Gastown New and Old
Last week we attended a Sports Biz Meetup at the Charles Bar which is located on the main floor of the new part of the Woodward’s building in Gastown. It is a great place for a meetup also a great place to watch the game, with individual flatscreen TV’s in some of the booths. We will be back during playoffs. After the meetup we went a few blocks north, still in Gastown, from a very new building to a very old one.

Hudson House
The building at 321 Water Street known as Hudson House is home to a high end Canadian souvenir store on the main floor and Al Porto Ristorante below. However, the building was first home to the Hudson Bay, hence the name. In 1885, the Hudson’s Bay Company built the Hudson House as its main warehouse for fur and liquor products. Designed by W.T. Dalton, Hudson House was owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company for 60 years. It was then renovated in 1977 by architect Werner Foster in order to accommodate offices and retail. The souvenir shop and restaurant came later.

Al Porto Ristorante
You can enter Al Porto from an alleyway off Water Street and down a set of stairs or through the main entrance of the Hudson House building and down in the elevator. The dining room is large accommodating about 200 guests and there is also a more private seating area called the ‘wine room’ that would be great for a party of about 40. The décor is classic with wooden chairs, white linens, tile floors, traditional wine bottle are barrels, Italian murals and a large wood bar. The restaurant is open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner and weekends for dinner only.

Food and Wine
The dinner menu included a very large selection of traditional Italian plus seafood, appetizers, soups and salads as well as wood oven pizza, pastas and risottos and main courses. The wine list contained a large selection of Italian and BC wines with a few from France, California and Australia as well all at fairly reasonable markup. We both started with an appetizer, Jeff the zuppa stracciatella and I a tomato and bocconcini salad. The chicken broth that was the base of the soup was delicious. The arugula in the salad and the tomatoes were very fresh. For dinner we both chose pizzas – how could we not with the smell of the wood fire oven. The dough and tomato sauce are both made in house, as it should be in an Italian restaurant and they were terrific. A light covering of very flavorful sauce topped the perfectly cooked thin and crispy crust. Jeff had the pepperoni pizza while I had the canadese which added onions and red peppers and Italian sausage to the pepperoni, mozzarella and oregano. It is still amazing to me how very good pizzas use less sauce and less cheese than the ‘American’ way but have so much more flavor and seem even cheesier. Yum! We accompanied the pizza with a bottle of Mission Hill Cabernet Merlot.

The restaurant is a bit hard to see from Water Street but it is worth looking. The pizza was great. The service was very good. The atmosphere is nice and they have a large flat screen behind the bar. So during the playoffs it would be great spot to ‘belly up to the bar’ for a pizza or two.