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Commercial Drive Food Crawl

Change comes slowly to the globally aware souk that is the Drive
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Out of Divino Wine Bar's tiny kitchen come sophisticated plates like leek-ash-crusted pork loin in maple-walnut jus Ksenia Makagonova
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Change comes slowly to the globally aware souk that is the Drive

Mary Macintyre's charming Little Nest (1716 Charles St., 604-251-9994. Littlenest.ca), just off of the Drive, is known as a kid-friendly dining spot, but we go for the former Lumière pastry chef's cakes, which can be purchased whole with 24 hours' notice. Swoon-worthy flavours like pistachio with rose-scented citrus icing, and pear and Marsala wine, are showstoppers.

The monster-sized panini at La Grotta del Formaggio (1791 Commercial Dr., 604-255-3911), a Drive fixture for over 30 years, are of the choose-your-own-adventure sort: fillings run from soppressata to smoked provolone, pickled eggplant to pesto basil mayo. No matter your selection, it stacks up to the most satisfying midday bite.

On Vancouver's precious sunshiny spring days, the lineup snakes out the door at Gelateria Dolce Amore (1588 Commercial Dr., 604-258-0006. Gelateriadolceamore.com) as gelato hounds patiently await the gargantuan scoops. The Grippo family handcraft their impeccable gelato in small batches, taking cues from artisan traditions of the old country. Flavour selection changes daily, but stick to classics like nocciola (hazelnut), limoncello, and panna cotta.

At JN&Z Smoked Meats (1729 Commercial Dr., 604-251-4144), Natasha and Zorica Jeremic's traditional cold-smoked meats are cured without nitrites or preservatives. Their smoked beef and pork tenderloin have a cult following, but it's the bacon that is the unsung secret ingredient in many a coq-au-vin.

You say Fratelli Bakery (1795 Commercial Dr., 604-255-8926. Fratellibakery.com), we say dessert (certainly their cannoli and trademark St-Honoré cake have fervid devotees), but the savvy arrive early to snag a loaf of Marco Cornale's bread, like the aromatic potato leek or crusty roasted garlic and cheese filone.

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