We first visited La Ghianda at the tail end of December, when most people were still scrambling with Christmas shopping. The restaurant (a descriptor that seems overly formal for what it is) was busy with prep work for the day, and presumably for the evening over at La Quercia, its sister restaurant across the street. A small table hustled in the corner with their lunch, the rest of the small room was empty, but the place still had energy.
Fast forward a few weeks later, and I only wish I had taken more advantage of that time. Going to La Ghianda now will guarantee you a wait, particularly on the weekends, when families are out for lunch and not necessarily eager to give up their seat in what could be the most-desired, ultra-concentrated real estate in town. Depending on your level of patience, then, La Ghianda will be either a restaurant or take-out joint.
In either case, you will be fed well. There is a rotating assortment of paninis (generally $10), most happily in the Italian delicatessen vein (think mortadella, provolone, salamis, etc), all the more to celebrate what seems like a current sandwich renaissance in the GVRD. They're entirely satisfying, though if you do get a seat, the ever-changing hot meal options - divided into the obligatory primi and secondi categories - are that much better. On our visits, gemelli ($10) was served in a light sausage ragu with peas, and a flat steak was expertly grilled, dressed with olive oil, fennel seed and served with arugula, both dishes of which were hearty without being overwhelming, subtle and confident. Panini or entree, pair it with whatever sides ($6) are available: a broad bean and lentil salad reminded one that broad beans could be a main attraction all on its own, and a rustic tomato soup with bacon, beans and fennel had all the country comforts that one could hope for. All in all, La Ghianda - which is only open during the day - gives great argument that the night time is not the only right time: the afternoon does, after all, have its place in the sun.
2083 Alma Street
Vancouver, BC V6R