Bufala has landed on the West Side with a bang!
A few years back, when I referred to Kerrisdale as a ‘culinary backwater’ the comment was removed by a sensitive editor. But the fact is that, for many years, the explosion of culinary culture that’s engulfed the rest of Vancouver and environs has all but by-passed this traditionally pretty tweedy enclave. And more than a few attempts to ‘up the game’ have failed.
Bufala—which I reckon makes as good a pizza as Victoria Drive’s Via Tevere—has taken over the space occupied by relatively short-lived Mac Shack, a ‘mac ‘n cheese’ specialist that proved just a tad too mundane even for comfort food connoisseurs.
There are so many things to like about Bufala, from its clean lines, open kitchen and buzzing atmosphere to a straight ahead menu—well beyond pizza—that’s packed with creativity.
The restaurant is the brainchild of Wildebeest owners Josh Pape and James Iranzad, which in part probably explains Bufala’s early success. These two know what they’re doing.
Yet I was still intrigued what it was that lured them to Kerrisdale, so I asked James ‘How come?’.
It’s simple, he said.
“I grew up there.”
Even though a few confidants suggested it might not fly, Iranzad figured it was worth the risk.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What does the neighbourhood need?’ And the answer was clear: some sort of casual dining,” he says.
“We also asked ourselves, ‘What kind of food do we love,’ so that it would be genuine on our part, delicious—and suit the neighbourhood.”
Smart. Why don’t more people think like that?
It’s not only about the perfectly crusted pizza, which includes an excellent Margherita with ample fior di latte. Iranzad says they wanted their chefs to have fun, and it shows, often with a refreshing streak of tongue in cheek humour. Kale — everyone’s new superfood cure-all — shows up in a mildly addictive Kale Caesar Salad, anchovy and parmigiano packed, complete with a couple of rashers of crispy bacon.
Mortadella also gets the royal treatment —roasted and served with pickled cipolini onions — while meatballs in tomato sauce come with crusty house-baked bread and lashings of basil. The food is no-nonsense, down-to-earth rustic and at the same time well thought out and smartly executed, without being contrived.
It’s a fine balance — one that carries over into the wine list and cocktails (best enjoyed with smoky Castelvetrano olives), which Iranzad proudly describes as a tad risky. “We stayed away from the clichés,” he says.
Bufala doesn’t pour the standard Italian Peroni beer found at just about every other Italian joint, instead opting for local draughts Red Truck, Four Winds and Dageraad Belgian.
Cocktails, too, are smart and well priced, such as refreshing Americano (Campari and sweet vermouth with soda), perfect as an aperitif. Wines, however, are faithfully Italian (and “pretty obscure,” admits Iranzad), ranging from Arneis and Inzolia to juicy Frappato-Nerello Mascalese and full bodied Nero Davalo Primitivo.
“They’re not what you see on a standard wine list — but if you were in Tuscany, Naples or Amalfi on holiday, that’s what you’d be drinking with this kind of food.”
Bufala, 5395 West Blvd at 42nd Ave. is open daily 11:30 am to 10 p.m.