Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy

Comments 116 by Rebecca Bollwitt
Disclosure: Review — This is not a paid post. Views are my own. My spot on the tour was complimentary for media/review. Please review the Policy & Disclosure section for further information.

LittleItalyFoodTourOn a drizzly Saturday afternoon I became re-acquainted with one of the most interesting and diverse neighbourhoods in Vancouver thanks to the Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy tour. Having enjoyed the Gastown food tour operated by Jewel Taylor back in December of 2011, I knew that I was in for a treat with the Commercial Drive version.

I met up with Jewel and the rest of the group at Il Mercato on the corner of Commercial Drive and First Avenue where our host offered pertinent details about the 2.5 hour tour upon which we were about to embark.

Jewel said that she and her partner walked up and down Commercial Drive one day and counted 39 countries that were represented through the businesses along the way. Italian families and businesses have a strong representation in this area known as Little Italy, which tied into an underlying theme of family-owned and operated establishments. One of the best examples of this harmony was at our first stop at Lombardo’s.

Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy

Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy

Lombardo’s Pizzeria
Location: 1641 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
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La Grotta Del Formaggio Cheese Shop
Location: 1791 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
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At Lombardo’s we met with Patti Lombardo who opened Lombardo’s in 1986, serving up crisp Napolateana style wood-oven pizza. Going strong for 25 years, Patti’s daughters are involved in the business, like Julia who was preparing the day’s 2go pizzas for their new take-out shop just a few feet away in Il Mercato where her sisters also work. Our sample at this stop was a slice of capricciosa pizza with prosciutto, artichoke hearts, and black olives.

Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy

With the delicate ring of a bell, Jewel signaled to the group that it was time to move on and off we went to La Grotta Del Formaggio Cheese Shop. This is where I realized a second (or third) theme of the tour: places that have amazing aromas. We samples three cheeses, including Applewood Smoked Cheddar and one of my favourites, Manchego.

Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy

Falconetti’s East Side Grill
Location: 1812 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
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Liberty Wine Merchants
Location: 1622 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
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Moving across the street we were served some signature sangria and some world famous sausages at Falconetti’s, which you might recognize from an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. It was hard not to fill up already on an order of Falc’s Fries, tossed with garlic and kissed with a hint of lime, but we exercised some impressive will power and set out for our next location.

Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy

Down the block at Liberty Wine Merchants we sampled a lovely chianti that was available in the shop for under $20 to compliment your home-cooked meal, inspired by Little Italy.

Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy

Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria
Location: 1380 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
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Santa Barbara Market
Location: 1322 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
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Three more pizzas were served up just for our group, fresh out of the authentic bell oven at Famoso. The Neapolitan-certified slices were samples of their Margherita (fior-di-latte, fresh basil, pecorino romano, extra virgin olive oil), Funghi (parmesan crema, fior-di-latte, roasted white mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, caramelized onions, white truffle oil, pecorino romano), and Cavoletti (oven-roasted Brussels sprouts, prosciutto crisps, gorgonzola cheese, dates, walnuts, drizzle of honey) pizzas. Once our tummies were full of the soft dough and crisp toppings we left the warmth of the pizzeria and received an education in local grocery shopping over at Santa Barbara Market.

Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy

At the market we sampled cheese and meat platters, juicy grapes and savoury stuffed olives as we learned about the incredibly low prices and the incomparable selection of over 100 olive oil varieties available behind the deli counter. Apparently the market gets so busy around the holidays that there’s a lineup out the door with a number system for shoppers so be sure to check it out before then.

Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy

Dolce Amore Gelateria
Location: 1588 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
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Libra Room Pasta & Music
Location: 1608 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
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Over half-way through the tour we stopped at Dolce Amore for some hazelnut gelato to reset our palettes. It was creamy, dreamy, and stuffed with hazelnut flavour. I looked longingly at the other goodies in the freezer case like the ice cream sandwiches that I will return to sample someday soon. We heard all about this family business, run by the fourth generation of the Grippo family, continuing the theme on the tour as we moved onto one of the city’s best dinner + live music venues at the Libra Room.

Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy

Next to the stage with a drum kit, piano, and garage door that opens up onto The Drive, we enjoyed a rich ravioli with mushrooms, parmesan, and pesto. It was a very generous portion packed with the compliment of warm flavours you would expect from the heart of Little Italy.

Continental Coffee
Location: 1806 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
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Fratelli Authentic Italian Bakery
Location: 1795 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
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Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy
(Left to Right) Jewel of Taste Vancouver Food Tours with Anita of Continental Coffee.

Following the pasta, we walked back up to Continental Coffee where we met owner Anita Allan, who is actually a part of the Grippo family that runs Dolce Amore. Anita quickly became the star of the entire tour in my eyes, sharing her family history, entrepreneurial spirit, and stories of growing up mere blocks away.

I loved hearing about how she would shop for shoes at Copp’s on Commercial as a little girl and how she built up her own business over the last 34 years. Her two sons work for the coffee company, as does her grandson, and we sampled the fruits of their labour in a beautifully brewed cappuccino. The pastries at Fratelli across the road were the perfect compliment and a delightful way to end our tour.

Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy

The Taste Vancouver food Tours: Little Italy edition runs every Saturday from 2:00pm to 4:30pm for $49, which includes all of the food and beverage tastings. Vegetarian options are available.

Food brings everyone together and what better way to discover more venues in our hometown than by sampling a handful at once. The outing makes for a fun date day, family bonding (I brought my mother along), and team-building with a work group or team. You’ll enjoy the generous tasting samples, the pace of a walking tour, and you’ll definitely find yourself making a grocery list to fulfill on a return trip or planning a date night with live music and good eats.

Learn more about these businesses, the people who run them, and the history of this eclectic neighbourhood by winning a spot for you and a guest on an upcoming tour. Here’s how:

  • Leave a comment naming your favourite Italian food item (1 entry)
  • Post the following on Twitter (1 entry)
RT to enter to win a @tastevantours Little Italy tour from @Miss604 http://ow.ly/qTpuT

I will draw one winner at random from all entries at 5:00pm on Tuesday, November 19, 2013 who will be able to enjoy a complimentary spot (with a guest) on an upcoming tour. Must be 19+. Follow Taste Vancouver Food Tours on Twitter and Facebook for more information about their various activities and tours around town.

Update The winner is Connie!

116 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. Teresa LedinghamSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 1:54pm PST

    Tortellini in a pesto cream sauce !!!

  2. BonnieSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 2:02pm PST

    I love Tiramisu.

  3. MelanieSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 2:04pm PST

    Fettuccine Alfredo yum!

  4. AmSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 2:06pm PST

    I love any pasta, plus thin crust caprese pizza and tiramisu. Is wine considered a food item?

  5. Ron SmithSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 2:13pm PST

    Olive oil

  6. Lucie BSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 2:21pm PST

    The pizza at Famosa and the sandwiches at La Grotta del Formaggio!

  7. zaeliaSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 2:27pm PST

    Zuppa di Vongole!

  8. NadiaSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 2:31pm PST

    I just love a nice thin crust pizza with simple fresh toppings.

  9. Juliana LimaSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 2:33pm PST

    Pasta pasta pasta!

  10. Brenda ClarkeSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 2:41pm PST

    We love The Drive and would love to win this Tour of Little Italy!

  11. Sharon D.Saturday, November 16th, 2013 — 3:07pm PST

    So difficult…a lovely pasta dish or authentic thin crust pizza.

  12. TracySaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 3:24pm PST


  13. Dayna WilsonSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 3:47pm PST

    Ricotta cannelloni!

  14. RyanSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 3:47pm PST

    Nothing better than spaghetti and meatballs

  15. DavidSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 3:48pm PST

    Calamari – the real grilled kind, not the crap deep fried kind.

  16. RosaliaSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 4:00pm PST

    I love pizza!!!

  17. tracySaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 4:15pm PST


  18. DebraSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 4:18pm PST

    So many to choose from…porchetta!

