Click here for a recap of my picks of all Montreal's top fine dining & best Montreal's bistrots. Also: My 3 and 2 Star Michelin restaurant review web site BottegaCuisine type: Pizzas and other misc Italian calzones, sfizis, dolcis.Addr: 65 St Zotique East
, MontrealPhone: 514-277-8104URL: http://www.bottega.ca
A while back, I was reading an article on the best Pizzas in Paris written by a famous food columnist from France. Caught in between the unsatisfaction of those whose pizzerias appeared to not make it among that Gentleman's favourite and their overexcited opponents, the debate was simply surreal. Let alone the circumstancial patronizers: 'You should
'... wrote one of them ''ensure that you are Italian before giving your opinion about Pizzas
'...or that other one writing 'you are not a purist
'...Rfaol! The best are the experts of the moment, those with lessons on what seems overrated to them. They are the best because instead of informing themselves on how a Pizza is baked, they will tell you what a Pizza should taste and look like. They will even provide you with the numbers: the pizza you've just ate
...someone once told me..is 85% dough
! Euh..Nope...not at all, laughable man! There's also that normal instinct to always find 'not that great
' what others found outstanding (we are all victims of the latter). Ok, with me, things are simple: no matter what purists, non purists or Ave Maria thinks...we should all know better that food is subjective and only what pleases to my (or your own) palate counts.
In Montreal, this is no different: every Pizzeria think his/her pizza is the best and the web is loaded with just that: ''hey Pendelis is the best, No it's magpie, No it's Bottega, oh wait it's Napoletana
..hey No, you are not a purist
!''. Deuh. And on and on. Regardless, after 15 years in Montreal and being a great fan of pizzas, I went trying as many as I could throughout more than a decade (the big majority of Mtl pizzerias from the top contenders like Bottega, Magpie, Napoletana, Amelio, the popular Artigiani, Manzio, Pendelis, Il Focolaio, Dei Compari, up to the franchise variety Pizza hut, Domino, etc). And my verdict is clear: Bottega (the one on St Zotique, that is - The one in Laval has not impressed me that much) is the big winner. By leaps!
I have to remind this, it's an important detail since it tells you what type of reviewer I am : I don't technically analyze food in the 1st place. Analyzing is only second to my emotion. It's food. It's like breathing air. When the air is fresh and pure, I first appreciate it (its freshness, how happy and moved it makes me feel) .. then I may optionally technically describe it (there was the right amount of oxygen, etc). I like reminding this to people because I see too many food reviewers focused on the decrypting of their food: for ie, couple of months ago, I was seating at the table of a restaurant with a food critic and as soon as he indulged in the very 1st spoon of his velouté, he had a lot to say. Already..??..wait
..did I tell him. Take your time, enjoy it
. If it's really bad, you'll know it anyways
. But upon enjoying one spoon..how on earth did you have time to enjoy (or not) it enoughly well to judge it? That's me: I enjoy it first, and of course..if it's really bad, I ain't like it. If it's just ok, I'll say it. If it's outsanding to my palate, I won't hide it. Of course, as usual: it's all subjective!
For this article, I just came from picking two classic Pizzas at Bottega (the one on St-Zotique street): Pizza Margherita
Their Margherita Pizza is the most memorable I ever had in Montreal. The taste, the cooking, the conception of the dough, all went in line with my idea of the ideal Pizza: a beautiful puffy cornicione
, a standout soft crust, dazzling fresh toppings of San Marzano tomatoes and a fior di latte
that's at its very best. A 9/10 (which is excellent) of my standards for top level pizzas. In Montreal, there's no doubt that this one at Bottega (again,on St Zotique) stood predominate at all levels (taste, baking consistency, top quality ingredients). I have tried all its other top contenders in town and none of them can hold a candle to Bottega , I am afraid! Moreover, all of them would benefit from a meal here and see how refinement can bring them a long way: just look at the photo and notice how nothing overwhelms that pizza, textures are right on point, and were miles away from common features so oftently seen elsewhere such as poorly conceived crusts and bases, or piles of overwhelming toppings. Pizza Quattro Formaggi
With Gorgonzolla, Tallegio, provolla,ricotta and basil. An 8.5/10 (which is very good as opposed to excellent), but I personally never had better QF in Montreal. In Roma and Naples I has some few that fared better (perhaps 9/10), but still this is the best Quattro Formaggi I ever had in montreal.
