BEHIND THE COUNTER WITH CHEF ALESSANDRO VIANELLO OF BELLS AND WHISTLES
Lining up for a table has become the norm amongst new trendy spots and Bells and Whistles is no exception, luckily you could shoot some hoops or play ski ball while you wait. Located in Fraserhood, Bells and Whistles have quickly become the go-to spot with a menu consisting of great comfort food and rare beer. We had the opportunity to chat with Chef Alessandro Vianello, also known for Wildebeest and Bufala where he talks inspiration behind Bells and Whistles, their vast beer offerings, and secret menu items…(did I mention secret menu items?)
TEAMCHOMP: How did the concept of Bells and Whistles come about?
Alessandro: Mostly we felt like we were spending too much money at other people’s sports bars, so we thought it make sense to open a place of our own – the sort of place that we were craving didn’t exist in Vancouver. It was important to us to create a concept that appealed to people regardless of their passion for sports. There are so many great places to go for a beer in Vancouver, but none of them are as dynamic as what we hope we’ve achieved with Bells and Whistles.
T: Why the Fraserhood area?
A: We have so many friends moving to this neighborhood. There are a lot of young families and it felt like the area was really in need of a casual place for everyone to come together – somewhere that you don’t need to have a plan, you can just show up and see what happens.
T: What kind of overall experience did your team want to create with the interior design, layout, artwork, and games section?
A: We designed a room that was fresh and inviting. It was important for us to take advantage of the interior’s natural light and create a space that’s bright, airy and beautiful during the day – a real counterpoint to the other black-on-black designed bars around Vancouver.
T: Can you tell us how your menu was created and a few crowd favourites?
A: We wanted to create an exciting comfort food menu that could be enjoyed by a broad range of people throughout the whole day. We added a few nostalgic items in there as well, like our take on ballpark garlic fries and chill cheese fries. We also wanted to make sure that nothing was overcomplicated; a good burger is a good burger – so don’t mess with it. So far the crowd favourites have been the Classic Cheeseburger, the Crispy Chicken and The Fat Stevens.
T: Looking at your menu, it reflects a selection of dishes inspired by different ethnic backgrounds? What’s the story behind that?
A: We’re located in a diverse part of the city that’s home to broad demographic – and so we want to offer a menu that appeals to a wide range of tastes. Given the size of the restaurant and our picnic-table-style seating, we wanted to be a place for larger groups to come and hang out. To that end, we wanted to make sure our menu would have something to offer to make everyone happy.
T: We heard through the grapevine about your secret menu? Can you tell us more about that?
A: None of these are formally listed on the menu, but are available to those who ask and are in the know.
T: And everything is locally sourced? What’s the significance of that for your culinary vision?
A: We try to use local ingredients as much as possible at Bells and Whistles. Our burgers feature hand-formed patties made from a mix of short-rob, brisket and chuck all sourced from local farms while our soft serve is supplied by Foothill Creamery in West Kelowna. However, with a menu that we don’t plan on changing very often, local seasonality can be an issue sometimes. Ultimately, the vision is to offer quality and deliciousness first and foremost.
T: Taking pride in being a place where beer enthusiast would frequent, can you tell us about the process of selecting different beers and the importance of a good rotation?
A: We started out offering a pretty progressive beer program at Wildebeest and that’s a big reason why we wanted to do a beer-focused menu here at Bells and Whistles. We’ve developed relationships with several local breweries and importers over the years and we try to showcase a wide variety of specialty beers. We offer 19 beers on tap; in addition to our standard lineup, rotating taps highlight seasonal varieties, rare gems and limited-edition local brews, such as the recent Diablo Cookie Porter, a collaboration between Four Winds, Superflux and Tacofino.
T: How did the Four Winds and Twin Sails exclusives come about? And will we be seeing more exclusive collaborations?
A: We’ve had a close relationship with Four Winds since Wildebeest opened in 2012. They got started at about the same time as us and they participated in our very first beer event. Five years later, we thought it would be an excellent opportunity for to us to do something exciting with what we believe to be one of the top beer producers in Canada and thankfully they were willing to participate. Our signature Bells and Whistles ‘Hoppy Pale Ale’ they dreamed up was a perfect addition to our opening lineup and we hope to collaborate again soon!
Twin Sails has done an incredible job with their limited-release IPAs over the last couple years. After tasting their first limited release stout ‘Con Leche’, Bells and Whistles partner Nick Miller was so impressed with the quality. We then started talking about their upcoming production schedule and it seemed to fit nicely with our opening dates at Bells and Whistles. From there, they’ve continued to impress and we’re quite proud they’ve chosen share the entire library with us.
T: Are there plans for hosting more beer-related events?
A: Absolutely! We were so proud to be one of the only Canadian venues to host Brasserie Cantillion’s epic annual Zwanzee Day celebration earlier this year. In December we hosted a guest tap takeover with Colorado-based brewery Funkwerks and we’re looking forward to partnering with more breweries in the new year. We already have a special event in the works for BC Cider Week at the beginning of May – stay tuned!
Written by: Jason Chow
Photogrpahy: Rich Won