I finally made it over to try Notturno Paninoteca for lunch earlier this week. I had first learnt about this eatery when I was visiting Vancouver back in March. My foodie friend Grayelf told me about it when she came across a newspaper article which mentioned that Notturno Paninoteca featured sandwiches filled with grappa-poached pear and caramelized fig as she knew how much of a poached pear and fig lover I am. Unfortunately, my eating schedule was already full back then so I didn’t get a chance to check it out but I put them at the top of my list for my next trip to Vancouver.
So here I was at Notturno Paninoteca earlier this week with Grayelf. The menu at Notturno Paninoteca is quite streamlined as it mainly consists of lighter fare such as charcuterie and salad, as well as various versions of bruschette and of course, panini. The panini sandwiches come plated with a lightly dressed salad. I found the salad slightly underseasoned but appreciated the shavings of cheese which gave the salad more flavour.
We decided to share two different panini so we would each get to try both. Originally, we wanted to order the Fumo, which contained Speck (smoked prosciutto), grappa poached pear and taleggio cheese but unfortunately, they were out of taleggio cheese so we decided to try something else. We ended up choosing the Tartufo ($9.50), which consisted of prosciutto, artichoke, capers, black truffle aioli, and pecorino cheese. The Tartufo was delish! The combination of savoury ingredients really worked well together in perfect harmony. The bread was crispy on the outside and had the perfect amount of chewiness to it. Surprisingly, with the capers, the prosciutto, and pecorino cheese, this panini wasn’t overly salty. It had just the perfect balance of flavours. I definitely would order the Tartufo again.
Our second panini was, of course, the Blu Fico ($9), which was filled with blue cheese aioli, caramelized fig, walnut, black olives, and wilted greens. Since I love blue cheese and fig, this was the perfect panini for me. To me, it had just the right balance between savoury and sweet although it was actually a little more sweet than savoury because of the caramelized fig. I ate this panini last as to me, it was kind of like the “dessert” panini. I loved the contrasting flavours – the creaminess of the blue cheese, the crunchy walnuts, the sweetness of the caramelized fig and the brininess of the black olives. And to top it off, the crispy yet chewy bread encasing all this yummy goodness! This panini was indeed a winner.
Considering how basic their kitchen set up is, I’m really impressed at what they’ve managed to deliver at Notturno Paninoteca. Because of the lack of proper ventilation in the building, they actually don’t have a real kitchen. What you see behind the bar is all that they have for kitchen and prep space. Basically, their kitchen consists of a portable induction burner, a panini press and a dishwasher in the corner. So this limits what they are able to have on the menu. But what they have put together on the menu is really delicious. I must say that these two panini that we tasted rank as one of the most memorable sandwiches I’ve had in the Vancouver area thus far. For me, I definitely prefer these panini at Notturno Paninoteca over the famous Pear Baguette with Blue Brie, Prosciutto, Roasted Walnuts at Finch’s Tea and Coffee House nearby though they are stylelistically different as I actually think the panini actually have a bit of a wow factor taste-wise. If I was in the Gastown area, Notturno Paninoteca would be my go to place for gourmet sandwiches if I wasn’t craving for the porchetta sandwich at Meat & Bread. For me, the porchetta from Meat & Bread is still my top favourite sandwich in Vancouver but of course, I can’t eat porchetta every single day and Notturno Paninoteca definitely has good variety for their panini.
I also like the decor and ambience at Notturno Paninoteca as it has a very European feel to it. Though it is more of a sandwich shop during the lunch hour, in the evenings, it transforms into a wine bar. They have a good selection of wine and European beers to go with the panini and bruschette and are actually open to midnight on most nights with the exception of Sunday, which is the day that they are closed. I can’t wait to go back to Notturno Paninoteca again on my next trip Vancouver so that I can try some of their other panini. This was definitely a great find by my foodie friend, Grayelf!
280 Carrall St