Neapolitan-slappin’ the dough

For Terik Cabildo, what inspires him is simple fare.
“(Italian) food is more about simplicity, and I admire that.
“That’s what excites me in food personally.”
While there’s been a trend toward specialized restaurants in Winnipeg with only a handful of items on the menu, there was no guarantee that his vision for Neopolitan-style pizza with sparser toppings and none of the build-your-own options was going to make it. “You can never know for sure what’s going to happen,” admits Terik.
What did happen was well beyond expectation: the tiny space and crew that is Vera Pizzeria e Bevande is absolutely killing its game. Line-ups are regularly spiralled out the door, replete with patrons prepared to wait out the previous diners.
Without a waitlist, there’s an honour system in place, which demands patient tummies and a commitment to seeing it through. But the limited capacity was intentional, too.
“I like having a small restaurant because you have so much control and freedom,” says Terik. “That’s how my parents are – they’re super old-school – and that’s how I am… I like it that way.”
Terik’s parents ran a restaurant in Neepawa for 30-plus years, and more recently took on a venture in Morden. Terik always pitched in with the family business, virtually growing up in the kitchen.
After realizing pursuing a degree in education wasn’t for him, he opted to hone his natural culinary skills in Vancouver. Moving to Victoria after graduating, he came across a Neapolitan pizza restaurant that caught his eye – and he got the job.
“(It) attracted me for some reason,” says Terik. “The skillset was niche, unique.
“I made sure that when I was going to leave that I knew enough to hopefully do it myself.”
Back in Winnipeg, Terik felt ready to introduce proper Naples pie. “It seemed like a really Winnipeg thing,” says Terik. “Pizza’s like coffee, an everyday thing.”
“It’s not that bad for you, and you don’t have to have a whole pie to yourself.”
                                              The pizza – it’s that good
Getting into the specifics of Vera’s distinguished product, the pizza is made with flour imported from Italy that Terik picks up at De Luca’s. The flour is actually endorsed by a governing Neopolitan pizza organization (I know, somehow I’m not president), and has a strength that enables the dough to be manipulated by hand and stay intact (the way Neopolitan pizza demands).
“You need the proper elasticity and the protein content has to be high,” explains Terik. In keeping with Neopolitan customs, toppings are sparse but balanced – and Vera goes beyond the classic pizza marinara and Margherita to incorporate pancetta, salami, and prosciutto and arugula flavours. The use of soft cheeses and parmesan also gives the pizzas an elevated taste.
But the crust is the real differentiator: it has a crunch that gives way to flaky softness.
                                                     The business side
Terik’s seen his schedule fill up with restaurant duties, but he’s still managed to fulfill his original two goals for owning a business: “work at a job where I can play my own music, and where I don’t have to wake up in the morning.”
Usually starting his day around noon, he picks up ingredients and arrives at Vera in the late afternoon prior to Vera’s 5 p.m. opening. The only wrench in the plan is he finds himself cooking less and less. “I do like making pizza the most,” says Terik. “I like slapping dough which is why I got so into pizza.”
When he was in the planning stages with his business, Terik sought the guidance of other young entrepreneurs before him like Nils Vik of Parlour Coffee. “When (Nils) opened that up I was like, ‘Yeah, this is cool. Things are possible.’
“I hope what we’re doing can maybe have the same effect.”
Vera Pizzeria is located at 670 Osborne, and open Monday to Saturday evenings.

– Brenlee Coates

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