  19. rachelSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 4:25pm PST


  20. GregSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 4:37pm PST


  21. WinnieSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 5:12pm PST

    Pasta! Yum 🙂

  22. bjhSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 5:43pm PST


  23. deniseSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 6:06pm PST

    i love lasagna

  24. @lazy_susan27Saturday, November 16th, 2013 — 6:13pm PST


  25. ConnieSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 6:15pm PST

    It’s always so hard to choose as I absolutely LOVE pasta! But if I had to choose just one, it would be old fashion spaghetti and meatballs!

  26. GlendaSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 6:41pm PST

    Tiramisu all the way

  27. AiSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 7:12pm PST


  28. LindaSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 7:22pm PST

    This is exactly the thing I enjoy doing in my free time! My favourite Italian food is pasta with tomato sauce.

  29. BrendaSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 7:56pm PST

    Burrata cheese

  30. CliffSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 7:56pm PST


  31. AmySaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 8:04pm PST


  32. Hei MoonSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 8:05pm PST


  33. Javier DSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 8:13pm PST

    Favorite by far is prosciutto!

  34. EileenSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 9:20pm PST


  35. DoraSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 9:54pm PST

    Rissotto al funghi

  36. Janet KongSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 10:54pm PST

    Italian sausage w/ green and red peppers in a tomato cream sauce

  37. SharylinSaturday, November 16th, 2013 — 10:58pm PST

    Wood-Oven Pizza ~ delizioso

  38. jeffSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 12:44am PST


  39. mariaSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 12:46am PST


  40. KittySunday, November 17th, 2013 — 2:38am PST

    Neapolitan style pizza!

  41. Hsiao-YuSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 2:39am PST


  42. Sylvia FSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 3:29am PST

    The Italina cake Gubana, which is sooo hard to find anywhere…. but Bosa In Vancouver sells it!

  43. Bonnie RSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 7:28am PST


  44. carolSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 7:30am PST

    spinach and cheese cannelloni

  45. KimSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 9:02am PST


  46. mariaSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 11:21am PST

    I love pasta!

  47. lorSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 12:00pm PST

    homemade ravioli

  48. MichelleSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 12:05pm PST


  49. JeffSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 12:07pm PST

    Chicken Parmesan, yum!

  50. JaneSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 12:39pm PST


  51. Jane MehaiSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 1:04pm PST

    I love spinach ad cheese cannelloni !

  52. LauraSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 1:17pm PST

    neapolitan pizza! 🙂

  53. Tina L.Sunday, November 17th, 2013 — 2:01pm PST

    My favourite is prosciutto.

  54. Cindy SmithSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 3:22pm PST


  55. DarcySunday, November 17th, 2013 — 3:32pm PST


  56. SeanSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 3:38pm PST


  57. Emily HSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 3:41pm PST

    I’d have to go with pizza too! Yum!

  58. AmySunday, November 17th, 2013 — 4:17pm PST


  59. Lori-Airbnb SuperhostSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 4:18pm PST

    Thin crust pizza

  60. AnaSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 4:52pm PST

    Panini from La Grotta del Formaggio!

  61. MarySunday, November 17th, 2013 — 6:13pm PST

    My favorite Italian food is pizza!

  62. LindaSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 6:26pm PST

    Neapolitan pizza

  63. CarolineSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 6:43pm PST

    Too many options to decide! I love pizza, pastries and pasta!

  64. katrinaSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 8:39pm PST

    gnocchi is delicious

  65. GigiSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 9:32pm PST


  66. PaulaSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 11:18pm PST


  67. michael hSunday, November 17th, 2013 — 11:22pm PST

    Baked Ziti!

  68. brandonMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 2:47am PST


  69. RossiMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 8:52am PST

    Tiramisu for the win!

  70. AmyMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 9:40am PST

    Tiramisu… yum…

  71. staceyMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 10:33am PST

    love classic spaghetti and meatballs!

  72. WallyMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 10:43am PST

    Gnocchi (preferably with rose sauce).

  73. KateMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 10:44am PST


  74. CaitlinMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 11:46am PST

    Gnocchi with rose sauce or a good pesto!

  75. taniaMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 11:52am PST


  76. rinoMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 11:52am PST


  77. Gianna BassoMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 12:01pm PST

    Nonna’s homemade lasagna loaded with cheese!

