Tag Archives: Stefano Faita

Chez Tousignant

24 Jan

In Quebec, the casse-croute is a tradition. That little neighbourhood joint where you get a nice simple breakfast, a greasy lunch, dinner or even just a coffee and a doughnut. Nowadays for most of us, we think of casse-croutes as those greasy spots by the highway or the Belle Province you go to grab a bit after a late night outing. Not exactly the highest of quality.

As an unabashed fan of Michele Forgione and Stefano Faita – and their drive to make everything homemade within their restaurants GEMA and Impasto – All the “test” pictures of burgers, bread, hot dogs and doughnuts that Michele has been posting on Instagram for the past year or so have been killing me. When would we be getting this ideal old school casse-croute? Finally, just prior to the holidays, it finally arrived: Chez Tousignant run by Impasto’s previous chef de cuisine (and originator of the idea) Yann Turcotte. I was away for 2 weeks but as soon as I came back, it was clear that I needed to finally satisfy the cravings from all those pictures.

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Located on Drolet near the Jean Talon market, Chez Tousignant has a great old school diner look – the neon sign in front, the ceramic tiled floor, the metal-topped tables and counters, the stools. Everything even down to the menu signs fits the old style.

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Foodwise, this is a casse-croute through and through. On my first visit, I went classic – a Michigan hot dog and some fries. The fries were great – as you need at a diner – but right now, we NEED to focus on that hot dog. Homemade all-beef dog. Homemade potato bun. Topped with homemade meat sauce and cheese curds. Good lord this thing was amazing. Officially the best hot dog I have ever had and it’s not even close. The all-natural beef frank is such a change from the usual industrial variety. Cooked on the griddle, it had a nice crunch to it while still having a nice tender texture inside. And that bun….. oh that bun. Man, they nailed it. When you add the buttered grilling on the griddle, that dense yet soft bun gets a nice rich crunch to it. Rare is the time where one hot dog would fill me up but this one hit the spot. When you’re doing hot dogs with ingredients with this quality, that’s what you get apparently.

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The second time around, I went for some other classic casse-croute staples – cheeseburger and poutine. The cheeseburger – served with special sauce, lettuce, onion as well as tomato and pickle if you wish – was another hit for me. The potato bun was once again spectacular – god I need to learn to make these – with that same buttery goodness off the griddle. The meat was meaty with a nice crust, the cheese was nicely melted on-top and the sauce added a nice little creaminess. A classic yet spectacular burger.

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The poutine was a beauty as well. First off, curds at the bottom. Not just on-top. Big hit with me. A very nice touch. Anyway, we’ve got here a generous portion of fries with plenty of curds and some amazing gravy. This wasn’t some off the shelf St-Hubert gravy mix. So dark and rich, the gravy ties the whole thing together. It’s amazing how given all the ways that people feel the need to dress up a poutine now if you just use the best elements, the classic one is simply the best.

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On top of all this goodness, there is even more! Chez Tousignant also does a pie of the day and some doughnuts for dessert. I went with a doughnut because I couldn’t resist the beautiful stack of doughnuts on-top of the counter. An old-fashion cake doughnut with a vanilla bean glaze. The doughnut itself was dense but nicely chewy – sweet with a touch of cinnamon. The glaze though was the impressive part to me. The vanilla bean came through nicely and the glaze was firm – no stickiness whatsoever – but cracked nicely once you bite into it.

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Lastly, I went with a milkshake because of course I did. Chez Tousignant does chocolate or vanilla. I tried one of each on my two visits. Rich and smooth in both cases with nice deep flavour. You actually got chocolate or vanilla flavour – not just milk with a hint of either one.

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Chez Tousignant was a blast in the past in the best way possible. A true casse-croute where care is taken to make everything homemade because that is how you provide the best to your clients. All through the process of testing, chef Forgione labeled all his pictures with #ParceQueVousLeMeritez – that’s the essence of what Chef Turcotte and the Chez Tousignant team are about – it may be lots of work but as a client, you cannot help but appreciate the craftsmanship on display.

Cheers!

Chez Tousignant
6956 Drolet
438 386 6368

Chez Tousignant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Pizzeria Gema

16 Aug

Ever since Stefano Faita and Michele Forgione of Impasto announced their second project would be a pizzeria, I have been eagerly anticipating its opening. The level of craft showed from them at Impasto left me no doubts that their approach of pizza would worth the wait. Each instagram post from Chef Forgione of his test runs made me more and more excited as we saw the level of perfectionism in its purest form. This pizza would be no slouch. Finally, at long last, I could find out for myself. Pizzeria Gema opened up last month just across the street from Impasto in the heart of Little Italy making the corner of Dante and St-Dominique an happening culinary corner.

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Gema itself is a relatively small restaurant – all of about 40 seats probably and they don’t take reservations, so you may have to wait to get in. In our case, we waited about 30 minutes. The nice part is that they will take your phone number down and call you so you can go from a walk or grab a drink elsewhere in the meantime. If you prefer, there is a takeout window on the side where you order a pizza to-go or some frozen custard. The interior is sparse but clean – old wood panels on the wall, aged hardwood on the floors with a weird light “tree” in the middle of the room adding some color to the space. The other focus point is the bar with its marble countertop although I got a good laugh that the bar chairs are the same Ikea ones I have in my apartment. The space isn’t a looker like its neighbour Impasto but that’s not an issue for me.

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The menu is small and concise. A few entrees, 8 or so pizza options and some frozen custard for dessert. As a starter, we went with the fried calamari. A nice portion of fresh calamari with a good crunch to them. They are served with a couple of lemon wedges, no mayo because they don’t need any sauce to enhance flavour. The calamari have plenty of flavours all by themselves.

