Montreal’s neighbourhood of Little Italy is teaming with – mostly Italian – food options. Whether you’re in the mood for a bowl of Bolognese or a slice of pizza pie, dozens of options are there to satisfy your craving. However, in this hood of mine, not all restaurants are created equal. When I have a hankering for something savoury, sweet or caffeinated, these are the places I head to…
La Cornetteria: Nothing starts a day right like a cornetto dipped in a big steaming cup of caffè latte. Cornetti are Italian-style croissants, which are lightly sweetened. At La Cornetteria, they come in several flavours, including almonds, Nutella and custard. I prefer mine plain, which makes it easier to dunk in my coffee. La Cornetteria is also the perfect place to get a slice of delicious Gluten-free chocolate or lemon cake. La Cornetteria, 6528 Boulevard Saint Laurent, 514 277 8030
Restaurant Brama: Brama is the new kid in town in this neighbourhood, having just opened its doors a few weeks ago. This modern Italian taverna is dishing out some traditional northern Italian fair with a twist. The brunch choices at Brama are all comforting and hearty and are adapted to suit our local and seasonal produce. Try the frittata valdostana with potato, escarole and fontina cheese or the equally delicious biancostato e patate or pulled braised short ribs with potato hash and egg. Delizioso! Restaurant Brama, 6701 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, (514) 270-6701
Caffé San Simeon: This is where you will find me on any given Sunday afternoon perfecting the art of the far niente. San Simeon makes the best Italian-style coffee in town, in my humble opinion of course. The crowd is a mix of regulars who have been coming here for 30 years and young hipsters. There is something very special about Caffé San Simeon that goes beyond their perfect crema or luscious lattes. It’s a certain feeling that transports you to the old country, if only for as long as it takes you to savour that cup. Caffé San Simeon, 39 Rue Dante, (514) 272-7386
Restaurant Inferno: Unfortunately, being in Little Italy doesn’t necessarily guarantee that one will have many options when it comes to excellent Italian fare. Most of the choices available are mediocre but Inferno is one restaurant that does not disappoint. Opened a couple of years ago, Inferno serves homemade Italian market food, with a modern and comforting twist. From pasta to braised meats to their famous trippa (tripe) everything here is made in-house. The portions are generous and satisfying and the neon-lit ambiance is fun and hip. Restaurant Inferno, 6850 Rue Saint-Dominique, (514) 274-0666
Café Via Dante: I have a particular soft spot for this old school, traditional Italian trattoria that has gotten a face-lift by the sons of the original mamma. Café Via Dante nondescript façade doesn’t really attract the eye so it was out of curiosity that I walked in the first time only to discover a restaurant packed with diners. The food was even more of a surprise. The robust and original flavours of Northern Italy cooked to perfection and plated with no frills. Try the homemade gnocchi with Bolognese sauce or the braised rabbit with polenta. Café Via Dante, 251 Rue Dante, (514) 270-8446
And as a bonus 6th place, I would have to add Pasticceria Alati-Caserta, which has been located in the heart of Little Italy, across the street from the Our Lady of the Defense church since 1968. The place looks like it hasn’t changed since 1968 but I always head that way when I am craving a good, crunchy Sicilian cannolo. The cannoli are filled à la minute with a luscious ricotta cream so the shell stays crunchy. Order a dozen mini ones to bring to a dinner party and you’ll be everyone’s favourite guest. Alati-Caserta, 277 Rue Dante, (514) 271-3013
And of course, if you happen to be in Little Italy then you must visit one of the best food spots in the city: the Jean-Talon Market! Here are my suggestions to nibble your way through that food mecca.