Tag Archives: Pizza

San Gennaro

7 Aug

There is a certain vibe I love about Little Italy in Montreal. The real communal vibe – the way people seem to just come together to sit and enjoy a coffee and a chat. The little cafes and shops around that area cater to that really well. I don’t visit the area as much anymore but when I do, I really try to enjoy that experience. San Gennaro on St-Zotique is a place I have heard much about since it opened a few years ago now. A hybrid pizzeria, bakery, coffee shop, grocery and gelato shop, it tries to cover lots of ground but given its heritage – San Gennaro was started by the same group that gave us restaurants Bottega and Hosteria in Little Italy – it definitely has a good chance.

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First up, I tried one of their arancinis. A solid version all-around. There was a nice crunch on the exterior and the interior is a great mix of veal, green peas, mozzarella and parmigiano. Nothing to complain about here.

But truthfully, we are here to talk about their pizza. Coming from the group that brought us Bottega pizza just next door, there are certainly expectations even if we are dealing with Pizza al Taglio, not the napoletana-style they serve at Bottega. Pizza al taglio is baked in large rectangular trays and served by the slice. As such, crust-wise, we are not talking about thin-crust anymore. This is a thicker, more chewy pizza – the common version we have all had would be the tomato pizza often served in buffets or at children’s parties. Thankfully, this is much better than that. This pizza has a great crunch to its crust while still being nice and chewy.

I tried a host of different pizzas over a few visits. The first one was a potato and andouille sausage pizza. The inclusion of potato was something I had never tried before. It makes the pizza a little more dense and a little drier especially without any tomato sauce. The real kicker though was the sausage whose spiciness really came out.

I then tried the standard Margherita pizza. Their tomato sauce has a nice smoothness to it and a nice sweetness but acidic taste. Top it with some mozzarella and you have a solid classic. On a follow-up visit, I tried the same pizza but with salami added to it. Same great taste with some meaty goodness.

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A more unique offering is their breakfast pizza. Topped with a egg, some cherry tomatoes and some pork salume, you have a nice mixture of the richness and spiciness. The egg is cooked just enough to not leak all over the pizza which makes it easier to enjoy as a single slice. A nice change-up for a morning snack.

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The final one I tried was another potato pizza – this time without the sausage, just with some smoked cheese. I was curious how the potato would work without the spicy sausage. Another hit – the smoked cheese created just enough of a contrast with the potato to help lighten the feeling.

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As I was sitting outside of the terrasse on my last visit, I couldn’t help but observe the table of elderly Italian men visiting there simply having a coffee and chatting. Their level of comfort on the terrasse chatting with the waitress as she passed by as they were enjoying the weather. It speaks to how San Gennaro has fit into the neighbourhood and the vibe they have achieved. Good food, a nice atmosphere and a great terrasse – all a good combination for when you are passing by Little Italy.

Cheers!

San Gennaro
69 St-Zotique Est
514 273 6868

San Gennaro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Il Focolaio

31 May

Pizza is a deeply personal thing. While most of us can tell what is a good pizza and what is a bad pizza, it is the differentiation between good pizzas where people argue. Details like the tang of the tomato sauce, the amount of each ingredient present, thin crust vs. thick crust…. all of these lead to many discussions about which pizza is “best”. Here in Montreal, we are spoiled with many great options. Personally, I am a huge fan of thin crust pizza and a certain place in Little Italy right now that I won’t mention here to avoid direct comparison through this post. I took my girlfriend there and while she enjoyed it, she told me that she preferred her personal spot. And thus, we had no choice but to go to Il Focolaio right by Phillips Square to see how it would rank for me.

Open since 1984, Il Focolaio does thin crust pizza in a maple wood burning oven. The crazy part about their menu is that they have 75 different pizzas! That is an insane number and frankly one that made me a little scared…. when a menu gets that big, I wonder how many can be truly great. I still kept an open mind and plus it was a beautiful night so we sat on the terrasse with a beer ready to enjoy some pizzas.

