Jean Talon Market- Henri Julien/Mozart
Charcuterie Balkani-Jean Talon Market-7070 Henri Julien Local # 2
Porchetta-6887 St Laurent
Milano-6862 St Laurent
Cafe San Gennaro -69 St Zotique
Alati Caserta Bakery-277 rue Dante
The best way to truly discover a neighbourhood and experience all it has to offer is by taking a walking tour. You can stop to visit all the little shops, restaurants and gems the neighbourhood has to offer. Along the way you may discover places that you were not aware existed. It will open up your mind, bring forth new adventures and open a new world of discoveries.
We did just that this summer with The Food & Drink Meet Up 2017 edition of a walking Tour of Little Italy. I try to make an annual trek to Little Italy, either by sometimes attending some festivity or making a pit stop at Milano’s Supermarket to purchase some imported product. As a creature of habit, I always go back to my old haunts which are the usual landmark places that I have been going to for years. I sometimes do not know about new places that have recently opened and miss out, until someone mentions it. Today was a good opportunity to learn about these different places and our walk not only served as a sounding board for other ideas but allowed me to experience places I would not otherwise have tried or known about.
We started our walking tour at 10:30 am at the Jean Talon Market. The overall tour lasted three hours, with a few pit stops for food and relaxing. The market is a proverbial favourite and the perfect place to start; go early in the morning as it is less busy and you get prime choice of the best produce. By the end of the day, some speciality items may be gone and it is so jam packed with people, walking through at a decent pace proves difficult.
The market is also a great way to sample free things, one of the kiosks at the center of the market selling fruits and vegetables actually cuts up their produce so you can have a taste before buying. They have a phletora of items on elevated tablets and you can take as much as you want.
We toured the market and stopped at Charcuterie Balkani Montreal, specializing in Artisan Romanian and European Sausages and Meats. This outlet of Balkani is the original location which opened in 2004, with another deli store and production facility that opened a few years later in Brossard. Balkani serves 70 kinds of meat products and homemade dishes. All products are naturally smoked with maple wood and do not contain gluten or phosphates.
Our guide Lina, recommended their Romanian Meat on a stick (Mititei) for a small fee of $4.00 to sample. Made with ground lamb and flavourful spices, this was specially grilled just for our group. It was juicy, tender and savoury. You can add your choice of mustard, but no condiments are just as good if not better.
We walked to the fruit and vegetable kiosk at the center of the market to sample cuts of the freshest produce of the day like tomatoes, cucumber, mangoes, apples and berries. We purchased some produce to take home with us. We saw other speciality kiosks and stopped to sample everything from artisan bread, cheeses, chocolates, maple syrup and many other items.
Once done at the market, we walked to St Laurent Boulevard and stopped at Porchetta, a little sandwich shop for a quick bite. Porchetta (meaning Piglet in Italian) serves Italian style pulled pork sandwiches and other Italian specialities like Salsiccia and Chicken sandwiches that are authentic to Roman style sandwich shops found in Italy. Different from Southern style pulled pork sandwiches which usually contains BBQ sauce. Porchetta‘s classic pork sandwiches are made from pork loin that is slow cooked in its own juices for many hours.
It is so tender and melts in your mouth. The pulled pork is served on the freshest homemade buns along with Chuck Hughes Jardiniera, packed with small pieces of vegetable and a hint of mint, this condiment compliments this sandwich perfectly and brings it a notch above the rest. Try their classic Porchetta sandwich with a Moretti Beer for About $ 19.00. It is true soul food. Porchetta also keeps expanding, with a locations downtown, St Leonard and Terrebonne.
After our quick lunch we crossed the street to Milano Fruiterie; an Italian speciality grocer who has been around since 1954. It has been serving the Italian community and Montrealer’ with fine Italian imported products as well as local produce for years. Newly renovated and expanded after a fire that almost destroyed it last year, it now offers a larger selection with a phletora of new imported products not found anywhere else. I have been coming here annually each summer to stock up on a Green Apple juice from Parmalat that I use to make my famous apple martinis for my Martini Night Parties by the pool. Milano remains, one of the only places I can still find it easily available without scouring the city.
Today, Milano had many booths set up for food sampling. We got to sample various styles of Arancini Siciliani imported from Italy which came from the frozen food section, but tasted as though they had been freshly made. We tried pieces of local cheeses that were on sale, cuts of foccaccia pizza, Italian salami and desserts that were also pre-packaged imports from Europe.
All we were missing was the coffee, so we walked to wards St Zotique to Cafe San Gennaro.Cafe San Gennaro is an offshoot of La Bottega restaurant located next door; it was opened in 2015 by Massimo, Fabrizio and Giovanna Covone, to offer their famous slab pizza daily on a take-out basis.
I have wanted to go to San Gennaro since its inception. I am a big fan of La Bottega having dined there many times over the years. Today thanks to Lina, I got to sample Cafe San Gennaro. I found the cafe truly exceptional and I am content to have discovered this new and wonderful place. The cafe is an ideal place to satisfy your little “sfizi” from delicious slab pizza, to desserts and great coffees. I love the decor and look and feel of the place. It has plenty of seating window side and otherwise to enjoy a good coffee and read a copy Of Panorama Magazine or sitting inside or outside on the terrasse with the company of good friends.
On Lina agenda today was sampling of their Arancini Siciliani stuffed with meat sauce, peas and mozzarella. I needed a coffee desperately, but I did not want to lose out, so I took the arancini and a slab of pizza to take home for a before dinner snack.
San Gennaro is a hidden gem and a great place to stop for coffee or a quick meal. It is always busy and their hours are short, it is only open in the daytime, no evening hours. Arrive at lunch time on weekends or midday, they also have a terrasse in summer and it’s a great place to hang out for a few hrs.
Our last stop was a sweet-tooth dream come true, the famous Alati-Caserta Bakery on Dante and Henri Julien across from the Dante Church. Alati-Caserta is another landmark that has been around since 1968. Renowned for its Tiramisu cake which always tops the best lists for years, other desserts like Sicilian cannoli and Sfoglitella’s do not fall short from this list either.
I took home one of their Lobster tails that was more the size of a small lobster than a tail to have for dessert that evening. It came filled with the best Chantilly cream it was just heavenly with my espresso. It was one of the best I have had in a long time. A perfect end to a great day of discoveries.