Monday, March 5, 2012

Authentic Italian Dessert Pizza at The BiBo

The BiBo on Urbanspoon
Somebody smack me upside the head if I go for authentic Italian-style pizza one more time. After The BiBo, I really am done. Really. I give up.

So why'd I go? Two things. "Authentic Italian sandwich dessert" pizza, and the the fact that they won't cut it for you. That's "will not" -- according to their website:

The BiBo offers a true Italian experience to please all ages... enjoy watching the master pizza maker, Salvatore create the pizzas in the wood burning oven. He insists the pizzas be served as they are in Italy – he will NOT cut your pizza to keep the flavours intact right to your table.

The whole thing about "keep the flavours intact" puzzled me, and I quizzed our server about it. I got in just at 5pm literally right after they opened their doors for dinner. The person who handled my reservation for the Food Bloggers Meetup was stumped and passed me on to their lone female waitress, Ailana. I got the feeling that she fluffed it off as difficult to explain to hapless English-speaking Vancouverites because she initially said the owners were Italian, so translations may be funny on the website. But she didn't explain what it actually meant. In the end, she changed the conversation to focus on pizza cutting, and assured me that they could in fact cut our pizzas for us. One supposes that they'll do this only if the owners aren't looking. In any case, she didn't ask about cutting and we received our pizzas whole. Everyone struggled with the steak knives.

Anyway... Could someone ask what the name "BiBo" means next time they go? I'm pretty sure it's not a reference to the discontinued fruit punch from Coca-Cola. 'Cause I'm probably not going back any time soon.

NOT because it's bad. It's just that I'm over-done with Italian Pizza. One place is more or less the same as another--You'd have to have a very refined sense for Italian pizza to choose one over the other. That said, The BiBo was recommended to me as "most authentic" by someone who was actually born and raised in Italy.

Price-wise The BiBo is on par with such places as Nicli Antica Pizzeria and Campagnolo, with your basic Margherita coming in at $12 for an approximately 11" pizza.

Prosciutto e funghi (mozzarella, mushrooms, and very thinly sliced cooked ham) was $18. Compared to Nicli Antica Pizzeria, I think this one was more generous with mushrooms, although there was a band of 1" to 1-1/2" of ham of the outside that was conspicuously bare of mushrooms.

Also tried at our table was the curious Siciliana (mozzarella, eggplant; $16). I think you have to really like eggplant to enjoy this because I found it rather boring.

I went straight for Sweet Pizzicotto ($14.90) under the dessert section: "An authentic Italian sandwich dessert made with two layers of baked pizza dough and filled with a creamy yellow custard." What came to the table really took us by surprise.

You got a full-size plate garnished with chocolate sauce and cocoa powder on one side, and what was probably strawberry or raspberry sauce on the other. In the middle was what looked like a stack of pancakes (and approximately of that width). Under all the "custard" was I think two pizza doughs, and it was capped with one more on top, and some strawberry halves and a lopsided splat of strawberry sauce. The whole thing was maybe 2 inches tall.

It's a dinner entree-sized portion for $14.90. Needless to say, save room for dessert if you're not going to just have this for dinner. Better yet, bring three friends to help you. The cream is cold/cool, but the pizza dough used is fresh from the oven, so from the time they put it together, there's the whole melting-goop factor -- So you probably don't want to try this for take-out, and in any case they probably don't have a pizza take-out box tall enough.

There are some desserts that really need to come with instruction manuals, and this is one of them. If you've ever watched people try to cut through an Italian pizza with steak knives, you'll know it can be a chore because of the chewiness of the crust. And by the time they're done, if it isn't already a mess, they've probably spilled enough to make the already thinner-crust centre soggy.
No different here in terms of difficulty cutting, except if you try to tackle this like a stack of pancakes, you'll just end up smushing it down and squeezing all the cream out. Even if you stabbed it with your steak knife to start and sort-of-vertically sawed through it, that doesn't help. I wanted to just slice out a quarter to try and share the rest with everyone else, but after a couple of minutes of slicing, the cream was spread all over. The dessert was completely mangled and unappetizing.

The "creamy yellow custard" looked slightly pinkish to me (did they use the same utensil for the red sauce?), and the mild taste was like yogurt. At this point you can try to get some of the chocolate or fruity sauce to go with it, but there are problems with doing that. Your piece of pizza, dripping with "creamy custard" isn't the sort of thing you can just stab with your fork and wipe on the sauce or chocolate. A spoon would have helped a bit, but the plate was flat. And it wouldn't have helped with the chocolate, which stubbornly stuck to the plate. Overall, I think this dessert definitely needs re-engineering.

My fellow diners only tried a half forkful of the cream if they tried it at all. No one wanted seconds. I don't know if it was because it was ugly after I cut it, or they just didn't feel like dessert after tackling their pizzas. I thought it was an okay idea if it were a more easily eat-able dessert, but nothing special taste-wise.

TIP: If you do order it, either ask them to cut it for you (ha!); ask them to pre-cut the pizza before slathering on the sauce (probably a better idea); or just take layers off it, one layer per person. And ask for a few spoons, not just to pick at the sauce and chocolate, but to clear your plate of the custardy mess afterwards so that it doesn't all go to waste.

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The BiBo is a busy place that starts to get going around 6pm, so if you have a larger group, get in by 5.30pm tops if for no other reason than to let the restaurant set up your table -- unlike some of these popular Italian pizza places, The BiBo *does* accept reservations, which you can make through OpenTable.
It's a airy-feeling restaurant because of the high ceiling, but the tables are quite tight together. There's also some couches and low tables for more relaxed sharing groups, and of course space at the bar and takeout boxes.

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