Nook: Cozy Cubbyhole of Italian Comfort Food
781 Denman Street, West End, Vancouver, BC
Nook in Vancouver’s West End is just that: a cozy, homey little nook that serves up some rustic Italian cuisine. The dimly lit, snug little restaurant is crammed full of small tables. I was literally touching the elbow of the person next to me. The small space was wafting full of deep and rich smells of bubbly tomato sauce, baking pizzas and hearty pastas though. Famished and our mouths watering from the smell of food, we couldn’t wait to order!
For an antipasto, we ordered a plate of prosciutto and fresh buffalo mozzarella to share. The thin ribbons of prosciutto and big, moist clumps of creamy mozzarella were drizzled generously with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with fresh cracked pepper.
The spicy pepper brought out the fresh, milky sweetness of the cheese. The texture was soft and intensely creamy. It was a wonderful contrast to the salty cured prosciutto. The prosciutto was leaner than what I’m used to but the meat was still deliciously silky and chewy. The pork flavours coming through nicely.
We ordered the Italian sausage pizza. We could smell the spices from the little morsels of meat as soon as the pizza was set down on our tiny table.
The pizza crust was perfectly crispy and not at all soggy on the bottom. Each slice was smothered with tasty and tangy tomato sauce, lots of gooey cheese and that glorious sausage. The meat was tender and had that trademark Italian kick to it, adding punch and dimension to a classic Italian pizza.
In case we didn’t get enough meat in our pizza, we also ordered a bowl of gnocchi to share, it was served with baby meatballs.
The little meatballs were as tasty and flavourful as the little potato dumplings. Dressed in a light sauce of olive oil and herbs, the dumplings and meatballs were left to shine on their own. The mini meatballs were fluffier than the Italian sausage meat and slightly more mild. The gnocchi were chewy and soft. It was the ultimate comfort food.
After dinner, we read the small chalkboard above the kitchen window to check out the dessert options. My friend had never tried an affogato so we had to order that. An affogato is simply a scoop of ice cream with a shot of hot espresso poured over top. At Nook, they brought the dish of ice cream to our table and poured the hot espresso on top at the table. The sight was still extraordinary, the hot coffee running in steaming streams down the frozen mountain of ice cream, leaking quickly down each icy crevice as it melted the big scoop of ice cream.
One of my favourite ice cream flavours is coffee, that’s why I love affogato. It’s the perfect mix of bitter coffee and sweet, creamy cold ice cream. We had to eat it fast though as the ice cream was melting quickly and even as we quickly scooped big spoonfuls into our mouths, there was a growing puddle of coffee-infused melted cream at the bottom of our ice cream dish.
We also ordered another Italian classic dessert, panna cotta topped with a scoop of berry compote. The panna cotta was equally as creamy and decadent as our affogato. It tasted strongly of vanilla. We even spotted the little vanilla bean seeds speckled throughout the panna cotta.
Nook is such a little hidden treasure. I would love to visit again and experience another homey, rustic Italian meal.