You know that scene from the Godfather where Bonacera asks for a favor? He stands in the dark room as the scene reeked of a New York-Italiano-mob-familia vibe from the 1970’s. The warm lone lamp that gave light to the dimly light room; the window shutters barely letting the world outside in, as the Godfather slowly strokes his cat telling Bonacera how insulted he was? You know the scene. That was Pronto, except without the hostile atmosphere and the cat (sadly, I love a good cat infested restaurant). Pronto gave off a rustic American-Italiano vibe with a hint of the social upper-class, a portal to the past when Italian immigrants dominated Queens. They even offer classic Italian cocktails like a good old Aperol spritz, something you rarely find in Vancouver. Situated in the middle of Cambie Street, the restaurant blended into the street well. It’s a small place sectioned into two parts, a bar and a restaurant with people constantly coming in and out as they put down their names on the waitlist.
The rooms are covered with a visage of mirrors and wood rows lining the walls, reaching to make wooden rustic seating on one side and the kitchen counter on the other. Behind the counter, the shelves held canned and jarred Italian goodies like tomatoes, sausages and olives. Seating was limited but added to the overall decor, making the atmosphere close and personal. The waiting list was a piece of paper taped to the rim of the door: simple but effective. The specials were written by hand, in chalk on an old school blackboard besides the counter, with penmanship that was barely legible for the human eye. It seemed that Pronto had really put some effort into setting the scene.
Dinner was a good variety of pizza, pasta, those weird salads with kale that vegans are into and some authentic Italian meat dishes. The menu was a good mix between what a classic Italian dinner would entail and what an American version of Italian cuisine would be. It was nice to see that it encompassed everyone’s tastes. The drinks were a bit expensive but the food prices were alright. My friend ordered a margarita pizza, while I order something on the specials list – a tagliatelle in a lemon, basil and mustard based sauce with lamb and porchetta.
The margarita was spotted with sliced tomatoes and grated mozzarella. The thin crust gave way to the well-toned flavor of tomato sauce lying just on top. The freshness of the chopped basil and the tomatoes added to the overall flavor of the pizza making them the stars of the show. The cheese and the crust were only slightly burned: wonderfully adding a slight smoky flavor to decrease the heaviness of the cheese allowing for the fresh flavored tomatoes to really shine (Cause let’s be honest, everyone likes their pizza a little burnt).
The tagliatelle was pretty amazing. Since I’ve never really had a mustard seed based pasta dish, it was simply eye opening. I like mustard and I like pasta, I figured it couldn’t go too bad and I was right, it was pretty damn good. It was a bit less savory than the pizza. The mustard seeds weren’t chunky and they never got stuck in your teeth. The pasta was done just right as it wasn’t soggy or too aldente. The basil was fresh and the mustard flavor went with the lamb slices very well. The lamb has a slight game flavor though the mustard helped with most of it (besides if the lamb wasn’t gamy at all it just wouldn’t be the same). The porchetta however was over powered by the strong flavors of the sauce, the Parmesan cheese, basil and the lamb. Usually porchetta brings a packing flavor, in this dish however it was pushed to the back of the line.
Overall it was pretty satisfying. The meal wasn’t too heavy and it was enough that afterwards there was still room for a small dessert or a drink. I would rate it to be 8 out of 10 as it was a pretty good experience, mostly it was comfortable and a place people liked to stay, talk, and chat. It’s a place that you just felt more Italian just by walking in. So when I compare it to the Godfather, it’s less about the gang violence and more about the family love that goes on between the characters. It’s the warmth of taking on the family ‘business’ from your father and killing his enemies, but put that in a dish of pasta. It holds a heartwarming feeling of tradition with a twist of new age flavor that rocks your world. I hope that when you go, you’d agree and feel it too.
Photos by Theo Wong