If you have just arrived in Montreal, I'd suggest you start with Bottega then continue with whatever is proposed to you. Personally, I found Bottega to be in its own league here in Montreal. With that said, if your palate is only pleased with the North American takes on Pizzas or the over-doughy greasy pizzas of the quantitative type , then I am afraid you are losing your time reading this post: Bottega offers a Pizza that's as close to home as you'll ever get here in Montreal. And in my assessment, their Pizzas are simply done way better, with better baking techniques, better flavor, better ingredients and more authenticity and refinement than at any other Pizzeria in town. As usual, it's a matter of personal taste and I hope you don't go there expecting to be wowed: we eat so many Pizzas in our life, than unless a Pizza is shipped from Mars after being baked on Jupiter, we are unlikely going to be wowed by a Pizza!
Last but not least: unless you decide to sit there, indulge in wines, extra items and other personal luxurious choices (like for ie, their $30 pizza made with black truffles), I don't see any reason you might find Bottega pricey: That Margherita Pizza was $13, the quatro Formaggi $17. Prices are listed on their web site
.Some of the other top contenders in town:
Although I did them all (Prato, Amelio, Magpie, and on and on), I wont list them all since this might be endless. Instead, I will just list some of the top contenders in town. Virtually everything have been explained on the web about these places so I'll skip the technicalities (about the dough, the crust, etc) and jump directly onto the subjective personal opinion over the resulting palatable impact. Pizza Magpie, 16, rue Maguire
- Magpie has delivered the second favourite Margherita Pizza of this rundown right after Bottega's. Their Margherita had actually a visual appeal that was even superior to the one at Bottega (my favourite Pizza style, as you have realized by now being the Neapolitan-Style, therefore the relevant visual style is also one that I prefer). But Bottega's Margherita ended being the winner for its better puffed crust, and for being also tastier to my palate (I found Bottega to make a better use of the advantage of using the wood burning oven). The use of the dopio zero Italian wheat flour and top quality Ingredients such as the San Marzano's cheese really give an advantage towards Neapolitan-Style authenticity to both Bottega and Magpie's Margherita Pizzas. Magpie has a neo-rustic bistro-pub electric feel that makes me want to go back there and sit at one of their tables. It's such a cool laidback place with a nice service. I'll go back time and again, that's for sure, and when I'll do so, I'll try the Margherita and all their other items,
except for the pepperoni Pizza
(it had an oily fragrance to it that didn't do it for me). 8/10 for the Margherita Pizza, 5/10 for the Peperroni one but largely my #2 favourite Pizza in Montreal. Pizza Prato 3891, boul. St-Laurent
- This is the #3 of this rundown. This was different and interesting when compared to the other top contenders: flavors were enjoyable, the topping not as refined as on the Margherita Pizzas of Bottega and Magpie, but the taste of each ingredient being superb (you could really distinguish the fresh tomato taste from the superb depth of cheesy flavor, for ie). I don't understand why they had to scatter the basil leaves (just leaving 3 beautiful basil leaves intact would have added to the visual appeal of that Pizza), but I won't hold this against them since this pizza, without being the best of the rundown, remained one I wouldn't mind re-ordering (despite the $16 price tag. The most $$ Margherita of this current review). This left a good taste on my palate. 7/10 Pizza Artigiani, 4657 rue St-Denis
A beautiful cozy place with a service to die for. They have a nice wooden bar, and a relatively chic warmful bistro feel decor, on Saint Denis not far from Laurier Street.. As for all Pizzas of this rundown, the intent there is to get as close to what's offered in Italy, therefore wood-burning oven is used for baking the pizza
I found this Margherita Pizza at Artigiani to appeal a bit more to my taste than Napoletana's, and yet I didn't find it to stand out by any means. The taste was good, crust well done, but the overall impact,again in my view, did not appear to me as anything superior to what I can usually find at any good neighborhood pizza joint in town. 6/10 Pizza Napoletana, 189 Dante
Located not that far from Bottega, in little Italy. This place might be one of the few in town that can brag about its amazing popularity. Went there on a Tuesday evening and it was packed, a rare ocurence that only places like Au Pied de Cochon do have the privilege of enjoying. This is one of the top contenders among Mtl's Pizza fans, especially those interested in a Pizza as close to home as possible.
