Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What about Rex's , Trevi, Mikes(DaMichelle) & Woodland ..?

                     Susan Semenak   Writing about pizza in Montreal is like talking history or politics. Or hockey.

I got more than a slice of feedback on my story on Montreal's old-school pizza, which appeared in The Gazette's Weekend Life section on Saturday. The story elicited a stream of pizza-induced nostalgia, romantic memories of a time of dough balls and Volkswagen Beetle delivery cars.

Readers wrote in from all over to share mouth-watering details of their favourites, as well as  memories of the pizza of their youth. Traditional Montreal pizza, it seems, is as beloved  as smoked meat. Maybe more. And everybody's got an opinion, and a favourite pizzeria.

To research the story, I took a tour of some of Montreal's best-known and most-loved tradtional pizza joints, family-run restaurants that have been around for generations, making pizza the same way for decades with thick, soft crust , homemade sauce,  stacks of sliced pepperoni and inch upon inch of golden, melting cheese.

I went to Elio's on Bellechasse St. in Rosemont and Centrale Pizzeria  in LaSalle, to D'Agostino's in Riviere des Prairies and Como in Laprairie.  And I drew  up a list of 15 places still making pizza the old-fashioned way - by hand and from scratch, as they have since the 50s and 60s. Gazette readers wrote and phoned in with their own favourites.

"This was a very good article overall," wrote Ross Blackhurst, "But (and there is always a but) you missed the boat in LaSalle. There  are two other places in LaSalle.

He recommended LaSalle Drive-in on LaSalle Blvd. at  the corner of Champlain, "in operation for about 30 years-a family business- passed down from fathers to sons---all ingredients prepared fresh daily in store."

And also Café Altima on Dollard St., which isn't technically-old school Montreal pizza, as it is made in a wood-oven. But Blackhurst says  it is delicious, The owner, who moved to Lasalle from St.Leonard about a year ago, is reputed to  hold the world record for the biggest pizza ever made.

From the east end came votes for Ramona Pizzeria n( 5760 Hochelaga St.)  and Acropolis Pizzeria (7291 Ave. du Malicorne in Anjou)  and Miteras Pizzeria, at 2320 Rosemont Blvd.

In Cote St. Luc, a nod to Mamma Mia on Cote St. Luc Road. And in St. Laurent: Mama's, at 1805 O'Brien Ave.

"The best pizza in Montreal is Connie's Pizza," wrote Roger Mayer of his favourite place, at 801 Charlevoix,  in Point St. Charles.

"This pizza is like you died and went to heaven, " Mayer said. " The crust is rich, the flavor is, like, beyond explanation. 


For historical perspective, I heard from Ada Carey, who has a timeline for Montreal pizza that  goes back much farther than the 1950s or 60s, when Montreal pizza came of age.  Carey writes:

"My dad and his brother, Donato and Vincenzo Monaco, after arriving from Italy, worked for an Italian bakery called Sigatore in the north end of the city.  In 1930, the year I was born, they decided to open their own bakery, called Corona Bakery, at 6901 Bordeaux St in the north end of Montreal. Not only were they known for their wonderful pizzas but also for their absolutely great crusty loaves, which were baked in a large wood and coal oven. These were delivered all over the city, as far as Ville Emard, NDG, Pointe aux Trembles, Montreal East. People came from as far as Dorval, Beaconsfield, and even Ottawa. For many years, these were delivered by horse and wagon and eventually trucks.

"When the two brothers retired sometime around 1968, each had a son (both called Michael, big Mike and little Mike) who then ran the business until 1993.  Being a famil- run business, even the daughters did their share serving customers, I being one of them. In fact, it was my mother who taught the bakers how to make their famous pizzas. Bread and pizzas were delivered to many restaurants, along with the Casa d'Italia for their many banquets, wedding receptions, etc. Even a few schools were selling these in their cafeterias. American relatives claimed our pizzas were better than theirs."

Salvatore Mazzaferro wrote in with fabulous stories and a treasure trove of old photos, business cards and menus from the 1960s and 70s from the  family's downtown pizzeria,  King of the Pizza, which opened on Ste. Catherine St.,  at St. Marc, in 1960, then moved to bigger premises down the street, and opened new branches on Sherbrooke St. West and Cote des Neiges, as word of their delicious pizza spread. Here's how Mazzaferro remembers the heydey:  "In its peak and glory years,  between  1967 and 1976,  we had a fleet

of  25  Volkswagon delivery cars and 75 employees serving a major part of  downtown and the west end  of the city."

