Imagine capping off your COVID-19 vaccination experience by getting yourself a plate or tray of freshly-made lasagna?
While many people dread getting vaccinated, one local vaccine clinic makes the experience enjoyable. In fact, some visitors say they even enjoyed the smell of the facility while they waited in line.
The Italian Cultural Centre, located at 3075 Slocan Street in East Vancouver, pivoted its operation at the start of the pandemic to offer a delivery service and to help the food insecure. When the province started rolling out vaccines, the centre's massive banquet hall was transformed into a clinic.
Executive Director Mario Miceli tells Vancouver Is Awesome in a phone interview that the centre has a little cafe on the piazza where people can enjoy sandwiches, pastries, salads, pizza, and pasta dishes—but lasagna is the most popular selection.
Since people have to wait in line to get vaccinated, the centre thought it would be interesting for them to see how the most sought-after dish was made from scratch, so they created a video to show people there for their shot how the lasagna is made.
"We built the video so that people had an understanding that this is an in-house made lasagna...that this is unique to the Italian Cultural Centre," he explains. "We have about seven screens in the ballroom so that people could see what it is we do and it's something that we offer as frozen product."
For $50, customers can get a lasagna meal for eight people. For $12, an individual can enjoy a hearty meal for one.
The centre wanted the vaccination process to stand apart from other experiences, such as those at community centres in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.
"We are Italian so food has to be involved," he laughs.
But what is it that makes their lasagna so good?
Miceli jokes that he won't divulge the secret but credits Chef Jackson Noah and Catering Director Fabio Rasotto for the flavourful sauce. "The sauce is what it's all about," he says.
The sauce also complements what he describes as a "perfect balance," too.
"It's the perfect balance of noodle, meat, and sauce," he describes. "Sometimes you have a lasagna [that is] just too many pasta layers and not enough meat or meat and red sauce in the lasgna."
The centre also sells a vegetarian option, which Miceli says is "exceptional" and includes a variety of vegetables. "Everybody's talked about how full it makes them..very substantial."
The popular dishes sell out quickly and have passed what Micheli underscores is the ultimate test: the Italian community's taste buds.
"That's sort of the big test," he laughs.
Numerous locals have taken to social media to share their experiences getting vaccinated at the Italian Cultural Centre and to comment on the flavourful dish.
I am in line for my booster at the Italian Cultural Centre and it smells like stuffed peppers and lasagna and this is by far the most pleasant smell I have ever experienced at a medical appointment.— Jen Sookfong Lee (@JenSookfongLee) January 7, 2022
10/10 recommend @IlCentroVan for vaccinations AND lasagna. “Come for the lasagna, stay for the vaccine to help end the world wide pandemic”— Steph Henderson (@citizenhendo) January 8, 2022
I loved it too, I swear I could smell nice lasagne smell too! Very good experience! Thanks Italian Cultural Centre!— Peyman Servati 💉🌊 (@pservati) January 8, 2022
i bought this frozen lasagna at their cafe for home after my kid got his shot. happy to report it is delicious! buy one and if your appetite isn't too big, it is two family meals!— stella boyland (@stellaboyland) January 7, 2022
heres a photo of the lasagna i brought home from the vaccination clinic...... tastes great pic.twitter.com/nQZcv5Be3n— 🐟 𝒈𝒂𝒍 𝒈𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒆𝒏 🐠 (@galgracen) January 8, 2022