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On the pizza side, we got 2 pizzas to enjoy. The first one was their basic “1889” margarita pizza with tomato sauce, fior di latte and fresh basil. The second one, because I am a huge meat-lovers fan, was the Giovanni Deluxe – tomato sauce, zampina, pepperoni, porchetta and lardo. Boy, did these pizzas not disappoint…. the pizza crust is just insane. Ridiculous. Whatever positive superlative you want to use applies to this dough. A nice crisp seer on the exterior without a single burnt spot to be seen…. and completely soft and moist inside. This level of dough mastery deserves the highest praise. Props to you Chef.

And we haven’t even gotten to the toppings yet. The classic margherita was excellent – the tomato sauce was tangy, the cheese creamy and rich, the basil brought that freshness and the overall ratio on the pizza was excellent – none of the ingredients were too present or not present enough. As for the Giovanni deluxe: house made pepperoni, the porchetta from Impasto, zampina, lardo…. this pizza had me from the description. Great combo of fatty rich meats on top of the base margherita. Simply heavenly. I just wished it had been bigger so I could enjoy it some more.

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Whatever you do however, make sure that you have room left for dessert because Gema has frozen custard… not ice cream but custard. The difference comes in terms of a richer, creamier texture which personally bought to mind a creamy version of Dairy Cream which hit childhood nostalgia for me every time. Gema has chocolate or vanilla so of course, we went with a twist of the two. There is also a handful of topping options – we went with crumbled baci, mixed nuts and butterscotch sauce. A perfect dessert for a pizzeria.

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Once again, Chefs Faita and Forgione hit it out of the park. Gema is a wonderful addition to the pizza scene in Montreal and for me, is currently the champion hands down. That crust means business. If they offered delivery to the McGill Ghetto, I would seriously be a weekly caller. At present, I will definitely be a regular visitor because they are other topping combinations I need to try and that pizza is too good to pass up for too long.

Cheers!

Pizzeria Gema
6827 Saint Dominique
514 419 4448

Pizzeria Gema on Urbanspoon

Impasto

6 Oct

After a few months of waiting, I finally had the chance to check out the Italian restaurant everyone is talking about right now – Impasto. This small space, located in the heart of Little Italy and only a short walk from the Jean Talon Market, was born of the collaboration between Michele Forgione (formerly of Osteria Venti) and Stefano Faita, host of CBC’s In the Kitchen. Impasto aims to provide great Italian food with no shortcuts – almost everything is made in house. Walking into the space, that level of craft permeates even the decor. Beautiful open kitchen with wood panel walls, leather banquettes, terrazzo floors, Pelligrino bottles lining the ceiling and just enough lighting to really brighten up the room. I sat down with a Negrini in hand, ready to enjoy a wonderful meal with a group of friends.

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First up, we have the Insalada di Moscardini – baby octopus, fennel, potato and red onion salad. A beautifully balanced salad. The freshness of the fennel combined nicely with the bite of the red onion, the starch of the potatoes and the fatty octopus. Add a little olive oil and some herbs and you had a great starter to the meal.

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The other starter I got to try was the housemade Apulia style sausage with pan seared rapini and apple vinegar. Great texture to the sausage as well as great flavour. The combination of the rapini and the apple vinegar adds some nice acidity to the fatty sausage. I know rapini isn’t everyone’s thing but I personally love it so that worked for me.

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The next course was the pasta course. I went for the ricotta gnocchi with basil infused tomato sauce. This dish is probably Chef Forgione’s speciality and I had heard so much about it that I wasn’t sure it could meet my expectations. Well….. it blew them out of the water. The slow pillowy texture of each morsel. The rich ricotta flavour. I have never had gnocchi that literally melt in your mouth like these ones did. Lightly tossed with a simple but very flavourful tomato sauce, this was pretty much the best pasta dish I have had all year almost without saying. Bravo Chef!

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I also got to try another pasta dish – the mafalde with rabbit ragu, chicory and olives. The mafalde pasta itself was wonderful – great texture, indicative of people who know how to make great in-house pasta. The combination of the rabbit ragu with the chicory made for very earthy notes – a nice contrast to the richness of the ricotta gnocchi I had previously.

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For the next course, I went with Nonno’s porchetta roast served with a vanilla pear, pan seared rapini and some candied fruits. This was an amazing roast – deliciously rich and fatty pork meat with crispy skin. The skin wasn’t the crispest I’ve ever had but still wonderful. The inclusion of the vanilla pear and the candied fruits provided some sweetness to balance with the inherent saltiness and fattiness of the roast itself. I love porchetta and Impasto’s take just reinforced my love.

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For dessert, we went with the Tiramisu and the chocolate tort cake. I’m not a big fan of Tiramisu due to my hatred of coffee but this one was milder in terms of the coffee taste and had a wonderfully smooth texture. The chocolate cake had more of a brownie texture – very dense but still moist. Very well executed.

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This was a great meal all around. Impasto aims for great Italian food and they hit on all the notes. As a party, we did find the service to be slightly slow in terms of bringing water and taking wine orders but it is a minor quibble. Now, the menu changes seasonly and ironically enough, they just changed the menu for the fall so you won’t be able to try the dishes I described above. However, that should not stop you from going menu unseen. I have no doubts you will be as satisfied as I was. Now, I just want to go back to see what Chef Forgione and company have in mind for the current season.

Cheers!

Impasto
48 Dante
514 508 6508

Impasto on Urbanspoon

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