I hope everyone has had a pleasant holiday, filled with people you love and delicious food. As the new year is upon us, I want to tell you about this great food related idea I have; a new Shut Up and Eat project that will take Montreal like a mid-winter snow storm. I will open a gym and call it “Resolutions” for the month of January, which will become a restaurant full of slimming carnival mirrors for the other 11 months. Great idea, n’est pas?
No, not really. But even if I did, it would probably be like this Italian spot I hit up with a bunch of friends right after Christmas in Little Italy; Il Piatto Pieno. Translates to “full plate”, the place was bumping; could hear the live band playing from the outside. Like a Steve’s music store of the restaurant scene, this place almost takes up an entire city block of ground floor units of adjacent buildings.
The menu was a tri-fold of a roadmap outlining antipastos, salads, pasta and pizza and meats. Reading the menu, my jaw dropped and felt the overwhelming urge to hide under the table clutching what I just discovered at like the time I accidentally found my dad’s porno stash when I was looking for my dad’s porno stash. I started with the Antipasto à l’Italiana which is a plate of mixed salumi.
Generous slices of salami, capicola, soppressata, turkey and proscuitto. There’s nothing fancy to it; it’s a plateful of cold cuts on cuts on cuts. Salty and salumicredible, we made impromptu mini sangwiches with the rolls in the bread basket and awesome table-top chili oil.
One friend had the gnochi in rose sauce. Perfectly cooked, the gnocchi was soft to the bite that resisted once you got toward the middle, like biting the fat little toes of your favourite toddler. This dish is simple and delicious; pillowy soft nuggets bathed in a rich tomato sauce of cream, butter and parmesan, the generous portion dares you to finish it in one go.
Another friend had the Fettuccini Amalfitana – garlic, shallots, sun-dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes in the same lush rose sauce.
The never-ending ribbons of pasta impregnated with the rich tomato sauce had the right amount of chew to each bite that identified itself as being fresh pasta. The sweetness from the butter and cream was nicely balanced by the tart cherry tomatoes and the sharp salty dices of the sun-dried variety that lent a next to nutty aroma to the dish.
My lady had the salsiccia cacciatore pizza – pizza with homemade cured cacciatore sausage, marinated eggplants, drizzled with the bottle oil. The sweetness of the tomato sauce was not overpowered by the saltiness of the sausage nor the small bursts of tender and briny marinated eggplants in each mouthful.
I had the pizza Ortolana – cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers, artichoke, grilled eggplant and zucchini…. WHERE’S THE MEAT?! I KNOW RIGHT?! No, I knew that this pizza would be the conscience soothing alternative to the post holiday diet when the old body temple is pushing maximum density and each step through 40 cms of snow is a bit heavier and labour intensive. Light and fresh, the pizza was perfumed by the finishing basil that accented the top. The grilled eggplant and zucchini was plentiful, so even if you are a meat eater (or not), each bite does not fall short of substantial.
There is something to be said about the crust. I normally like my pizza crust thick and chewy, glorious and full of gluten. That’s not what you get here; thin and crispy, the pizza making process is actually on display right when you walk through the door. Stationed at a stone-ined fire-heated pizza oven, the pizza chef slinging flour and tossing toppings performs a choreographed mating dance of his people that would turn on the likes of any pizza pervert like me.
For dessert, we split a slice of Tiramisu. The cake was moist and the coffee was sweet and somewhat absent. It was a nice finish to the meal, but not very memorable. After the amount of food we had, I’m surprised we even had space for dessert.
Piatto Pieno definitely lives of to its name. Very generous portions at prices friendlier than a stray dog following you home after a summer bbq, this massive little Italy located restaurant is the mothership for all those looking for awesome Italian grub.
Il Piato Pieno
177, St-Zotique E.
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