Tradition Meets Technology at IL VICOLO

Photos by Andre Gagne

Having spent a month recently in Italy, any local slice of pizza passing over my taste buds has a pretty big plate to fill. How do you replace the memory of such gooey goodness experienced in the land that fathered one of the most beloved foods on the planet? Well, one smell of what was wafting up into my nostrils as I sat down at Ottawa’s newest pizza palace, IL VICOLO, would show that such taste tradition was a lot closer to home then I realized.

Ottawa just got tastier, says an announcement about IL VICOLO –which has its Grand Opening at its 118 Clarence Street / ByWard Market location this Wednesday. However, the restaurant is looking to provide more then just tantalizing satisfaction for your cheese-filled cravings. It’s looking to give you an experience being the city’s first (and thus far only) outdoor pizzeria. Mama mia!

“Our aim is to give Ottawa a full outdoor experience. This goes hand in hand with pizza,” says co-owner Salim Gias Uddin referencing how Italians like to chow down on their pies outside rather than in. As a business owner who has found a home in the Market for over 25 years, he was quick to jump on board with the unique concept of an all-seasons outdoor establishment.

Getting Ottawans outside to munch in the Market come the wintertime is not an easy task but Salim and manager Ali Faghfouri believe, like their restaurant, the outdoor eatery concept provides the perfect blend of flavours no matter what time of year it is.

For example, the fountain currently flowing in the main section will become a fire pit. Those looking to ensure they’ll be toasty-warm should also know that heaters will be strewn about and staff will happily hand you a comfy blanket. Talk about comfort food!

Any Italian will tell you that good pizza is worth the weather and the wait. At IL VICOLO, the wait is hardly an issue because –as Salim will tell you– there tradition is meeting technology.

Remember that scene in Back to the Future II's version of 2015 where a pizza is made in seconds? Sure, they were two years off but the future is now and you don't even need a Black & Decker Food Hydrator! Salim and crew have the heat covered having brought in the restaurant pizza oven from Italy to take care of the traditional aspect. The technology side comes into play when you learn that your hot plate of delicious took longer to put together than it did cook.

Really, the pizza takes only about 90 seconds but don’t go thinking this is fast food.

“These pizzas are very unique. The flavours are intense. The dough is on par with Italian-style pizza plus we do use local products,” says Alibut both him and Salim say you don’t have to take their word for it. Italy has already discovered Ottawa's newest pizza secret.

Recently, a group of Italians just off a flight gave the new business high praise. After biting into a classic Margherita pizza one was heard to exclaim that it was the single best tasting pizza he’d had in some time. When Italians are telling you that, it’s got to be good.

But you don’t have to stick with the more tried and true wood-fired delicacies The Magical Mystery Tour has a "fab four" of toppings like prosciutto, baby arugula, mozzarella and shaved parmigiano. Want more daring? Add a little spice then with the Veloce (crushed tomato sauce with hot sausage, spice pepper rings, mozzarella di bufala and goat cheese). Fish lovers can make the Scampi their catch of the day and the Holyshiitake is sure to receive some giggles before the inevitable “mmmmmm”.

There are vegan and gluten-free options also available.

That’s just a sampling of the pies they have to offer and while you may be inclined to try them all in one sitting (I sure was!) you'll have to save room for desert! Traditional sweet dough crostates are baked in the oven and stuffed with choices of apple, raspberry, banana and Nutella. The menu, of course, includes fine wine and coffee.

“We welcome you to escape into our little piece of pizza heaven in the heart of the Byward Market. Our outdoor terrace awaits you to experience some of most delicious pizza you have ever tasted!,” says Salim with a smile.

The Grand Opening celebrations are set to begin at six with treats from the menu. While enjoying the outdoor Market air we understand if, for even just a moment, you believe you’re actually feeling the breeze sweeping in off the Bay of Naples itself.