Entries in Old Montreal (7)




Just last summer I found myself alone in Florence, living out my own "eat pray love" moment after a mother daughter trip fell through. Not so bad, I thought... It was as though I had just been whisked away to some culinary wonderland, and with no one to stop me, I was free to live a life of gluttonous, carbo-loading pleasure. Pastaaa, prosciutto, gelato, tartufo (the list goes on and on...), and after five days of intensive art history classes, I conjured up quite an appetite for slow Italian cooking. I fell in love; the florentine "spritz" and oven baked pizzas had become my favourite afternoon snack, and needless to say, I was already feeling nostalgic on my flight back.

With that in mind, you can imagine my excitement after having just landed on the runways of Trudeau, when my friend picked me up from the airport and whisked me straight to the charmingly local, perfectly intimate Italian bar a vin, Dolcetto & Co, that had just opened its doors in my neighbourhood.

Dolcetto offers a helpful - and deeply flavourful - reminder of how simple Italian cheeses (think creamy burrata or fragrant boschetto al tartufo) prime the palate for a fantastic meal. They also get that a healthy selection of thinly sliced hams, like a plate of rich bresaola, homemade porcetta, and prosciutto di parma, make for the perfect, dynamic, start to any good dinner. After a plate of charcuterie, move to the antipasti, trying (you must!) their cream soaked gnocchi, with its perfect, buttery texture; it is so divine - I've had friends re-order this plate for dessert. And after you're done cleaning out the gnocchi dish, try your hand with some of their hand-made, oven-baked pizzas...my favourites are the carmelized onion and eggplant, prosciutto and arugula, and simple but always pleasurable margherita with burrata.

My only last recommendation would be to make sure the wine is flowing, the conversation is good, and the night is slow. Drinks at Dolcetto are good, so start (or even finish!) with a cocktail. Sit at the bar or at a window-side table for a perfect date. Move to the communal table if you're surrounded by good friends or family. Don't rush; enjoy the effortlessly sophisticated art of a good Italian meal. After all, that's what Dolcetto is all about.*

Dolcetto Bar a Vin Italien   |   151 Saint-Paul Ouest (corner Place Royal)   |   Montreal QC H2Y 1Z6   |   514-419-8522   |  


Dolcetto & Co. on Urbanspoon


Chez L'epicier

Well-known chef Laurent Godbout (Version, La Fabrique) mixes a comfortable and relaxed decor with complex and creative dishes to make for a wonderful dining experience at Chez L'epicier. Across from the historic Marche Bonsecours, Chez L'epicier, along with its neighbour Chasse et Peche, stand out as two of the best restaurants in the city, let alone Old Montreal.

While the food at Chez L'epicier is quite experimental (sometimes almost Pierre Gagnaire-esque,) the wait staff are incredibly knowledgeable and will happily detail every last ingredient that culminates in the plate's - usually very strong - presentation. For a light weekday dinner, I love starting with one of their tasty soups or purees, and then moving to another entree. As a main, their poached salmon is a classic, though I love their filet mignon with whisky an cinnamon sauce. And for dessert, please do try their medley of creme brulees....mmm, so good.

Chez L'epicier doubles as a wine bar, so predictably, the wine list is vast. If you don't already do so, here is the place to also ask for suggestions when pairing wine with food; the staff are friendly and are happy to offer recommendations by the glass.


Chez L'epicier   |   311 rue St-Paul est   |   Montréal, QC H2Y 1H3   |   (514) 878-2232  


Chez L'Epicier on Urbanspoon

Open Thursdays and Fridays for lunch, and all week long for dinner from 5-10 pm.


Holder Restaurant

Holder has held a special place in my heart for years; I've wined and dined in the booths here with friends, ate and laughed at the bar with my now boyfriend on our first date, and still to do this day convene here almost weekly with my father when he's in town. It's simple to say that I'm in love with this well priced bistro, its simple food, and the constant hustle and bustle of busy tables buzzing with conversation under sky high ceilings.   

While everything on their menu is good, try their goat cheese app ($10.50) and follow with their hanger steak and fries ($17.95), or roasted scallops in a prosciutto crust ($28), as both are fantastic. Also, in winter, Holder's onion soup ($9.25) combined with their frisée salad with bacon vinaigrette and poached egg ($8.75) is easily the best bistro meal in the city under $20. Finish with their crème brûlée.

I mustn't conclude without mentioning Holder's seared Apple french toast with caramel and rum sauce ($10.50). It rivals all other brunch dishes in the city and goes perfectly with a Sunday morning latté.


Holder Restaurant   |   407 Rue McGill   |   Montreal, QC, H2Y 2G3   |  (514) 849-0333


Holder on Urbanspoon

Note: Holder is open for brunch both Saturday and Sunday



            Indian goes from humble to haute at Mirchi, an Old Montreal restaurant serving up mouth-watering, exotic fare by friendly staff. Mirchi's small, intimate space is set with simple furniture and decorative, white washed lanterns, making the atmosphere perfect for a relaxed date or a work-friendly dinner.


If you're more seasoned with Indian cuisine, try their vegetable takora and murg (chicken) tandoori, the classic dish cooked in a cylindrical clay oven that shares its name, the tandoor. If, however, you're new to the strong spices and potent aromas that distinguish the country's cuisine, opt for their butter chicken or murg korma with naan bread; both are mild, comforting dishes that would appease those with even the lowest tolerable spice thresholds.


Restaurant Mirchi   |   365 Place d'Youville   |   Montreal, QC   |   H2Y 2B7   |   (514) 282-0123   | 


Mirchi on Urbanspoon


Da Emma

One of my top ten meals of all time was a fettucine with truffle shavings at Ristorante Maccheroni in Rome - a small, rustic spot in Piazza delle Coppelle that was recommended by just about every local I spoke with. Maybe it was all that Italian wine, or the warm, balmy night that had us wandering around Piazza Navona and the Pantheon under moonlight...but to this day, I still dream about that meal. 

Around a year after my trip, when it was time to return the favour and dish out recommendations to a visitor from Rome, I recommended what I believe is Montreal's version of Maccheroni: Da Emma. "Its a classic roman italian restaurant in a historic women's prison in Old Montreal, with food that will make you feel like you are at home, and a space that is cozy, intimate and surprisingly romantic" I wrote. "Loved it. You were right, we were at home!" was the thankful response I received a few weeks later.

At Da Emma, grilled bruschetta is brought to your table while you peruse chalkboard menus. Start with their caprese salad ($18), and try their fettucini with porcini mushrooms ($25) for a main, as it is an absolute must! Also, their gnocchi ($22), which is made fresh on Thursdays, holds a special place in my heart, and is a perfect comfort dish come winter.

The presentation at Da Emma is typical of roman Italian cuisine; the simplicity of the plate creates a home-cooked quality that will leave you glancing into the kitchen for Emma, who is in fact always there, cooking away. The service is attentive, but not sharp - remember that in Italy, good food is slow food, so try to make sure you aren't in a hurry, order a nice bottle of red from their fantastic wine list, and enjoy the intermittent conversation between servings. That equation sums to the perfect, little, three hour Roman Holiday.

Lastly, if it happens to be summertime, reserve well in advance for a seat on their terrace; it is one of the nicest in the city and is perfectly situated for a post-dinner stroll around Old Port to walk-off all that pasta!  


Da Emma   |   777 Rue de la Commune Ouest   |   Montreal, QC   |   H3C 1Y1   |   (514) 392-1568   |


 Restaurant Da Emma on Urbanspoon