With so many authentic pizzerias having opened in Vancouver in recent years—Nicli Antica, Farina, Fabrika, and Via Tevere, to name a few—is there really room for one more?
Yep, when it’s helmed by the duo behind Wildebeest and is situated in the largely barren culinary scene of Kerrisdale.
Pizzeria Bufala is a bright, friendly place located on West Boulevard at West 38th Avenue, near a White Spot and a realtor’s office in a space that once housed the Mac Shack. Even if you don’t live anywhere near this tony part of town, its newest pizza joint is worth a jaunt.
Co-owners James Iranzad (who moved to Kerrisdale from London at age seven) and Josh Pape (who went to school nearby) are doing something completely different from the nose-to-tail cuisine that’s earned them accolades at Wildebeest; in other words, you won’t find sweetbread pizza here. But they’ve brought with them their commitment to locally sourced, abundantly flavourful, high-quality ingredients.
“Josh and I both love pizza,” Iranzad says in a phone interview after our anonymous visit. “Everybody loves pizza.…What really matters is the talent required for the execution, the quality of the dough, the quality of the sauce: those are the things that really set pizzas apart.”
That flour, for example, is from Saanichton Farm on Vancouver Island, where Pape’s family produces a portion of the wheat; fresh produce is brought in from as close as the Kerrisdale Farmers Market.
The interior has long-handled pizza boards hanging as décor on one wall, a checkerboard floor, lots of small plants, and comfy booths as well as a communal bar-style table. The open kitchen allows diners to see chefs working the pizza dough, with the pies being cooked in a Bakers Pride stone oven. Although it’s not wood-fired, the temperature can go as high as 800 ° F, but at Bufala it’s usually at about 600 ° F. Cooking time is still quick: around three minutes. Bubbly and blistered, the crusts have a hit of smoky flavour.
Chefs Lucas Earthy (formerly of Les Faux Bourgeois and La Pentola della Quercia) and Graham Marceau (a trained butcher who’s cooked at Wildebeest and Pizzeria Farina) are creative with pizza toppings but not over-the-top. The two most brazen combinations are braised oxtail with kale and a pie with Savary Island clams and house-cured bacon.
The oxtail is redolent of beef short ribs, rich and meltingly tender. With aged Cheddar, spicy peppers, and flat-leaf parsley, the taste is robust, though the marinara sauce was a tad too generous on this visit; the centre of the pie was almost soaked through, making it impossible to pick up a slice single-handedly. (Perhaps this is a knife-and-forker.) As for the bacon-and-clam pizza, with potato, fresh thyme, and pickled mustard seed: two yums up.
A pesto pizza with bianca sauce, big basil leaves, and whole pine nuts sings with flavour, especially with the addition of punchy prosciutto. Fennel sausage sidles up to smoked provolone, caramelized onions, and Castelvetrano olives for a sweet-and-savoury combination. Quattro Formaggi—with Grana Padano, Taleggio, ricotta, and mozzarella—makes you wish this was the standard everywhere for kids’ favourite pie.
There’s a good selection of starters, one standout being the crispy kale caesar salad. Lively on the tongue and colourful, with green and purple leaves, it has depth with the noticeable anchovies and bacon. A salt-cured egg yolk hidden in the greens came as a surprise. Bacon adds oomph to the meatballs too, which are made from beef brisket and pork shoulder. Straight-from-the-market heirloom tomatoes, a special on this night, were served in all their raw beauty with pillowy burrata, crispy baguette, baby basil leaves, and olive oil.
I loved the fact that the cocktail menu has a section dedicated to classic apéritifs starring Campari and Italian vermouth. Mixed with Prosecco, they make for a bold sipper called Sbagliato.
The restaurant seems to have adopted a team approach to service, with many staff members stopping by our table. This was good in the sense that we didn’t have to flag down a particular server if we needed another beverage, but it had glitches. Two servers asked to take our initial drink orders; a bottle of Parmesan-infused olive oil to drizzle over pizzas came three-quarters of the way through our meal; and an order of baked olives “à la Wildebeest” went forgotten. With three generations catching up over dinner, I didn’t want to rush and hoped to order appetizers first, mains later. The server discouraged that, saying that ordering everything at once would make for a smoother evening. Sure enough, the pizzas came well before we were finished our starters.
Those snags certainly won’t keep us away, though. With 12-inch pizzas running $13 to $19, we’ll be back, even if it takes a trek across town.