Taste Vancouver Food Tours: Little Italy

Saturday, November 16th, 2013 — 1:44pm PST
Comments 116

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!

Disclosure: Review
This is not a paid post. Views are my own. My spot on the tour was complimentary for media/review.

Current contests on Miss604.com

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  1. Teresa Ledingham says:

    Tortellini in a pesto cream sauce !!!

  2. Bonnie says:

    I love Tiramisu.

  3. Melanie says:

    Fettuccine Alfredo yum!

  4. Am says:

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

  5. Ron Smith says:

    Olive oil

  6. Lucie B says:

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

  7. zaelia says:

    Zuppa di Vongole!

  8. Nadia says:

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

  9. Juliana Lima says:

    Pasta pasta pasta!

  10. Brenda Clarke says:

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

  11. Sharon D. says:

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

  12. Tracy says:


  13. Dayna Wilson says:

    Ricotta cannelloni!

  14. Ryan says:

    Nothing better than spaghetti and meatballs

  15. David says:

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

  16. Rosalia says:

    I love pizza!!!

  17. tracy says:


  18. Debra says:

    So many to choose from…porchetta!

  19. Winnie says:

    Pasta! Yum 🙂

  20. denise says:

    i love lasagna

  21. @lazy_susan27 says:


  22. Connie says:

    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!

  23. Glenda says:

    Tiramisu all the way

  24. Ai says:


  25. Linda says:

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

  26. Brenda says:

    Burrata cheese

  27. Cliff says:


  28. Amy says:


  29. Hei Moon says:


  30. Javier D says:

    Favorite by far is prosciutto!

  31. Eileen says:


  32. Dora says:

    Rissotto al funghi

  33. Janet Kong says:

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

  34. Sharylin says:

    Wood-Oven Pizza ~ delizioso

  35. jeff says:


  36. maria says:


  37. Kitty says:

    Neapolitan style pizza!

  38. Hsiao-Yu says:


  39. Sylvia F says:

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

  40. Bonnie R says:


  41. carol says:

    spinach and cheese cannelloni

  42. maria says:

    I love pasta!

  43. lor says:

    homemade ravioli

  44. Michelle says:


  45. Jeff says:

    Chicken Parmesan, yum!

  46. Jane says:


  47. Jane Mehai says:

    I love spinach ad cheese cannelloni !

  48. Laura says:

    neapolitan pizza! 🙂

  49. Tina L. says:

    My favourite is prosciutto.

  50. Cindy Smith says:


  51. Darcy says:


  52. Emily H says:

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

  53. Ana says:

    Panini from La Grotta del Formaggio!

  54. Mary says:

    My favorite Italian food is pizza!

  55. Linda says:

    Neapolitan pizza

  56. Caroline says:

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

  57. katrina says:

    gnocchi is delicious

  58. Gigi says:


  59. Paula says:


  60. michael h says:

    Baked Ziti!

  61. brandon says:


  62. Rossi says:

    Tiramisu for the win!

  63. Amy says:

    Tiramisu… yum…

  64. stacey says:

    love classic spaghetti and meatballs!

  65. Wally says:

    Gnocchi (preferably with rose sauce).

  66. Caitlin says:

    Gnocchi with rose sauce or a good pesto!

  67. rino says:


  68. Gianna Basso says:

    Nonna’s homemade lasagna loaded with cheese!

  69. wenxiao zhu says:

    Olive Harvest Soup ~ Zuppa Frantoiana

  70. Nathan says:

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

  71. Radhika K says:


  72. Scott Podwinski says:

    I lova tha Tiramisu!

  73. Brent says:

    Osso buco

  74. Caitlin says:

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

  75. Noah says:

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

  76. Kristyn says:

    Proper Neapolitan Pizza, drooooool

  77. sandhya prasad says:

    hmmm pasta pasta luv it

  78. chrissy says:

    ravioli! (and red wine)

  79. Melanie says:

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

  80. Michael Kwan says:

    A great carbonara would really hit the spot.

  81. Anne says:

    My fave is spagettie carbonara

  82. Anne Guagliardo says:

    osso bucco è buonissimo 🙂

  83. Sabrina says:

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

  84. Laura says:

    I love Pizza

  85. Mary w says:

    All this is making me hungry

  86. Ren says:

    Love any kinds of pasta!

  87. Sharon says:


  88. Jessica says:


  89. Jeremy Lim says:

    I could really use some cannoli right now …

  90. Riana says:

    Capricciosa pizza and chef salad from Lombardo’s mmmmmm 🙂

  91. leah says:

    caprese salad!

  92. Ro says:

    Dark chocolate gelato!

  93. Frank_Z says:

    Buffalo Mozzarella

  94. Teresa K says:

    Any pasta

  95. Alisa says:


  96. Mike B says:


  97. Peter Khoo says:

    Pistachio Gelato!

  98. Chelle says:

    Lasagna, especially veggie lasagna!

  99. Maureen says:

    Lasagna-all varieties!

  100. Lena says:

    Italian food, yum!

  101. Alex says:

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

  102. Swapnil says:

    Fettuccine Alfredo

  103. Mag says:

    It would be al dente pasta.

  104. Audrey says:

    The classic spaghetti and meatballs. Yummy.

  105. Vincent Chen says:

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

  106. 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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