  78. wenxiao zhuMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 12:31pm PST

    Olive Harvest Soup ~ Zuppa Frantoiana

  79. NathanMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 1:37pm PST

    Did someone say, “Pizza”? I mean gelato. Pizza. Gelato. Pizza. Gela…

  80. Radhika KMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 1:41pm PST


  81. Scott PodwinskiMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 1:43pm PST

    I lova tha Tiramisu!

  82. BrentMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 2:07pm PST

    Osso buco

  83. CaitlinMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 2:17pm PST

    Pizza!!! (and gelato) (oh, actually EVERYTHING)

  84. NoahMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 2:38pm PST

    You lost me at Chianti. The mind started to wander. That counts as food right?

  85. KristynMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 3:24pm PST

    Proper Neapolitan Pizza, drooooool

  86. sandhya prasadMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 4:09pm PST

    hmmm pasta pasta luv it

  87. chrissyMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 4:15pm PST

    ravioli! (and red wine)

  88. MelanieMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 4:17pm PST

    Almost any sort of PASTA! Especially with grilled chicken or shrimp. 🙂

  89. Michael KwanMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 4:44pm PST

    A great carbonara would really hit the spot.

  90. AnneMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 5:28pm PST

    My fave is spagettie carbonara

  91. janMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 7:18pm PST


  92. Anne GuagliardoMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 7:45pm PST

    osso bucco è buonissimo 🙂

  93. SabrinaMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 8:22pm PST

    Gelato! No, pasta! No, gelato! No, pasta! Oh boy, this could go on and on…

  94. LauraMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 8:26pm PST

    I love Pizza

  95. Mary wMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 9:24pm PST

    All this is making me hungry

  96. RenMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 10:09pm PST

    Love any kinds of pasta!

  97. SharonMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 10:26pm PST


  98. JessicaMonday, November 18th, 2013 — 11:22pm PST


  99. Jeremy LimTuesday, November 19th, 2013 — 1:36am PST

    I could really use some cannoli right now …

  100. RianaTuesday, November 19th, 2013 — 7:02am PST

    Capricciosa pizza and chef salad from Lombardo’s mmmmmm 🙂

  101. leahTuesday, November 19th, 2013 — 8:20am PST

    caprese salad!

  102. RoTuesday, November 19th, 2013 — 10:17am PST

    Dark chocolate gelato!

  103. Frank_ZTuesday, November 19th, 2013 — 10:29am PST

    Buffalo Mozzarella

  104. Teresa KTuesday, November 19th, 2013 — 12:32pm PST

    Any pasta

  105. AlisaTuesday, November 19th, 2013 — 12:46pm PST


  106. Mike BTuesday, November 19th, 2013 — 1:31pm PST


  107. Peter KhooTuesday, November 19th, 2013 — 2:24pm PST

    Pistachio Gelato!

  108. ChelleTuesday, November 19th, 2013 — 3:22pm PST

    Lasagna, especially veggie lasagna!

  109. MaureenTuesday, November 19th, 2013 — 4:39pm PST

    Lasagna-all varieties!

  110. LenaTuesday, November 19th, 2013 — 9:20pm PST

    Italian food, yum!

  111. AlexTuesday, November 19th, 2013 — 11:04pm PST

    I definitely love pizza. mozzarella cheese and tomato basil sauce. Yum!

  112. SwapnilWednesday, November 20th, 2013 — 11:17am PST

    Fettuccine Alfredo

  113. MagWednesday, November 20th, 2013 — 5:32pm PST

    It would be al dente pasta.

  114. AudreyWednesday, November 20th, 2013 — 9:24pm PST

    The classic spaghetti and meatballs. Yummy.

  115. Vincent ChenThursday, November 21st, 2013 — 2:06am PST

    gelato, pasta, pizza! italian food!!! XD *drools*

  116. David – Vancouver Vending Company ownerSunday, December 8th, 2013 — 10:36pm PST

    All these foods are making me hungry, haha. Pizza, ice cream and wine are just a few of my favorites and seeing them posted online makes me want to grab a bite. These are types of food you couldn’t just take out of a vending machine. I wonder if there is a way to package foods like this in ‘to-go’ format and if they would be popular preserved.

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