Given we had a friend with us on this Friday night, we tried three pizzas. First up was La Milanese – tomato sauce, artichoke hearts, capicollo, mushrooms, black olives and mozzarella. A nice crispy crust on the underside – the pizza held up to grabbing with one hand. On the flip side, I found the top of the crust to be a little burnt in spots and a little too flaky to my liking. In an ideal world, I want crunch but still chewy once I bit in. All three pizzas were the same so they are consistent with the cooking in the oven. In this instance, I suppose it is more a matter of personal taste. Each pizza is about 12 inches so a solid size as a personal pizza. Plenty of ingredients as well which cover the entirety of the pizza. This particular mix of ingredients wasn’t my favourite – I liked the fatty capicollo and the mozzarella but I’ve never found artichokes and mushrooms very enjoyable on a pizza especially if they are rough cut as they were. I also hate olives – I guess you can tell by now this wasn’t my choice – which didn’t help.

Our second pizza was the Spinarto – Tomato sauce, spinach, garlic, artichokes, mozzarella and olives. This one – again not my choice… darn olives! – was more enjoyable to me. The garlic and spinach worked well and somehow helped to make the artichokes less noticeable to me.

Finally we get to my choice, the Renaissance – Tomato sauce, spinach, garlic, olives, mozzarella and spicy pancetta… without the olives of course! The extra kick of the pancetta gave this pizza more bite compared to the more vegetarian pizzas we had before. Also the cheese was a little bit more golden on the top than the previous ones which provided a little different flavour and texture. Pretty enjoyable to me.

Lastly, while Il Focolaio doesn’t have many things on the menu other than pizzas, they do have Sicilian cannolis which I can never say no to! Solid crunchy shell with a nice creamy filling, these were a solid way to finish off the meal.

In the end, I enjoyed Il Focolaio but its pizza didn’t blow me away. It’s definitely the best one in the downtown core I’ve tried so but left me firmly believing in my own personal favourite at the moment. My girlfriend didn’t succeed in swaying me which means that pizza will remain a point of contention between the two of us. Guess we will just have to alternate between spots for a while if we want harmony to remain!

Cheers!

El Focolaio
1223 Phillips Square
514 879 1045

Il Focolaio Pizza Resto on Urbanspoon

Pizzeria Napoletana

9 Jun

If there is one blind spot in my Montreal food repertoire that I feel somewhat embarrassed about, it is Pizza. Despite my absolute love of all things Pizza related – I could honestly eat pizza everyday if such a thing were reasonable from a dietary point of view – I have not exploring many of Montreal’s fine establishments. If someone were to ask me where to get a great slice of pizza, I honestly wouldn’t have an answer that I could base on personal experience. Well… I want to change that. So last weekend, I took the opportunity after a visit to Jean Talon Market to try a Little Italy institution, Pizzeria Napoletana.

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Right off the bat, I am not a staunch advocate of either thin crust or deep dish pizza. I give equal time to both sides… as long as it is done right. In this instance, we would be treated to a classic Italian thin crust pizza. When coming to a place that has been doing it since 1948, one hopes you will be getting a great slice of pie. With thin crust, you are looking for a nice crisp base but one that still has a bit of chewiness to it. Too thin or crisp and you get something that tastes completely burnt. On the toppings front, you want a nice tomato sauce and good cheese. You want just enough of both to cover the dough but not so much that it overwhelms the flavor of the crust.

I decided to go with a Quattro Fromaggi pizza for my first try. Before I add extra ingredients, I want to see if the basic pizza is done well. Napoletana uses Mozzarella, Parmesan, Romano and bocconcini for their version. This was a very well done pizza. It pretty much had everything I was looking for. Crispy yet tender crust – check. Bonus points for the slightly burnt edge as well. Right amount of both sauce and cheese – check. Tangy tomato sauce – check. Nice mix of cheese – check. Very satisfying pizza overall.

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My sister went with a even simpler pizza on her end – the classic Margarita. Once again, a very nice pizza with the same characteristics of the previous one minus the added notes of the Romano and bocconcini cheese.

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As the 1st true entry in the Montreal Pizza search, Pizzeria Napoletana was exactly what I expected from a Montreal Institution – a place that serves solid pizza, tried and true. It was a good initial benchmark to set my expectations for a good Montreal Pizza. Walking into the restaurant, you absolutely get that old school pizzeria feel – the pictures of celebrities on the walls, all the staff in restaurant t-shirts and caps, paper placemats and the fact that this still only take cash. If you’re looking for a classic Napoli style pizza, this is a good place to start.

Cheers!

Pizzeria Napoletana
189 Dante
514 276 8226

Pizzeria Napoletana on Urbanspoon

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