staggered for a gorgeous visual texture. Reclaimed wood is also on the bar and the tabletops—you just want to run your hands over everything.
From the entrance, the room stretches into a narrow L-shape with tables lining the original brick wall. These tables look onto the open kitchen, run by chef David Tozer with chef Keev Mah.
There's no pizza on the menu; instead, it's focused on Italian tapas, or cicchetti. These snacks and small plates vary in size, and McCaig envisions people having as few or as many as they like: diners are welcome to just graze over one drink, or make a meal of it.
Cocktails take an Italian twist, with offerings like an Aperol Spritz. The wine list is short and categorized by what you're in the mood for: something rustic, elegant, or complex. All the wines are Italian, and if you can't decide among them, you can try a flight (three two-ounce pours go for $14 to $16).
Have a look at what's on the menu, below.
This shot of cold pea soup, which you mix with the accompanying crème fraîche mousse, coppa, and citrus preserve, starts things off for just $3.
Ease open this tennis-ball sized arancini to find pork ragu. It's on a bed of San Marzano tomato sauce for $6.
This bruschetta makes use of house-made focaccia and is topped with a killer bacon and leek jam, and then capacollo rolled around peppery arugula. ($7 for an order of three)
Braised pork and beef meatballs in marinara sauce ($10) are served in a hot cast-iron pot.
Right now, Nicli Next Door is open only from Wednesday to Saturday evenings. It's worth checking out, even if you're not in the mood for pizza next door.