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"It’s always great coming back to Vancouver. It’s one of my favorite cities in the country."
John Catucci can’t remember a time when food wasn’t an important part of his life. Growing up with Italian parents (the Food Network Canada personality pronounces “pasta” as if the first a was an o) showed Catucci that food and love are deeply connected—and he’s managed to parlay that relationship into a career in food.
In fact, the comedian, singer, actor and host of You Gotta Eat Here! is currently working on a new project—Big Food Bucket List—which is set to premiere on the Food Network Canada in May. Below, Catucci dishes on his favourite Vancouver dishes.
On his favourite Vancouver restaurants:
It’s just spectacular. Their chef, Andrea Carlson, is a pioneer of farm-to-table stuff. We were in her hands and she was showing us some incredible meals. We had this pork-and-fennel ragù with pappardelle noodles, and it blew me away. I usually try not to eat an entire dish, because then the plaid get really tight, but this is one of those dishes that I didn’t want to share—and my crew was very upset with me. It’s their own fault! I’ve got a soft spot for pasta.
They have what are almost like Japanese tapas. People can come in after work and they have drinks—sake—with these little dishes that people can share. They did this yaki udon dish that had these really thick yaki udon noodles and beautiful pieces of meat. It’s topped with bonito flakes—fermented fish flakes—so you get this smoky and fishy taste. And when they hit the noodles while they’re still really hot, the flakes start waving around and it almost looks like they’re alive. When it hits your tongue and you see this dish that’s alive in front of you, it’s so great and it’s so delicious.
It’s just an amazing noodle place; they have the best soups around. You walk past it and you can see them making all the soups in the front window and you just have to press your face against it. The aroma of all those different soups filling the restaurant makes your mouth water—I can still remember it.
And chef Angus An is an incredible chef. He brought us around and showed us all the ways he makes these incredible dishes. The dom yum soup was pretty cool—i’s a sweet and sour soup with rice sheets. They’re bigger and they’ve got a bit more chew to them than traditional ride noodles. Angus knows what he’s doing and his dishes are just so perfect.
This is another great farm-to-table restaurant. They know all the people, all the farmers they get their food from. And that’s really wild to see because the menu is really seasonal—not even seasonal, weekly! Whatever is coming in, whatever is fresh—that’s what they’re using.
When I was there, they used a delicata squash and they used every part of it. They took off the skin and fried it, and then they made a broth out of it. And then they blended part of it so it was creamy, and cut it up and grilled it. The squash was done in a few different ways.
And then you have this beautiful ling cod—again, locally sourced. Just having that much love on your plate… you can taste it. They know and care about where everything is coming from, so you know that whatever ends up on your plate is gonna be an amazing experience. The bar is wild, too. The bartender, Kaitlyn Stewart, won Bartender of the Year at an international competition a couple years back, so she’s making these incredible cocktails.
On Vancouver’s food scene:
You get so many incredible different types of food—food from all over the world—and they’re done so well. There’s always new restaurants coming up and new stuff happening and new stuff to try. We always have a good time in Vancouver. The food is always innovative and changing. I love the attention to detail, especially with all the farm-to-table stuff that’s happening right now. So every time I come back, I’m excited to try new restaurants and happy to go back to some of my old favorites.
On the places he always comes back to in Vancouver:
There are three places my crew always goes to. We go to Samurai Sushi to get some incredible—like, crazy—sashimi. I don’t think you guys know how good you have it there when it comes to sushi. In other parts of Canada, the sushi rolls are very small. But the rolls in Vancouver are monster-sized!
We always go down to Banana Leaf as well. It’s usually just up the street from where we’re staying, so the first thing we do is drop our bags off at the hotel and get some roti canai and some other great dishes. And I always go back to Via Tevere—it’s a Neapolitan pizza place in Vancouver. If I don’t have pizza once a week, I start freaking out.
On the foods he refuses to eat:
Listen, I’m willing to try anything. I’ll do it. I’ve had hearts and kidneys and pancreases and stuff like that. It’s not like I’m like, “Oh, I have a hankering for some pancreases!” in the middle of the night. But it’s fun to try new things. I might not try it again, but I’ll try it at least once!