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.
"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