“Why are there so many Dons in this movie?”
Step into Pepino’s Spaghetti House and if, like me, you were immediately transported to that time you were forced to watch The Godfather by a boyfriend and wondered why every man in the movie was named Don, than you are in good company my friend. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look for a gun hidden behind the toilet in the bathroom but worry not because none were found.
What was found though – in this “House that Spaghetti Built” – was a solid mound of Spaghetti and Meatballs and juicy Pork Chop Parm, romantic in that 1977 New York kind of way where the Bee Gees are on loop and you agree to join a dance competition with a guy named Tony, but only if he agrees to keep it professional.
Formerly Nick’s Spaghetti House, a little piece of East Van’s history on Commercial Drive, the owners of Savio Volpe (one of my fave Vancouver restaurants bee tee dubs), took over and transformed it into one of the city’s most buzzing eateries.
Tiny and dim in just the kind of way you want it to be, the hardest part (after squeezing your way in between the fellow diners your seated between) is deciding what you’re going to order. In the end, while everything that flies onto the tables around you looks delicious, it only feels right to go as gritty as you can – only the food of the people will do.
Ian and I have wine on the mind tonight because it seems impossible for Italian 1977 gritty romance without a bottle of red to go with my spag and balls. Don’t forget to ask your lovely server for his recommendations on food and wine pairings because that is his job and he is good at it.
Complimentary bread basket to start is necessary because the people want their bread and you need to give the people what they want. There is something so nostalgic and so lovely about the complimentary bread basket that not enough restaurants do these days.
Spaghetti and Meatballs ($26).
Moderate pile of spaghetti topped with two plump meatballs featuring pasta with a nice bite and a simple clean tomato sauce that serves as a nice contrast to the meaty mound it’s served with.
At $26, this dish doesn’t come cheap and you may find yourself pushing out the nagging thoughts that there are only two meatballs and that you only end up with one because you are sharing the dish or that you could cook and eat this at home in your underwear for a fraction of the price and on both counts, you would be right. Still, once in a while you have to leave the house and let your hair down, and this is a decent place to do it at.
Nothing says food of the people like the “Big Anthony” Pork Chop Parm ($34) and as soon as I saw it on the menu, I knew it would be mine.
Baked and sizzling wih tomato sauce and cheese on a metal platter, this gigantic piece of pork chop comes sailing towards us and first slice into the meat reveals juicy pork and a nice layer of fat coated with crispy deep fried skin. Without a doubt, diet’s off for the night but I ain’t even mad because this dish was absolutely a highlight for me. So many comforting textures and savoury flavours all at once cut with the clean acidity from the tomato sauce, this is what a bright but warm embrace in your mouth must feel like.
Rapini with Garlic and Chili ($8) on the side to fill the vegetable quota, and these were cooked well with a firm bite and plenty of flavour but let’s be real – nobody is here for the vegetables.
Filled to bursting with delicious food made with fresh ingredients, wine, and Night Fever vibes, would I Pepino again?
Now, I’m not saying no and I’m definitely not saying no if a Don offers to wine and dine me here for a night but in a city brimming with Italian restaurants, it’s probably not going to be my first pick.