UPDATED FEBRUARY 23, 2016
Pizza, the humble pie made of dough, a splash of tomato sauce and some cheese, has become such an integral part of our food culture. A well made pizza is a piece of edible art which will leave you wanting more. But a great pie cannot be produced without an irreplaceable pizzaiollo who can spend years honing his art. Pizza has also been at the center of some heated culinary debates: thick or thin crust? Gourmet toppings or a classic Margherita pie? Wood burning oven or not? Roman or New York style?
If you don’t know the difference, here’s a quick guide to the most popular pizza styles:
New-York style pizza includes a huge thin slice cut from an equally huge pie. The slice bends when picked up and orange grease drips down your hand all the way to your elbow. Yum!
Chicago makes a deep-dish pizza that is more sturdy with a thick, high crust of up to 3″, chunky tomato sauce and a lot of cheese.
Roman-style pizza al metro or al taglio are basically large rectangular pies which are sliced according to the customer’s demand then weighed and charged accordingly. Check out my article on pizza in Rome here.
Neapolitan-style pizze have thin crusts and are cooked for a couple of minutes in an extremely hot, wood burning oven which produces a crust that’s chewy, crunchy and charred in spots.
Montreal-style pizza sports a thicker crust, a tad too much tomato sauce and heavy toppings, usually placed under the cheese. The classic Montreal “all dressed” has green peppers, peperoni and loads of cheese.
The last couple of years, Montreal has seen a proliferation of new pizza places, mostly of the Napoletana variety. We are spoiled and now have great choices to pick from. Below are some of my favourites, organized by style but listed in no particular order.
- Pizzeria Gema
This much anticipated pizzeria from chef Michele Forgione and Stefano Faita has lived up to the hype and serves one of the best pizzas in Montreal. Try the classic 1881, the Menina with escarole and black olives (my favourite) or go for the ever-surprising pizza of the month inspired by great culinary talents.
- Pizzeria Magpie
The tin ceiling, the mosaic-covered wood-burning oven, the simple yet warm decor and the Mile End hipster clientele all contribute in making Magpie a great place to grab a delicious pie, some fresh oyster and a glass of red. Magpie now has a second location on Amherst in the Village.
Located in the heart of Old Montreal, this is where the beautiful people go to enjoy a delightful pizza cooked in a wood burning oven. The wine list, the mozzarella bar and the cutting-edge design are all great reasons to keep coming back.
- Bottega Pizzeria
Lovely, Napoletana-style pizza made in their now famous, red-tiled, wood burning oven, The place is a Little Italy favourite and also serves great pasta dishes and gelato in a dynamic Italian brasserie ambiance.
- No 900
I fell in love with this tiny pizzeria and its sense of aesthetics the minute I crossed its threshold. Located inside the Outremont Theater, this tiny and gorgeous space designed by Blazys Gérard is reminiscent of an old Italian brasserie with its marble tables, tile work and brass accents. The pizzas are all fabulously delicious, including the breakfast ones served at brunch. No 900 is also a (very impressive) food truck so watch for it around town in season. Gluten free pizza available.
- La brigade
Neapolitan style pizza with a twist in the heart of downtown Montreal where you customize your pie from a variety of toppings available.
- Prato Pizzeria
Prato has been around for a while and is well loved by many Montrealers. The coal fired brick oven produces a great crust and the endless variety of toppings to which you can add extras is nice. The pizzas are served on baking trays, which can get a tad clumsy. Word of advice: don’t overload your pizza as it can get soggy and order only pizza, the other menu options are just not worth it.
- Pizzeria Geppetto
The original Little Burgundy location has been around for a few years now and the second location on Beaubien in the Rosemont neighbourhood was open about a year ago. Geppetto serves about 20 varieties of pizze made from unbleached Canadian organic flour and cooked in a wood burning oven.
- Nolana Pizzeria
Located in a long and narrow space on McGill Street in Old Montreal, Nolana boasts one of the nicest restaurant decor in the area. The pizza is baked in a wood-burning oven located at the back of the restaurant. The dozen or so pizze–from the simple margherita to the more complex flavours of nduja, porchetta or octopus–are all outstanding.
- BEVO Bar + Pizzeria
Located in the heart of Old Montreal and open 7 nights a week, this restaurant boast wood-fired pizza as well as Italian specialties. In the summer, BEVO has a beautiful terrasse on one of Old Montreal’s most charming cobblestone streets.
Snack bar and breakfast spot by day and pizzeria and Italian restaurant by night, Fiorellino makes a great Neapolitan-style pizza. Start with the burrata or raw mushroom salad then give the classic pizza Margherita a try. The dough is thin, crispy on the edges and just elastic enough.
- FCO di Fiumicino
When I start craving Roman-style al taglio or al metro pizza (pizza by the square slice) after my return from Italy every summer, this is where I usually head. The excellent gelato – the best in town in my opinion – is also worth a try.
- La Bête à pain
This bakery and pastry shop does everything deliciously (seriously, try their croissants, breads or cannelés), including great by-the-(square)slice pizza. The meat and the four cheese pizzas are some of my favourites but double up on your order because you’re going to want some more when you get home.
- San Gennaro
Owned by the same family as Bottega Pizzeria mentioned above in the Neapolitan section, San Gennaro makes some of the best authentic Roman pizza in Montreal. Some of my favourite flavours include the potato and rosemary and the swiss chard one (seriously addictive!). Grab a sweet treat and a caffé while you’re there because this Italian spot does those right as well.
- Café Parvis
To be honest, I really wasn’t quite sure where this pizza fit, only that it is delicious and should definitely be on this list. The crust is a bit thicker than a Neapolitan so I will place it with the Roman style ones. If you haven’t been to this beautiful café yet, just go! The coffee is on point, the food–including the pizze–is delicious and the decor is unique, hip and unpretentious. It’s a great place for a drink, brunch or lunch.
I visited Farine when it first opened about a year ago and I honestly wasn’t impressed with their pizza, but only fools don’t change their minds, right? So I went and visited again for brunch not long ago and I highly recommend it! The Roman-style pizza is delicious, with fresh toppings and a succulent tomato sauce.
- La Pizzeria Etc.
Some of the best Montreal-style pizzas are located in the suburbs, and Pizzeria Etc is no exception. I haven’t been there personally but I have it on good authority from some of my food-loving Italian friends that this is one of the better ones.
If you crave a truly delicious Montreal-style pizza, then this is your best choice. You’ll need a car to drive to Rivière-des-Prairies but the pizza will be worth it. It’s not a fancy pizza like its more recent Neapolitan acolytes but it will surely hit the spot.
- Elio Pizzeria
Elio is a family affair that’s been running since 1964. The keyword here is “abondance” and Elio’s pizza is famous for its outrageous amount of toppings and cheese.
NEW YORK STYLE
Montreal now has New York style pizza! How exciting! This is the latest venture from the Campanelli team (whose meatball sandwich is on my best sandwich list) is sure to bring happiness to many. Six pizza flavours are sold by the slice or by the pie.
Have I missed any? Don’t hesitate to share some of your favourite pizza places in Montreal in the comments below. I am always on the lookout for a good pie.
And if you want to try your hand at making some great pizza at home, Traiteur Monaco, Montreal-based caterers are famous for their great pizza dough which they can teach you how to make and cook in the comfort of your own home.