With its varied European influences, Montreal is a renowned destination for food lovers. Poutine, smoked meat sandwiches, and bagels—there are guilty pleasures in every corner of the city. One classic dish that never disappoints is pizza; everybody has a beloved variation. From Sept. 11 to 24, over 50 pizzerias competed in Montreal’s annual Pizza Fest—an event to celebrate pizza and those who make it.
This year’s Pizza Fest showcased a variety of dishes from around the Montreal area. While many restaurants chose to focus on classic, high-quality ingredients, some adventurous chefs took a more creative and ambitious route with variations on toppings such as oysters, meatballs, and pickles.
Judges and foodies alike had the opportunity to eat their way through the city. Every participating restaurant created an original pizza for the event and at the end, a panel of judges selected a winner. Last year, the winner was Kesté, a pizzeria located in Mile-End, which won audiences over with its Napoli pie. Pizza connoisseur and founder of Brooklyn restaurant Roberta’s, Anthony Falco was the lead judge for the 2018 competition.
In addition to the experts, festival visitors were also encouraged to vote for their favourite restaurant online. Attendees could sample the offerings available at the participating restaurants across the city, and collect stamps in their ‘pizza passports’ for a chance to win a trip to Naples.
Il Pranzetto, a pizzeria located in a Chinatown basement, was among the most popular contestants. The venue is casual, efficient, and—for the three hours it is open during lunchtime—busy. Their original pizza included sausage, peppers, basil, ricotta, and fresh tomato. The minimalist choice proved wise as this simple, yet satisfying creation drew a bustling crowd.
“It was very easy to create this pizza, I tried to use everything that we make homemade,” owner Sabrina Suola explained. “That’s our own sausage, the basil is from our garden, and the peppers we bought from the farmer’s market. We roast them on our grill, which is quite a long process.”
Also participating in the event was La Medusa, a restaurant located on Drummond Ave., only a 10-15 minute walk from McGill’s main campus. Former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney has been known to visit this hidden gem. The eatery is also well-known for its decadent house-made gelato, which is popular with their customers. Their original creation was a mozzarella, tomato, sopressata, and maple syrup pizza: A perfect combination of spicy, salty, and sweet flavours.
“It’s all about the combination of flavours,” La Medusa owner Giuseppe D’Addario said. “Real Italian pizzas are made with wooden stoves like [ours].”
Perhaps it’s not the popular opinion on a website, or a ‘best pizza’ award, but the dedication and thought put towards the authentic and flavourful experience encompassed in every bite that makes the perfect pizza.
“It’s a very simple thing, but also a complex thing,” D’Adderio said. “Pizza is a big word. It’s like saying car. You have a Honda and a Ferrari, they both bring you to the destination, but it just depends on the bells and whistles you want on it.”
Whether diners are craving a great bite of lunch hidden under the streets or an artisanal pie at an elegant pizzeria, Pizza Fest proved that Montreal has it all. Moreover, the diverse offerings at the event showed the city that delicious pizza doesn’t have to be traditional.