Address: 65 Rue St Zotique E, Montreal, QC H2S 1K6
UPDATE: My meal in Sept 2016
I am lately revisiting some long time favourites in Montreal (Another successful meal at Kitchen Galerie on Jean Talon, A meal that was just Ok — but I know they can do way better — at my long time favourite Bistro Cocagne on Friday Aug 30th, a disappointing meal at another long time favourite, Bouillon Bilk, on Tues Sept 3rd) and on this Thursday September 5th , another memorable meal at Bottega.
So, another visit here since I have discovered this place around 6 years ago (I go there approx twice a year since I have always been satisfied with both the style, the cooking and service at Bottega on St Zotique –though not a big fan of their other place in Laval), and Bottega (the one on St Zotique) continues to be my #1 Pizzeria in this city. For sure, a Pizzeria (commonly expected to be mainstream) that is trendy /hip/somehow up-market will always hit on some nerves, but given the packed dining room (we arrived at 18:00 and were only the 3rd table then, but within the next 30 mins or so, the room was packed, a little line up starting at the door and this not even a weekend, so imagine), —- and it has been like this on each of my visits here—-, I seem not to be in the minority of those who highly regard Bottega as not just a simple Pizzeria, Lol.
On this evening, I was dining with a long time Italian foodie, who happens actually to have spent years searching for great Pizzas in Italy and abroad. The Italian foodie being definitely passionate and knowledgeable about the subject.
Here’s what we ordered:
Polpetta – At $4 each, I would usually complain about the meatball being pricey. But the price was long forgotten in view of the great cooking technique, the exciting fresh tomato sauce flavor, flawless moist and deep meaty polpetta. The thing to know is that it is not as firm and its sauce not as thick as it is the case with the old fashion version, which I am a huge fan of, and yet this more refined and contemporary version remains as great, the traditional taste never diminished but to the contrary, enhanced. A perfect example of tradition, reviewed for the finer. 8/10
Fiori di zucca ($12) – Two days before I was at a good restaurant in town, a table that is actually a favourite of mine and where I had zucchini blossoms I wish I could bring here, on this evening at Bottega, then invite anyone for whom such simple item can’t fail to always be good, therefore ridiculous to start elaborating about. And then get them to try Bottega’s alongside the other one. And then think. Get that lil palate to enjoy the difference, lol. At the other restaurant, nothing was done wrongly. After all, it is not rocket science to stuff zucchini flowers and fry them. Well, when you sample versions like this one I was having on this evening at Bottega I suggest that some cooks start considering this as rocket science. Hopefully, They will hopefully understand the subtle differences between an Ok Vs a well executed one. At Bottega, this version I was sampling was made of various fresh and delicious cheeses (here’s a restaurant that understood a very simple principle that many fail to get: when you take something as homey and straightforward as a dish like this and decide to serve it at a restaurant, add something extra/thoughtful/worthy of laying it on a restaurant table!!!), with, in particular, an excellent provola among them. They also were smart enough to avoid the usual boring trap that most bistrots fell into, which is just stuffing cheese filled zucchini blossoms, nothing more. At Bottega, they also added some beautifully textured tempuras, filled with quality zucchini, in the mix. In a nutshell, the little details that make a normally simple dish … more than just “simple”. What that was is good skills and inspired joyous bistrot food , done really well. That’s all I am asking from any dining destination. 8/10
We then both ordered the Pizza Margherita ($13 for 1 pizza), with the Italian foodie’s being unusually of benchmark level (the Pizza here being loyal to proper standards of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, so you now understand how completely ‘out of track’ it would be to start comparing it, with, say, the various North American Pizza types and some other styles they make around the globe, even in on Italy ): the crust simply outstanding in shape, consistency, flavor. The usual crusty burnt edges expected from this style of Pizza spot on. My friend’s Pizza Margherita showcasing texture and technique that is simply exceptional, even for a place like Bottega (it’s the first time, in 6 years, that I have stumbled upon a Pizza I could safely submit as as 10/10 Pizza, here and even in Italy). 10/10
It’s rare that a Pizza can be as stunning as the one that my friend was enjoying on this evening. And mine confirmed just that: the texture was a bit more ‘normal’, the crust less ‘puffy’ than the one of my friend, the burnt edges somehow scarcer . But the skills at Bottega is of great standard, so even such a lesser impressive Pizza (relatively to my friend’s) was still a great Pizza: delicious, the cooking well timed (Important: the doneness of a Pizza following the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana standards have nothing to do with your usual Greek or North American Pizzas. I am taking time to write this in order to help avoiding the usual misundertandings / inaccurate judgements so oftently observed with comments about the doness of Pizzas ). 8/10
