Café Gentile Westmount
4126 Saint-Catherine St./ Greene
Telephone: (514) 925-8686
Cost: $ 31.73 for 1 person
Chef Hats: 4.5
For Italians growing up in The Garment District, Café Gentile was a local hangout situated in the basement of a duplex on Parc Avenue and Chabanel streets. Its humble beginnings started as a pool hall and old-style café for many men, young and old alike, who wanted congregate with people of their community for a couple of hours, have a coffee and chat.
Started by Ignazio Gentile and his family, Italian immigrants from Sicily in 1959, the café started with the necessity to etch out a living. A family run business for almost six decades it is now considered a Montreal landmark. During the early days, the café garnished a reputation for serving a really good espresso. Then the idea arose to serve sandwiches, a Brio and Italian pastries along with coffee. Soon they were serving full scale Sicilian inspired dishes with some of the best espresso this city had to offer. Like their counterpart Café Olympico in the Mile End, Café Gentile became synonymous with Italians in the East End of the city.
Their passion for coffee and hard work ethics have brought them to present day and the expansion of a second location in Westmount. Now their children, and the next generation continue the tradition with Nonna’s recipes and classic dishes from their homeland. We had the pleasure to visit the new location for Italian Brunch with some friends last Sunday for our monthly get together. Open seven days a week, Café Gentile serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. This summer they started serving Sunday’s Italian Brunch till 3:30 p.m. to accommodate the demand.
Today, being a beautiful sunny day, we decided to sit on the terrasse. Their terrace is large enough to accommodate well over 25 people, on the inside space is limited.
The décor is reminiscent of a modern diner, with a counter and leatherette stools lining one wall. Done up with wood panel and mirror walls there is an air of spaciousness and warmth. They also have a take-out counter for those busy days to accommodate the patrons of commercial Westmount Square. Unfortunately, they do not take reservations, but there was no line up today and we walked right in and were seated immediately by Adam our waiter.
We perused the menu and ordered our coffee’s. I had a latte and an orange juice for $4.00 each, the latte packed quite a punch, strong, smooth and delicious.The O.J. was freshly squeezed and refreshing.
For my main meal, I decided to go with the Nonna Lilla frittata for $ 16.00, a baked Italian omelet filled with potatoes, onions, spinach, parmigiana and fontina cheese. Piled mile high, it was delicious and came served on a coulis of fresh homemade tomato sauce. It was definitely better than my Nonna’s.
Many of my girlfriends decided to have the Gentile Grand Slam for $ 17.00. This typical breakfast dish consisted of two eggs sunny side up served with Italian sausage, breakfast potatoes, toast and a garnish of fresh oregano. The variation was the Calabrian chili which made this dish feisty like most Italians in the morning.
The beautiful L, decided she wanted to be sinful this afternoon and ordered the Uova in Purgatorio for $ 15.00. Basic translation is Eggs in Purgatory. The two eggs were served baked in a terracotta dish, with ample picante tomato sauce and dollops of homemade ricotta and fresh basil. Served alongside, crostini crisps for dipping. She loved this dish as it reminded her of Huevos Rancheros, a Mexican dish she often has, she found this dish was decadent. All in agreement that the tomato sauce was heavenly fresh and tasty and like no other ever sampled.
MJ ordered a the Colazione Italian for $13.00 an assortment of Italian Pastries and got more than she bargained for, but it was fine as she took some home to be enjoyed with her coffee later in the day.
We enjoyed our afternoon immensely. The conversation was light and we could have sat there all day nestled between the tall buildings of Westmount Square in the shade and the breeze enjoying coffee. Aside for some chatty Westmount dogs, the environs were peaceful and tranquil. We did not hear a car go by and were surprised at the quietude of the downtown streets. Café Gentile is a definite return and an ideal spot.
The service was speedy and very accommodating. Nonna’s grandson served us and my friends could not help but notice how he looked like a miniature version of the statue of David. Comments were passed and his face reddened. Nonna even passed by and he kissed his grandmother goodbye on the cheek. Aww how sweet, so polite and a respectful young man, hard to find these days.
The vibe at Café Gentile was definitely positive and we knew we came to a good place where even though out of their element in Westmount, the quality and devotion to their customers remain as strong as ever. It is a different time and a different place for a new generation to enjoy the good things of the past that make this city different and special.