Neighbourhood haunts feel the Van Mag Awards love

With the exception of the bright yellow Fiat parked outside, and the constant line of hungry customers snaking around the corner, it might be easy to miss Via Tevere Pizzeria Napoletana in its unexpected location on Victoria Drive.

The tiny Neapolitan-style pizzeria has been drawing crowds since it opened two years ago, but it’s likely pizza lovers will have to wait even longer now that the neighbourhood’s best kept secret has been very publically outed.

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Via Tevere, owned by brothers Domenic and Frank Morra, was named Best East Side Restaurant at the 25th annual Vancouver Magazine Restaurant awards Tuesday afternoon at the Sheraton Wall Centre on Burrard Street.

The morning after, Dom Morra told the Courier the award is a “huge honour.”

“We looked at the other restaurants we were up against and they were really good,” said Morra. “But we typify a neighbourhood restaurant feel so we knew that would give us a good shot.”

The theme of this year’s competition was Best of the Neighbourhoods, which helped level the playing field and opened the awards up to some of the city’s smaller, less high-profile restaurants.

But as small as Via Tevere is, it’s not exactly flying under the radar and has caught the attention of not only locals, but Food Network executives. Last year the restaurant was featured on the Food Network series You’ve Gotta Eat Here.

Via Tevere is known for serving what’s considered true Neapolitan pizza, which, according to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana in conjunction with the Italian government, must meet a specific set of criteria. Key ingredients include double zero flour, San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella and extra virgin olive oil, and the pizza must be baked in a wood-fired domed oven at 485 C for no longer than 60 to 90 seconds.

“Our dad is from Naples and I’ve travelled there many times,” said Morra. “This is something my brother and I have always wanted to do.”

Judging was up to a panel of 18 food and wine experts who chose winners in 49 categories including Lifetime Achievement Award, which went to Cactus Club founder Richard Jaffray.

Some of the other big winners of the 25th annual Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards include:

• Best Yaletown: Blue Water Café.

• Best West Side: La Quercia.

• Best Food Cart: Vij’s Railway Express.

• Best Indian: Vij’s.

• Chef of the Year: Pino Posteraro — Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill.

• Pastry Chef of the Year: Thomas Haas.

• Best Dim Sum and Best Upscale Chinese: Dynasty Seafood.

• Best Casual Chain: Cactus Club.

• Best West End: Nook.

The best ingredient of the year was gooseneck barnacles, harvested along the West Coast and described as tasting like a cross between a lobster and a clam.

The Farmer’s Apprentice, located on West Sixth Avenue, was named both Best Restaurant of the Year and Best Casual Restaurant. Chef/owner David Gunawan did not respond to interview requests from the Courier. For a complete list of winners, visit vanmag.com.

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