My Italian foodie friend had also a simple salad of tomatoes. I have not tasted it but his opinion is that it was simple, indeed, but better executed than what he came to normally expect with similar salads in town. He also praised the freshness, the quality of the tomatoes and precise seasoning. He refrained from assigning any score to his dish of tomato salad, which I do respect. Regarding his Pizza Margherita, he observed that it was of benchmark level and assigned it a score of 10/10 (which I obliged, see my score above — for his Pizza). He added that it is true that it is rare to find Pizzerias applying so well the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana standards, in Italy or abroad. As an example (and I came to same conclusions the two times I focused solely on Pizza Galore jouneys in Napoli – 2009 and 2012) , he found it interesting that despite all his years trying Italy’s finest Pizzas, he remembered having sampled Pizzas as close as this one … in the Marche region. In Napoli, as both him and I agreed on, the Pizzas trying to get close to those standards are usually a bit more rustic in texture. That said Bottega keeps the original standards of the Neapolitan pizza alive, but makes it refined (refined, I wrote, so if you expect the usual overwhelming load of greasy stuffing which characterizes plenty of Pizzas in town, then do yourself a favor: cook it yourself or head to places serving that kind of food. It is clear that Bottega is not about that kind of stuff.) . One way to accurately describe a Pizza here is to simply look at this Neapolitan Margherita Pizza which picture featured on Wikipaedia (you can see it, here). Bottega’s looks exactly like that one.
We concluded with a great gelato (Amaretto flavored as I requested, but flavor never matters here, since they are simply uniformly well made, homemade that is, so pick whatever flavor and it’s gonna be flawless), great indeed, but I’d offer it at $5 instead of $7. Regarding prices, I know some friends did not appreciate the prices of wine by the glass (for eg, $10/$14 depending on what’s available) arguing that it is a Pizza place, not a gourmet place, but I disagree: Bottega is way more than just a Pizzeria. It is a classy /elegant contemporary Italian Bistrot that offers more than just an excellent Pizza of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana standards. It has great service, great ambience, great food and its Pizza is simply done way better than what the most are offering in town.
Pros: Six years, several visits and the same great standards. Even Montreal’s finest dining destinations have failed to be that consistent. Bottega is not only my #1 Pizzeria in Montreal, it has consistently deserved its rank in my top 10 favourite dining destinations in Montreal. And it is not just a top Pizzeria. It is a top Italian bistrot too.
Cons: (1) That gelato needs to be less expensive. Yep, it’s true artisan gelato and I respect that, but there’s a psychological barrier on things like the price of a gelato. (3) I suspect that the price of that polpetta will be perceived as too pricey by the most. It is among the great polpettas in town and yes, it is larger than the usual meatballs, but I think this is one of those things on which you can play with ‘impression’: split that in two meatballs, keep the same price tag and hourrah…it suddenly passes as less expensive, lol.
Overall score 8/10 by Montreal bistrot, Montreal Italian bistrot and Montreal finest Pizzeria standards– So, excellent Pizza of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana standards, my friend’s Pizza simply a benchmark Pizza on this evening. And the Pizza was not the sole star of this meal. The rest of the bistrot fares served on this evening were all well made, I do not believe in Wowness, I believe in things simply well done within the limits of what they should be (for eg, a Pizza of the AVPN standards should be done X way, they are doing it that same X way and they are doing an excellent one at that. That’s all I care about. Same for the other dishes: a meatball, I expect it to be deliciously meaty in mouth, pleasing to the eye (not dry, not tired looking) using fresh quality ingredients. They are doing it and I am happy. My only surprise, based on my experience, is that they have been consistent throughout the years. And you know what that means: to be good, you need sacrifice. And in their case, the sacrifice obviously meant the devotion to the diners they are feeding each night rather than having the Chef playing the big star on TV. ON and OFF nights is perhaps the laughable excuse of those who simply can’t do things right (when I see a place like this, I am tempted to take this assertion for granted).
Conclusion: Another splendid meal at Bottega.