105 St-Paul St. W. (corner St-Sulpice St.)
Type of Cuisine: Italian/ Neapolitan Pizza
Chef Hats: 4
I first heard about Restaurant Mangiafoco for the first time one evening about two years ago in Fall 2013 while watching Guide Resto Voir on Canal Évasion. What got my interest as I watched Anne Marie Whitenshaw sip some original funky sounding cocktail was the fact that the restaurant happened to be owned by Jeff Stinco, lead guitarist for Simple Plan. Now, normally I don’t like to drop names, but I will, because a have a good story to tell.
I had the pleasure of meeting Jeff Stinco in New York in 2005 at the Meadowlands, while on their Zootopia Tour, through a mutual acquaintance Kenny Crouch, who was performing with Mariah Carey during the world tour that year. Yes, as you’re guessing the Montreal Foo Foodie used to be a groupie; but a bad one at that. That evening, I was introduced to the band because someone had the thought that since I was a Canadian from their neck of the woods, we had something in common that we could talk about. Not so, because I had never heard of them, and I kept embarrassing myself by calling them Basic Plan all night long. An awkward moment and not one I will ever forget. So, now as homage to them, I hang on to their every word, and I pay attention.
One balmy Sunday winter’s day, two years later while looking for a quick bite to eat at in Old Montreal, I stumble across Mangiafoco‘s doorstep. Unfortunately, we were too early and they were not opened yet for dinner. So I make reservations for the next weekend. I am excited and can’t wait to eat here. I hear it’s a cool hipster urbanites dream to hob knob with the rock stars, again.
I get dropped off at the door and hover in the portique for about fifteen minutes, while waiting for Frenchie to park the car. Yes, the parking dilemma again, when parking was right next door, but Frenchie is a guy and he doesn’t listen. This is not so cool for an ex-groupie, but I get to scope the place before I go into the restaurant. The entrance holds the vestiaire and a nook that I would call a coffee corner. While waiting here I smell the whiffs of strong coffee emanating from the Espresso machine reminding me that I am getting very hungry. But the smell of the coffee is so intoxicating, I am almost in the mood or one while I wait.
Finally Frenchie arrives and we enter the long narrow, multi levelled restaurant whose main focal point is a large bar at the center of the room. The room is dark, cool and buzzing, to the brim with people of all ages drinking and dining. The tables are set high up around exposed brick walls, almost suspended in mid air, with a futuristic feel. The place definitely has the “Rock Star’’ kind of vibe, like I am in Los Angeles instead of Montreal, or New York maybe ….
We are given a seat on one of the high tables next to the window, overlooking, Hotel Nelligan and Verses Restaurant, which is the best spot for people watching on this beautiful Montreal night.
Within minutes, once settled, our gracious waiter, Jean-Frederic, approaches and explains the concept of the restaurant to us, with its Mozzarella/Burrata Bar, appetizers, salads and pizza. He takes our order for a bottle of Valpolicella Campagnola at $ 42.00, a descent price and quickly returns and pours us two glasses. We have made our choice and decide to share their house speciality, a smoked Burrata, smoked in house, with a tomato and fresh basil salad for $ 28.00. For our pizza our choice is the usual, a Margherita and a Prosciutto and Arugula.
Mangiafoco’s Burrata’s Bar concept is original in that it is a little more extensive compared to other restaurants of the likes that have only one type of Burrata as usual appetizer on their menu. Here, you can pair four varieties of imported Italian mozzarella with accompaniments of your choice of sides, like prosciutto, braised pork, Gravlax, truffle peaches, marinated mushrooms and much more.
You can also choose from a handful of appetizers that include some old classic Italian favorites, like fried calamari, arancini siciliani, meatballs, prosciutto and melon, done Mangiafoco way.
When our smoked mozzarella di bufala arrived, it was a pleasant surprise. The ball of cheese was firm, mildly smoky and very different in taste and texture. A first for me and Frenchie, it was paired with a mix of halved cherry and kumato tomato salad and fresh basil. It was refreshing and not too acidic and a perfect start to the meal.
The Margherita pizza at $ 15.00 was basic, but the dough was chewy and flavorful and not too thin or dry. All their pizzas are cooked in a fire oven. A descent price comparative to other restaurants and this pizza is a notch above the typical gourmet pizza.
The Prosciutto and Arugula at $ 18.00 had the same chewy texture, a copious amount of freshly sliced good quality prosciutto, and just the right amount of fresh ruccola salad on top. The pizza was perfectly cooked, fluffy chewy dough that was just the right consistency .It tasted heavenly like pockets of chewy bread clouds. I was able to fold it over and eat it like a calzone. And had no issues eating the whole pizza by myself when I just usually have just two slices and I am already full.
What made Mangiafoco different and fun from many restaurants we have frequented lately, especially the pizzerias was not only the quality of the food but the vibrant bar scene that gave it an edge of excitement and fun. Even though we were nestled in the front of the house, in our private nook, the aura from where we were sitting was purely romantic, making it a great place to frequent for those date nights with a special someone.
The night was getting late, we were getting tipsy, and it was time to go walk with the fire eaters of the world and warm up the air of the frigid Old Montreal Streets with more festivities.
Mangiafoco is a definite return and must try for all. It was minus the monsieur basic, but not simple.