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Great pies withstand painful experience at Don’t Argue Pizzeria

The potato mash with crispy, braised kale and the pancetta niçoise at Don’t Argue Pizzeria taste great, but the people who run it couldn’t care less about customer comfort.

Ben Nelms/The Globe and Mail

Name
Don’t Argue Pizzeria
Location
3240 Main St., Vancouver, British Columbia
Phone
604-876-5408
Website
dontarguepizzeria.com
Price
Small (12-inch), $14 to $17; large (18-inch), $27 to $30
Cuisine
Italian
Rating System
casualDining
Additional Info
Open daily to 11 p.m. (10 p.m. on Sunday). No reservations. Takeout available.

I'm not going to quarrel about how loudly the music is blasted at Don't Argue Pizzeria. Nor will I quibble about the deep wooden benches that make it extremely uncomfortable for short people to sit back with their feet dangling above the floor.

Why bother? The people who run this so-hip-it-hurts pizzeria obviously couldn't care less about customer comfort. If they did give a hoot they might at least let us know, perhaps with a sign, that you're supposed to order at the counter. Instead, they just leave us hanging in those awkward seats.

I eventually wander up and patiently wait while a tourist questions a vacant-eyed counter clerk about the cheapest strategy for feeding five people. The conversation goes on for 10 minutes. During this time, the clerk doesn't once look my way. No "I'll be with you soon" reassurances. No apologetic smile. At one point I watch her pick up the handle on a rotary phone and slam it back in the cradle without answering the call.

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The insouciance is incontrovertible. Yet still I don't argue. I just develop an excruciating headache.

"What's taking so long?" my friend inquires as he joins me at the counter. I beg him to take over and order a bottle of wine.

My girlfriend, in the meantime, has found a table on the patio. The jukebox tunes (Fleetwood Mac) are less jarring out there. But the table is full of dirty dishes left behind by previous diners. "They're not going to clean it," she tells me.

Pardon?

She had already asked a gentleman who was delivering pizzas to other tables whether he could please clear ours. "I'm busy," he replied. "You're supposed to do it yourself." Then he turned around and went back inside – empty-handed. Again, there are no signs on the wall or mention on the menu about this fast-food-restaurant expectation. There isn't even an obvious garbage station for depositing trays.

But don't argue. If you just sit there looking stupid and passively rebel by not lifting a finger, they might just come and clean the table for you (as Mr. Busy did, eventually).

I wasn't entirely surprised to later discover that Don't Argue Pizzeria is the first restaurant venture for owners Nathaniel Geary and Anna de Courcy. The former was a filmmaker before he went to pizza school (Tony Gemignani's International School of Pizza in San Francisco); the latter is a locally renowned jewellery designer.

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Our Chianti is warm, but drinkable. I will concede that the joint offers a neatly compact beverage list with a few local microbrews, a couple of Campari cocktails and complimentary sparkling water on tap.

We return to the counter to order pizza. Mr. Busy has replaced the glacially detached robot. And he's in a much better mood.

"Do you have water yet?" he asks. No, thank you, we'd love some. "Do you mind that we've run out of red onion?" Could we substitute chili flakes? "Good idea," he nods approvingly. We'd like to add anchovies to the pancetta niçoise. "My favourite way of eating that pizza," he enthuses.

Then we try to pay. "I'm sorry, we don't accept credit cards," he says. But that's how we paid for our wine. He hangs his head. "We're not supposed to take them, but since you already did I'll let you do it this time." How generous.

We head back to our table carrying armfuls of plates, napkins, water carafe, tumblers and a tall stick with our order number. Then we wait and wait and wait.

At long last, the first pizza arrives. It's obviously been rushed because the bottom is slightly burnt and the top is very wet. Even so, it tastes great. The dough is a cross between Neapolitan and American styles – thin, yet firm with a crunchy crust and chewy bite. The sauce is a beautifully minimalist balance of grippingly ripe tomatoes and salt. The toppings – salty pancetta, melted medallions of fior di latte, wrinkled olives and crispy basil (plus extra white anchovies) – are generously portioned for a taste in every mouthful.

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The potato mash is a tasty revelation. I had to persuade my friends to order this unconventional white pie dressed with béchamel, mascarpone, roasted garlic, dollops of russet mashed potatoes and crispy braised kale. Yet they love it. The sauce is creamy, but not too thick. The flavour is hearty, but not overwhelming. The spicy chili substitute cuts through the cream and probably works better than sweet red onion.

We devour every last morsel. But would I go back? Only if I was feeling masochistic. It was a painful experience. You can't argue against that.

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About the Author
Vancouver restaurant critic

Alexandra Gill has been The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver restaurant critic since 2005. She joined the paper as a summer intern in 1997 and was hired full-time as an entertainment columnist the following year. In 2001, she moved to Vancouver as the Western Arts Correspondent, a position she held until 2007. More

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