When Ashley was going to school at McGill, back when our relationship was young and tumultuous, she lived for a year in Little Italy. She fell in love with the coffee and the culture and of course all the food at her doorstep, despite being so student-poor at the time that she didn’t even own a spoon (literally.) I visited in 2007 and she took me for the first time to Pizzeria Napoletana, a traditional Italian family spot that ALWAYS has a line-up outside and boasts some of the best food in the neighbourhood. When my band visited Montreal on tour in 2010 we went back, and just this past weekend I got to make my third visit in a decade. It’s the best.
Like I said, there is always a line in front of this place, but with the dépaneur across the street and the restaurant’s lack of corkage fees you can at least drink wine, and on a nice night the wait is actually rather pleasant. Inside, the restaurant is as gloriously tacky as one would hope and expect, with a giant plastic tree serving as tent pole for the bustling circus of noisy eating families and the thick men serving tables. They’ve added a bunch of flatscreens since I was last there, which is a drag, but maybe they’re there to keep the kids occupied. Who knows. TV’s in restaurants are the worst. Anyway…
There were four of us sitting for dinner, weary from a weekend of partying and hungry from an hour spent waiting for a table. It was a family affair, which is what Pizzeria Napoletana was made for.
We started with an antipasti platter and a green salad with artichokes and olives. The platter was great, with an amazing spicy salami being the major highlight. Nothing gets the appetite going for a meal like this quite like some cured meats and salty delicacies like olives and anchovies, especially when paired with good wine (which is a luxury that BYOB affords a table in spades.)
Even though this photo looks like a miscarriage, it’s actually the most delicious cannelloni, stuffed with meat and topped with thick-cut prosciutto and baked mozzarella. Cannelloni is really one of my favourite traditional pasta dishes, as it really strikes the right balance and proportion of noodle, meat, cheese and sauce. I love the fresh, bright tomato sauce at Napoletana, despite what some Italian purists may say.*
*I KNOW YOU’RE READING THIS, KELLY.
Finally, the pizza! The first is topped with olives, anchovies, pesto, onion, feta and sliced tomato; the second boasts a simpler profile of prosciutto, tomato concassee and arugula. Both were really delicious, with a perfectly crispy crust and just the right balance of fresh, savoury toppings. I love true deep dish, but proper wood-fired Neopolitan pizza is the apex.
Well worth the wait, every time. Bellissimo!