Restaurateur James Iranzad has been eyeing a move into North Vancouver’s Edgemont neighbourhood for quite some time. And that time has come.
Iranzad and his business partners in the Vancouver restaurant group Gooseneck Hospitality opened the doors to their latest venture, Bufala Edgemont, in mid-November with a 3,300-square-foot dining room with seating for 160 guests.
Each of their restaurants to date has been crafted with a unique identity appealing to a specific segment of the dining world, including the farm to table esthetic of Wildebeest downtown, Lucky Taco’s Mexican cantina in Kitsilano, the Bufala pizzeria in Kerrisdale and the classic sports bar vibe of Bells and Whistles on Fraser Street.
Bufala Edgemont meets that criteria as well but takes the Gooseneck Hospitality philosophy to another level entirely by coming into being as the second iteration of an existing concept.
The North Vancouver location expands on the approach of its Kerrisdale namesake with the addition of a full kitchen allowing the restaurant to dig deeper into the many cultural layers of rustic Italian cuisine.
“The idea is to ultimately create the quintessential neighbourhood restaurant,” says Iranzad. “That’s what the original Bufala was and we’re really happy with that. We have kind of a romantic idea of what a neighbourhood restaurant should be and we love Edgemont Village. Creating a restaurant like the new Bufala from scratch we’re able to consider everything that we wanted to do and consider everything we thought the neighbourhood would appreciate and then factor that into the buildup.”
Iranzad was born in Iran but moved to Canada as a child and grew up in Kerrisdale. He spent a lot of time in North Vancouver visiting family and hanging out with friends.
“There are certain characteristics of Edgemont Village that I think are really similar to Kerrisdale,” he says. “There’s a real sense of community. When we were considering what to do next as a project we decided to take another crack at the concept and just do it a little bit differently and it just seemed logical at the same time to do that in a neighbourhood that has already proven to us that it would really appreciate and support such an idea.
“It’s different from the original Bufala in Kerrisdale in the sense that the additional space allows us to do a more developed menu and so we got to play with all of those other beautiful Italian rustic comfort foods that we all love such as pasta or other entrees or appetizers. It just gives us more flexibility to be able to be more creative.”
While the new location builds on the original Bufala vibe its expanded menu will feature pizza, pasta, mains, starters, salads and sides, as well as a full bar stocked with local craft beer, an extensive wine list and cocktail program.
Wildebeest head chef Ian McHale had a hand in creating the food menu which is overseen on a daily basis by chef Kevin Atkinson. The kitchen explores everything about Italian cuisine from classic fare to Bufala signature dishes such as Bone Marrow Pizza (roasted bone marrow, cotechino sausage, leeks, mushrooms, parsley and bianco).
The wine list, created by Wildebeest wine director Christina Hartigan, features mainly Italian wines but has a few New World entries as well.
“We just decided to open up a little bit more,” says Iranzad. “There are a few examples of wines that are, let’s call them, Italian in style and nature. They go brilliantly with the menu but they are not actually from Italy. I would say 95 per cent of the menu is but we didn’t want to limit ourselves in that way. Italian varietals are being produced in beautiful quality around the world. Aliganico from Australia is delicious or Cortese from California is really exciting, then why not do that? It doesn’t necessarily need to be from Italy to make it work with the menu.”
The local craft beer selection is extensive and includes Bridge Brewery’s North Shore Pale Ale as well as House of Funk’s Farmhouse Pale Ale.
“We’re huge proponents of the local craft beer community and Bells and Whistles was born on that idea,” says Iranzad. “We would like to continue our relationship with all of these guys. Obviously with the new Bufala it just seemed like a logical time to further our relationship with some of the brilliant new breweries that are opening up in North Vancouver. Those guys are awesome. It’s been a pleasure and through those relationships of being closer to those guys we can get to know them better and carry their beer at our other locations as well.”
One of the business partners in Gooseneck Hospitality, Josh Pape, was bar manager at Chambar for seven years. “It has one of the best cocktail programs in the country,” says Iranzad. “He won Vancouver Magazine’s Bartender of the Year award and on the heels of that opened up The Diamond which is arguably the best cocktail bar in the city. He leads that program as he does for all of our restaurants.”
Bringing all the different elements of the drink menu together at Bufala Edgemont is bar manager Sonja Wilson who has worked with Iranzad before. “She’s a longtime North Van girl,” he says. “I reached out to her and she was available and excited to jump in with us and she’s come up with some pretty brilliant drinks — it’s a good place as any to get a cocktail on the North Shore.”
Bufala Edgemont has extended Happy Hours from their opening day and will continue this practice early and late with a 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Happy Hour in the afternoon and a 9 p.m. to closing Happy Hour in the evening.
“I think it’s stressful to make people rush to get somewhere by five o’clock,” says Iranzad. “It just didn’t feel like we were giving people the opportunity to enjoy themselves so we decided to go a little extra and once we open for lunch in a couple of weeks we’ll be expanding that even further – Happy Hour will be a four-hour window in the afternoon from 2 till 6. We also decided to do the later Happy Hour as well, so if guests want to pop in for a drink or late dinner or dessert, or whatever the case may be, there’s some pretty good value waiting for them there, too.”
Lunch service will be added at Bufala Edgemont in the next few weeks just in time for the holidays. After that the restaurant intends to start takeout service in December and introduce a weekend brunch menu in January. In the new year they also plan to start using third-party delivery services.
“You go into all these situations, theoretically, with your best-guess something like this is going to be well received but you never know,” says Iranzad. “It’s been really nice to see everybody coming in and the restaurant full. We’re off to an auspicious start and hopefully that continues to grow as we do our jobs.”
Bufala Edgemont, 3280 Edgemont Blvd, North Vancouver.