I love pasta, and I love risotto: it’s no wonder this is one of my favourite restaurants in Montréal.
The inside of the restaurant is warm and inviting: brick walls, dimmed lights and candles, along with multiple shelves of jarred tomato sauce make it look like your Italian grandma’s dining room, if she had a really fancy dining room (and if you had an Italian grandma, I guess…).
One of the great things about Le Petit Italien’s menu is the possibility to order a smaller portion of almost any of their main courses for a smaller price, thus allowing you to sample a variety of their offerings. Together, Kris and I chose three dishes, brought to us in this order:
- Linguine al gorgonzola (with spinach, pine nuts, cream and green apples) (9/16$)
- Penne con anatra (duck confit and jus) (12/18$)
- Risotto ai funghi selvatici (wild mushrooms, porcini paste, mascarpone and roquette) (14/19$)
The linguine dish was our favourite: the sauce was creamy and incredibly tasty, though not as dense as gorgonzola sauce can often be. The green apples were a smart and thoughtful addition, which brought on a wonderful freshness and crispness to the dish.
The second course was also delicious, but not quite as successful as the first. The meat was tender and the sauce was sweet, but some parts were a little dry, and overall, we craved a change in texture; perhaps a different type of pasta or an added vegetable (broccoli?) would have done the trick. Still, we soaked up every last bit of this dish with our bread.
Then came the risotto: very well executed, this was a taste explosion. Thanks to the quality of the ingredients; the powerful yet not overwhelming taste of the wild mushrooms; the crunch of the roquette leaves; and the generous amount of grated parmesan, this was a delicious, irresistible third course. Yes, we were full, but we didn’t leave anything behind.
For dessert, we chose the brownie, accompanied by home-made coffee sorbet, apricot coulis and marshmallows (10$ and delectable) over the equally tempting options of dulce de leche panna cotta with a strawberry brunoise (a knife cut in which the ingredient is rendered into tiny little cubes) and lemon zest (7,50$) or apple and marsala tartlet with home made ice cream (9$). Perhaps a few dollars too expensive, but definitely not a disappointment.
Le Petit Italien is always busy (oh yeah, if you decide to pay them a visit, do make a reservation, especially if you’d like to spend the evening on the terrasse), and this unfortunately translates into a lack of charm and personalised attention in the service. Indeed, as you enter, one person will seat you, another will take your order, an other will bring you your food and yet another will fill up your water and offer you cheese and pepper. Similarly, this is not such a quiet, intimate restaurant: the voices of fellow diners does overpower the sound of the music.
On a previous visit at Le Petit Italien, sometime last winter, I had ordered the Linguine Buongustaio (prosciutto, braised chicken, grapes, fresh basil, garlic and white wine – 10/17$), and Kris the Risotto Primavera (zucchini, carrots, spinach and prosciutto – 13/18$). Both were good, but not quite as magical as this week’s meal.
Until a few months ago, Le Petit Italien also offered a weekend brunch, which consisted of Italian-inspired dim sum (a traditional Cantonese meal made up of many small portions of food). The menu was fun and original, and the experience was definitely not your typical egg-and-bacon breakfast. We had sampled a really scrumptious grilled cheese, some maple and pancetta beans, a poached egg in a tomato and basil sauce, rosemary potatoes, as well as a strawberry and pistachio waffle and a rice crispy, olive oil and basil flavoured slice of cantaloupe. Though brunch is no longer available at this restaurant, it has been replaced with weekend lunch, available from 11:30 every weekend.