For accuracy purpose I went buying this Pizza Margherita at Napoletana so that we can compare apples to apples (I also ordered a Pizza Margherita for this rundown at all the other Pizzerias as well). I really went there with the intent to tell you that I thought this is indeed a top pizza place, but unfortunately this one Margherita fell short of any interest: pretty much anything about it was average, in my view: the crust (just ok), the tomato sauce (nothing special), the taste (pretty much standard to my palate). I'll go back and try other Pizzas of theirs. Perhaps I'll then understand what the fuss is all about, but I expected a pizza as classic as a Margherita to shine. For that Margherita a 4/10Bottom line
Of course, we all know that the 'best' is purely of subjective material and you have hopefully understood that by 'best'' I naturally meant what I perceived as 'my favourite". This latest rundown has essentially covered the pizzerias widly buzzed (blogosphere, pizza fans circles, opinions of locals) as the very best in town.
As I have explained earlier on, of those, only Bottega has left a great impression on me (Magpie did a great job as well with their Margherita Pizza, the only 2nd best of its kind that I could find in Mtl, second only to the one at Bottega).
With that said, I believe that it would be more accurate to convey that there's no need to develop unecessary expectations towards such subjective appreciations: for ie, it would be erroneous to believe that wowness might be expected from Bottega since it's at the top of my list. Wowness is in itself an over-rated, misleading description that is understood only by oneself's perceptions, therefore as utterly as irrelevant as another nonsense: the term 'over-rated' (for those exact same reasons).
Bottega is the #1 on my list because it appeared to me (my expectations, my judgement, my evaluation) as the Pizzeria that made it in a better way, with better flavor compared to what I have been sampling in town at this given point in time. Nothing more, nothing less.
I actually purposely focused my review on Pizza Margheritas mostly ... so that you can find an obvious weakness to pique upon ... so that I can remind you that there's no perfect opinion anyways, so I may as well do my reviews the way I feel like doing them..Rfaol!
Now, although this city is not famous for its Pizzas (New York as an ie would fare better to that regard, in my opinion), I’ll end this post with some pizzas that are not necessarily claiming to be authentic nor to be the best in town, but at this moment they surprisingly are bringing more palatable excitement (as far as I am concerned) than at 99% of their widly buzzed peers:
-Pizzedelic: At times, I found their Pizzas to be among this city most delicious at this Pizza chain.
-Pendelis : A long time favourite Greek Pizza place (I only know the one on Van Horne. Their hearty cheese pepperoni has satisfied me where many of the widly buzzed ones have failed. Talking about hearty Pizzas, Amelio's do bake some tasty ones too. Amelio's is one of this city Buzed Pizzerias. Its tasty and rich taste coupled with the fact that the McGill Ghetto folks have a strong presence on the web do surely help.
-Pizza Hut: I am a fan! Hey..what..?? It's tasty to my palate and that's the only thing that counts, no? It used to be even better couple of years ago, I found.
Hence, my question: could Bottega be the best of them all? If you are a competitor of Bottega, don't lose your time with the exercise...Rfaol!....
..but if you aren't, start with Bottega, try Magpie and all the other places and see for yourself. As always, taste is a subjective matter