1446A Crescent St. (Tel.: 845-4158) and 4801 St-Denis (Tel.: 499-9711)
Mon. - Fri 11:30 a.m. - 12 a.m.; Sat. 12 p.m. - 1 a.m.; Sun. 12 p.m. - 11 p.m. Credit cards: Most major.
REVIEW #1 (Crescent St. location)
If you follow the turistas on a balmy summer evening in downtown Montreal youll more than likely end up on Crescent street somewhere between Sherbrooke and St. Catherine. This stretch is lined with terrasses and quaint walkups, the buildings generally of the older Victorian commercial sort. Among the venerable resto/pubs here is Sir Winston Churchill Pub (Winnies) and Ziggys, both places where the downtown journalist/paper tradespeople gather for a few after work (and sometimes into the wee hours.)
Right in this block lies Pizzaiole, a rather conspicuous place with a loud Italian-colored awning boasting pizza four de bois (wood-oven pizza,) actually quite a common attribute of pizza places in Montreal these days.
Squeezed into two floors with an effort, its a tight fit, which is to say that the tables will be too close together for some. Both floors are dominated in the center by the wood ovens, where the pizza guy slaves sweating over your pie and the salad guy shovels romaine and croutons. Its kind of rustic, in a contrived sort of way.
While not exactly a Montreal landmark, Pizzaiole has been here for nigh on 17 years, so it wears its act like a comfortable old shoe.
The main menu is dominated by pizzas37 of them, to be exact. The choice runs from the Margherita (tomato sauce, cheese, $6.35) through the Asparago (sauce rosée, fontina cheese, asparagus, $8.30) all the way to the Four Cheeses and Apples (tomato sauce, mozarella, brick, fontina, parmesan, apples, $10.55.)
There are a couple of calzones (Vesuvianatomato sauce, bechamel, ham, mushroom, peppers, olives, cheese, $11.40; Volcanotomato sauce, bechamel, Italian sausage, onions, olives, cheese, $11.40) and a few token pastas. Appetizers include bruschetta and various salads. Theres a fairly reasonably-priced wine list which features Italian, French and Chilean wines.
A Caesar salad was mundane, with most of the lettuce being of the less desirable dark-green parts, and the dressing was muted and uninspired. A salty anchovy couldnt wake it up. The bruschetta appeared to be robust and chunky but the bread was past its prime and the tomatoes slightly bitter. A complimentary side of triangles of foccacia was a bit chewyIve definitely had better (Casa Napoli comes to mind.)
The pizza, however, in this case a Charcutièretomato sauce, capicollo, pancetta, pepperoni, Italian sausage, cheese, $11.40came straight from the oven on its own 12 plate with the deli meats neatly segregated into quarters atop a crispy, puffy browned thin crust. It was a delight for the eye and the garlicky aroma was irrestistible. Happily, the crust was indeed crispy and the mozzarella was gooily stringy and deliciously plentiful. Unfortunately the server forgot his promise of bringing spices to the table. My guess is that this would have consisted of dried chili flakes. Still, three-quarters of the pizza was devoured before we could eat no more.
A Pasta Alla Carbonara (cream sauce, white wine, parmesan, onions and pancetta, $11.35) didnt fare nearly as well as the pizza. While not a culinary disaster, it was lukewarm and a bit salty and the pasta was slightly overcooked. Ive had worse versions, howeverthere are some who might prefer their Carbonara this way.
Fellow diners seemed content to plow their way through whole pizzaswe were practically the only ones with a pasta order, so dont come here expecting an all-round Italian experience. However, they make a pretty good pie, one of the better Ive tasted in Montreal.
Reviewed by Nicholas Robinson
REVIEW #2 (St. Denis location)
The Pizzaiolle restaurant on St-Denis is a cross between a diner and a skinny railcar. The waitresses are young and pretty, long haired, wearing all black. And the pizza is better than homemade.
When I first walk inside I can tell this is going to be a special place, partly by the interior design and lighting, and partly by the waitress who greets me with a genuine smile. She gives me an English menu (how do they do thatall Ive said is Bonjour?). I struggle to speak only French to her for the rest of the evening just to show I can.
The interior space has an immaculate, carefully chosen feeling to it that gives a sense of comfort, of completenesslike someone has taking care of every detail and all you have to do is sit back and relax. Its a bright space with small lamps and recessed ceiling lights; black bench seating, dark brown chairs, fan spinning quietly overhead, venetian blinds. Its also impeccably clean. I want my entire life to feel like the inside of this railcar: clean, orderly, items well chosen, and the sense of being well-taken-care-of.
I order a Carpetto pizza (tomato sauce, goat cheese, fresh basil) for $11.40. In the near future I will go back and try the pizza with Four Cheeses and Apples ($11.65) and La Charcutière with capicollo, pancetta, pepperoni, and Italian sausage ($12.75). The pasta also looks amazing (from what I can gather as I gaze at food being delivered to the tables nearby).
I sip my house red (smallish portion, $5) and have a chance to look around. The restaurant is about three-quarters full, all French, all lively, the tables a bit close together. I check for dusty bits on the ledge near my elbow and find none. The restaurant has a boiled-clean feeling about it that says nothing can ever go wrong in here.
And to top it off, the pizza is fabulous. Did I say better than homemade? Thin dry crust, homemade tomato sauce thats spicy without being overwhelming. The goat cheese isnt too salty and has puffed up while in the oven. It arrives steaming hot and is a perfect dinner size. (To supplement you could add one of the salads as an appetizer or crème brûlée for dessert.) I look around to see how people are eating and sadly discover theyre all using their forks and knives. I begin, get about halfway through, and then decide I really need to pick it up in order to speed up the eating process. But one glance over my shoulder assures me that everyone is using their cutlery, even the teenagers. Alas, I eat in this sophisticated way so I can blend in and not pronounce myself as That Girl From Vancouver.
My wine improves by the end of the glass and because its so small I have another. I also order crème brûlée (very lovely, creamy consistency, lots of burnt sugar saucein Vancouver its often served with a crunchy top and Im not sure I like this Montreal presentation, even though Im sure its the more traditional way
note to self to check out all occurrences of crème brûlée in my new city and do a taste test).
Let me sum up my warm and fabulous experience at Pizzaiolle with two short stories. (1) Theres a guy sitting at a table in front of me whos so relaxed at the end of his meal that he has stretched his legs out in the narrow aisle. Had I been his waitress, I might have been inclined to gently nudge his feet as I went by, with three plates in my hands (oops, sorry, didnt see your feet there). But I watch, and the waitresses dont bump him. They step over him every time. Many times. (2) The music is just low enough that I cant hear it clearly, but after my second glass of wine Im thinking it sounds just like a Tom Waits song I love, and wouldnt it just be a perfect night if I hope that I dont fall in love with you was playing on the jukebox? But its so low I cant make it out, and I decide it must be a French singer who just sounds like Tom Waits. When the waitress brings me my bill I ask her if she knows who the singer is. She says shell check. A few minutes go by, she serves another table, she greets people at the door, then she crouches down to where the stereo is, actually turns the machine off and extracts the CD so she can read the label.
You already know the answer. It was Tom Waits.
Reviewed by Shelley MacDonald