In 1976, they sold the newer pizzerias, keeping only the St.Catherine St. location,  converting it into a full-service Italian restaurant (which is now located on Bishop St.)  Three of the brothers went into manufacturing  pizza products under the name  Les Aliments DaVinci, which specializes in pizza products in Canada and the United States.

"DaVinci has garnered numerous awards and has been recognized

by Distinguished Restaurants of America, Gourmet Magazine,The International Wine and Food Society, L'Accademia della Cucina Italiana

and so many more," Mazzaferro writes. "The restaurant has been sold to new local owners. Now after 50 years, my journey is over, but my memories will be of those early teenage years with my brothers  making, topping  and flipping pizzas  to passersby on St Catherine St."

And now, after all this talk of crust and cheese and sauce, all  I want is to is order an all-dressed.

...................Montreal does have great Pizza,.....(among other stuff)  Cheers !! HF&RV


Les F said...

Cheers !! HF&RV

Les F said...

I took this shot many years ago (early 80's maybe) Rex's Pizza,

I ordered a lot of Pizza's from there, they new my voice never mind my address........lol
Cheers !! HF&RV

Les F said...

Mikes (then became DaMichelle's) Hickson & Wellington ,.stopped in here many nights well after 2am-ish more likely 3am....... Pizza was great.....

I don' t know if any of you Verdun characters out there knew Lenny Demarte, but he played nusic as a DJ in the room above this restaurant for parties etc etc .......He & his wife Brenda lived in the ApartmentBldg. at 6th & Wellington (still there) which had an indoor swimming pool up on the roof.
Cheers !! HF&RV

Les F said...

Ok Here is a Trevi Pizza:

I believe this photo was originally taken by MPU from the old MSN site.

That face on the Pizza Box is awful familiar ,it was on every Pizza box .......hahahah
Cheers !! HF&RV

Les F said...

and here is a Woodland Pizza, (again photo credit to MPU)

--------------Cheers !! HF&RV

Les F said...

Ok outside Verdun, but I took this shot in the 80's (I think) on a visit back to Montreal
It is Lasalle Pizza near the foot of the Mercier Bridge.......

........>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Cheers !! HF&RV<<<<<<<<\
of course Ville Lasalle had many Pizza joints , some Lasalle Drive In-
Mama's (Miss Dollard).....also Centralle pizza at 3rd & Central (used to be across from the now definct '50' Club (which Btw: was very handy)..lol
and there were more..........I tried 'em all .

Ken McLaughlin said...

I have to agree with Connies in The Point. I have no idea where they buy their mozarella but it is plentiful and wonderful.

Ken McLaughlin

Les F said...

Hi Ken I haven't had the chance to try Connie's yet, nor have I had a chance to go to Pauls & sample the spruce beer, I understand the guy that used to be the brewmaster at the old Spruce Beer shop on Notre Dame & Mountain (long gone,) I think you & I may have gone there when we were kids with my oldman, it used to be a regular stop after I had spent some time at the old shop he had,I know you were at that old shop, Anyway steamies & spruce beer used to be great there,& the fellow that made it for a few years is teamed up with Paul.(at least that was my understanding).
So I have some destination must stops ,should I find myself visiting the Big Smoke at some point. --------------------Cheers!! HF&RV

Ken McLaughlin said...

I was at your dad's shop at least once, not sure about the spruce beer, but knowing us we probably walked there to spend the bus fare on hot dogs though lol.

Ken M

Les F said...

I read that & near spit out my drink...........hahahahaha Obviously you remember the walk to Belmont Park following the bus route,for that very reason...... hahahahahaha That made me laugh,because it's True, & funny thing was I think the bus tickets were less than a dime: HF&RV

Ken McLaughlin said...

Walking to Belmont Park from Verdun was quite ambitious . Drive those Verdun kids somewhere once and not only do they figure they can walk it but they figure they own the joint when they get there heh heh

Les F said...

Yes , I suspect that had we been around during the war years,a few of us would have become cartographers,.we could figure out, & map out whatever we wanted & probably got home by the specified suppertime,....with parents completely unaware of our exploits..
Well at least we didn't go down to the river,like they warned us of constantly ......(well on that day anyway).........hahahah Cheers !! HF&RV