Marcello’s Ristorante & Pizzeria is nestled on the corner of Little Italy of Vancouver’s Commercial Drive. The perfect neighbourhood for this Southern Italian restaurant that suits any occasion. As soon as you enter, you are greeted with the comforting smells of Italian food and a quaint place that may transport you to a time you’ve dined in Italy, if you were lucky enough! During these COVID times, you also feel a sense of comfort and safety from seeing the partitions in between tables, and seeing clear masks on the friendly staff.
Now for the nitty gritty! As much as I want to praise Marcello’s, I also need to be honest with my review. After being seated, it seemed like the feeling of safety and comfort ended there. The table seemed sticky to me but maybe it was just me. I let it slide and hoped for the best for the rest of the night.
Sips & Savories
We were offered a few cocktails from their recommendations to start off with, and the promise of it being some of their popular drinks. I had the Lavanda, which was a purple coloured cocktail, which consisted of Empress gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and prosecco. It wasn’t bad, but it isn’t something I’d order again either. It was just a very simple, sweet and bubbly drink, served with a lemon peel inside the glass. The other two drinks that were served was the Whiskey Sour and the Clover Club. The Whiskey Sour was a classic but the Clover Club, which wasn’t on the menu, was extremely sweet! We had to have it replaced with another drink, which I can’t recall now but that says a lot, in my opinion.
I looked forward to whatever was next, and it was the three different seafood dishes. We were served the Frittura Di Calamari (deep fried baby squid), Calamari Alla Griglia (grilled squid), and Cozze Fresche (mussels in tomato sauce). The portions for these dishes were massive! Though with pricing almost as much as the entrees, I’m actually unsure if these were appetizers or not. With that said, I still feel that these were overpriced for what we received.
The calamari was served on a bed of greens, presented with Focaccia slices, lemon wedges and tzatziki sauce. Though the large portion seemed appealing, it wasn’t my favourite. I would describe this dish as being ‘batter-y’. I only tasted the batter and it was bland. The lemon and sauce made it okay but I have had better elsewhere.
The grilled squid, though plated a little all over the place, was pretty good. Still not the best I had but it was better than the deep-fried calamari. It was served with bell peppers and again, more focaccia. The bread, which was served with every dish, was inedible, in my opinion. Some of it was okay but most of the pieces were pretty hard. It’s supposed to be their specialty, baked daily in their wood-burning oven but it wasn’t special for me.
Clams & Pizza
As for the mussels, this wasn’t too bad either. The tomato sauce was the saving grace. It had a bit of spice that I desperately needed at this point, although we still had to ask for chili flakes to add to every dish.
Onto the pasta and pizza. You’d expect these to be near perfection – since we were seated in an authentic Italian restaurant – but sadly, it wasn’t. We were served with the Linguine Alla Vongole (clams in white wine sauce with a touch of tomato) as well as Funghi Con Tartufo Pizza (a cheese blend with mushrooms and truffles). The pasta and pizza seemed to share the same sauce while the mussels and the actual linguini pasta seemed undercooked.
More About The Food
Now, I know I can say this because I’ve actually eaten a lot of pasta in Italy and this was NOT al dente. I think it could have used another few seconds of cooking, but that’s just me! As for the pizza, it was underwhelming. It did not lack mushrooms that’s for sure! But it seemed like it wasn’t fresh mushrooms at all. It had a canned taste and look to it. They said it was marinated in truffle sauce or oil but I really didn’t taste the truffle at all.
The pizza didn’t have sauce and relied on the blend of cheese for its flavour. From what I remember, it was two types of mozzarella, gouda and parmesan. It still needed some kind of sauce though as it was also quite bland. The crust itself was also sub-par, which was surprising because of their wood-burning oven! It seemed too thin and hard. I was really disappointed, as this was what I was looking forward to, the most … especially at a pizzeria!
Safety & Service
I was a bit turned off as well with the staff, not quite handling safety precautions to the highest standards as one would expect. They handed us utensils without using napkins, held our glasses too close to the brim when they refilled our water, for example. They wore clear masks, which I thought were smart at first, as we can see their welcoming smiles, but it was a little appalling seeing how many droplets accumulated as they spoke. Keep that in mind for when you don’t wear your masks, people! Please be safe and do your part in flattening the curve! Staff was friendly but they seemed to lack a bit of training as well, in regards to knowledge about the food and drinks. They often returned to the chef or bartender to get information for us.
I had high expectations for Marcello’s but that may have been my downfall. The vibe and ambience were good, and it seemed busy as there was a good flow of customers on a Monday night. But most importantly, the food was really a let-down for me. During this pandemic, our travels are clearly limited. Dining out is the closest thing we can do, so I really had high hopes on being transported back to Italy. Unfortunately, I was just reminded that I was in Vancouver. Not a bad thing of course, since I love Vancouver. But being on the streets of “Little Italy,” I needed more. I guess it’s back to the drawing board to find a restaurant that can take me back to the streets of Italy!
Arrivederci … but not too soon!
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