Tofino restaurant roundup: hyper-local ice cream; fresh seafood with a harbour view; and a model pizzeria

Tofino may be remote, but it's also home to a vibrant culinary community, one that's gotten bigger and better with a slew of recent additions

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      Tofino may be best known for its beauty and surf, but foodies know it as a culinary hot spot. Joining popular restaurants like SoBoWolf in the Fog, and Kuma Tofino are new eateries that are making the Tuff City food scene even better.

      Here’s a snapshot of a few recent openings:

      Basic Goodness Pizzeria

      You could call it a model pizzeria.

      Co-owner Marco de Conciliis, who runs Basic Goodness with his partner, Heather MacGillivray, is a former Ford model. In the late 1980s and 1990s, the Naples native was the face of Versace, Calvin Klein, and other mega brands.

      For proof, look no further than the huge black-and-white photo that covers a wall at the pizza joint taken by legendary fashion photographer Bruce Weber. In it, de Conciliis, then in his early 20s, is shirtless and eating a gooey piece of pizza. (The Italian appeared in Let’s Get Lost, Weber’s 1988 documentary about the life of Chet Baker. When they opened their pizzeria, they asked Weber if they could use one of his images.)

      A father of two grown kids, de Conciliis met MacGillivray in Los Angeles, where she was working as an interior designer. She’s from Ottawa, but had spent time in Tofino as a youth, having been introduced to the coastal village via her uncle, who caught geoduck. She had long wanted to move to the area, and just a couple of months ago, the couple deemed it to be the right time.

      De Conciliis trained in Naples to become a piazzolo, and his two children might come and join him behind the counter in the future.

      The pizzas are cooked in a wood-burning oven at a temperature of about 650 degrees. Basic Goodness brings in some of its ingredients from Italy, items you can’t get here such as Caputo flour, Sicilian olives, Mediterranean anchovies, and prosciutto de Parma. At the same time, it turns to local suppliers for other foods, including meats like pancetta and spicy salami from Picnic Charcuterie. (Picnic is a great little spot run by Tina Windsor, who makes all of her own sausages and preserves and who also butchers, cures, and dries all of the meat she uses onsite. Sausage varieties include orange and walnut, chanterelle salami, fennel lonza, and sea-sausage salami with harvested kelp. Windsor, who also sources fine cheeses, knows all of her producers by name and knows exactly what’s in the food she prepares and eats. Check out the freezer for her tourtiere.)

      Basic Goodness serves Italian wines and local brews—including selections from Mount Arrowsmith Brewing Company in Parksville and Tofino Brewing. (Tofino Brewing has just moved into a new, bigger, and brighter space; check out its Tuff Session Ale, Kelp Stout, Spruce Tree Ale, or seasonal Dawn Patrol Coffee Porter, made with beans from nearby Rhino and bourbon-soaked vanilla beans.) 

      Tofino Brewing has bright new digs.
      Gail Johnson

      Tofino Licks

      There’s no denying it: I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream, and now Tofino locals and visitors can shout from the crests of the mighty Pacific. Here’s a spot that specializes in gourmet frozen treats with a hyper-local twist.

      Tofino Licks is headed by Francis Eadie, who’s also a commercial diver. While he loves being underwater and diving for things like sea cucumbers and geoducks, he wanted an outlet for his creativity. So he moved into a live-work studio and opened Tofino Licks—which lifts the humble ice-cream cone to epic new heights with the addition of winning ingredients and items from other local restaurants and cafés.

      One of the toppings on offer at Tofino Licks is sea-salt honey and bacon from Picnic Charcuterie.
      Gail Johnson

      Here’s how it works: You pick your base (organic vanilla or chocolate ice cream, swirl, or frozen yogurt) and sauce (such as house-made strawberry, caramel, or hot fudge). Then you pick your toppings, which include:

      - Key-lime pie from SoBo (the stuff is legendary)

      - Chili choco diablo cookie from Tacofino (the original location, that started it all)

      - Sea-salt honey and bacon from Picnic Charcuterie

      - Fudge brownies from RedCan Gourmet

      - Skor cookie dough from Jupiter Juicery and Bake Shop

      - Cold-brew coffee from Tofino Coffee Co.

      ’Nuff said.

      The Hatch Waterfront Pub and 1909 Kitchen

      With a view of Tofino Harbour and Strawberry Island in Browning Inlet, these two spots share a kitchen in the recently revamped Tofino Resort and Marina. The latter is a restaurant that takes its name from the year Tofino was incorporated.

      Executive chef is Paul Moran got his start in the industry at West Restaurant when it was under the leadership of chef David Hawksworth.

      Both eateries focus on fresh seafood, with the pub serving items like tempura prawns, lingcod tacos, and a West Coast Boil, with mussels, snow crab, side-stripe shrimp, and clams. The 1909 restaurant, which is currently open for dinner only, features everything from pan-seared lingcod and chilled seafood platters to local wild sockeye and whole wood-fired rock fish.

      The 1909 Kitchen has a view of Tofino Harbour, as does its sister waterfront pub, the Hatch.
      Gail Johnson

      However, if you’re not in the mood for food from the sea, there’s also an Italian wood-fired oven.

      Pie varieties range from the Local Catch with side-stripe shrimp, chorizo, basil, fresh mozzarella, and garlic to the Pineapple with pancetta, chorizo, and mozzarella.