Marcello was born in the City of Delights, or more commonly known as Palermo, Italy, where he fell in love with cooking from a young age. Training as a chef in Milan, he went on to own a restaurant on the Adriatic Sea, and now, for over twenty years, has brought Southern Italian cooking to Marcello Ristorante on Commercial Drive. Cha Siu Papers Times’ contributor Geraldine Sangalang dropped by Marcello’s Ristorante for a taste of the wood-fired pizza, cocktails, and sharing dishes on a humble evening on the town.
Marcello’s Ristorante & Pizzeria has been serving Italian Food on Vancouver’s Iconic Commercial Drive for more than 20 years. Easily accessible by skytrain, a short stroll through Little Italy leads to Marcello’s.
You can’t miss the pizza oven at Marcello’s—a tall statue-like piece where the mouth serves as the ever-open oven door. As soon as you walk into the restaurant, you’re met with the aroma of roasting food. As you take your seat and allow your eyes to glance at photos on the walls, you begin to wonder if your order could possibly top this fragrance.
Al-fresco dining is comfortable with a decorated fence and a covered, heated patio. Tables are spaced safely and comfortably throughout the restaurant, while clear plastic barriers provide an additional layer of subtle safety for guests.
Frittura Di Calamari is a generous and welcome appetizer served with toasted bread. Tender, deep-fried baby squid is served hot and the bread is best eaten quickly. It’s a wonderful dish to share and often someone’s favourite at the table.
A brilliant and memorably spicy sauce envelops the mussels in tomato sauce, Cozze Fesche. This bright dish would pair beautifully with a crisp white wine, no matter the season.
My favourite dish of the evening was Calamari Alla Griglia: grilled squid with roasted peppers. Large pieces of grilled squid are charred and smoky, with a deliciously tender texture. Accompanied with sweetly roasted peppers and topped with olive oil, this is a lovely appetizer that could impress a date or bring a smile to one’s face after a long day.
It would be ridiculous to visit Marcello’s without sampling a pasta dish. Linguine Alla Vongole, clams in white wine sauce with tomato, provides a satisfying serving of shellfish and sticky carbs. This sauce is light and clean while providing ample opportunity to twirl your linguine. I particularly appreciate that the dish isn’t overwhelmed with pasta. The main attraction of this dish is truly the sweet clams.
Marcello’s Ristorante & Pizzeria is known in the neighbourhood for its fresh pizza. The Funghi con Tartufo is prepared with a combination of mozzarella and asiago cheese along with mushrooms and truffle. The crust is light and thin, a delicate texture you expect to find, as it holds together the pizza toppings. The smoky mozzarella flavours shine through more than the mushroom, but the combination of flavours is satisfying.
Lavanda is prepared with Empress gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and topped with prosecco. Aesthetically pleasing, this is a fun drink that reminds me of summertime.
If you’re craving more summer sunshine, the classic Aperol Spritz is a balanced blend of prosecco, Aperol and soda water. This is a generous cocktail that’s easy to sip.
Not all whiskey sours are made equal, and the Whiskey Sour at Marcello’s was my favourite cocktail to sample. Classic whiskey sours are prepared with whiskey and lemon juice, simple syrup and topped with freshly whipped egg white. I adore the use of maple syrup instead of simple syrup, providing another layer of depth to a classic cocktail.
Clover Club is a newer cocktail that was offered from the bartender while he continued to finalize the recipe. Made with grenadine and gin, this was a surprisingly sweeter cocktail, reminiscent of an adult Shirley Temple.
I understand why Marcello’s Ristorante & Pizzeria has become a staple on Commercial Drive for so many years. I’d be pleased to return for happy hour or stop for a bite and a glass of wine in the early evening or afternoon.
The atmosphere is warm and inviting as the menu. I would gladly return for the Calamari Alla Griglia, perhaps sample something new and share a bottle of wine with someone I love. It’s a wonderful space to unwind and comfortably enjoy the positive vibes of The Drive.
Marcello Ristorante & Pizzeria, 1404 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, BC V5L 3X9, Canada, +1 604-215-7760, marcellopizzeria.com