In another lifetime — or at least in an earlier century — when I lived on Graveley, I was an habituee of Lombardo’s Pizza in the Il Mercato Mall at the corner of Commercial & 1st. Every couple of weeks or so for a few years, I had to get my Inferno fix. The Inferno was my favourite pizza, with a fierce hot sauce at its heart. The chef, and I always assumed the owner, was Marcello and with his classic brick oven he made the very best pizza in Vancouver, recognized in the Georgia Strait‘s annual awards. I didn’t stay if I found that Marcello wasn’t cooking that night.
About ten years ago, a couple of rich westside kids poured a ton of money into a restaurant they called L’Impero at the southeast corner of Commercial and Kitchener. It was designed to attract dot.com yuppies and similar types. Its failure was spectacular and swift. Pretty soon thereafter, Marcello took over the space and named it for himself. It has been going strong ever since.
I never became a regular at Marcello’s as I had been at Lombardo’s. The atmosphere was set at a more refined level than at the earlier place, and certainly never seemed as friendly. Over the years, on our occasional visits, we have been put off more than once by some very arrogant take-it-or-leave-it service. However, their pizzas are pretty good and they have an inslata verde that my wife adores, so we tried again late on Saturday afternoon.
After a cold and wet start, Saturday eventually became a warm and sunny day. The Drive was bouncing with life, the patios were full, and we had enjoyed our leisurely walk. We entered Marcello’s in a fine mood and, praise the Lord, we were not let down. We were quickly found a table for two at the front window, and our waitress was as laid back and easy-going as we could hope for. The warm air and the soothing breeze through the open window made for an ideal atmosphere. Even the famously hard-shelled hostess was enjoying a brief smile or two.
The insalata verde was exactly as the boss ordered and we had fun trying to deconstruct the dressing. The pizza — half Marcello and half Palermo (the closest thing to the Inferno of old) — was good, too (though, heretically, I believe that Eric’s small pizzas at Fets are the now best on the Drive).
A good time and I’m glad we went back.