One of Montreal’s newest Italian restaurants is Brotelli Pasta Bar, owned and operated by brothers and McGill alumni, Joey (BA’12) and Orlando Napolitano (BA’09). This eatery puts a unique spin on traditional pasta dishes: It serves pasta in Chinese take-out containers for meals on the go.
Brotelli, located in the food court of the CIBC tower at 1155 René-Lévesque, offers a casual ambiance that attracts both rushed students and those looking for a laid-back sit-down dining experience. Joey Napolitano explained that the idea behind the restaurant was rooted in family tradition and a desire to cater to a specific consumer demand.
“My family [owned the restaurant] Casa Napoli [which] opened in 1978 and closed […], about four years ago,” Joey Napolitano said. “We grew up in a family of restoration, in a proudly Italian family where food was everything. My brother and I realized that the Italian food in the quick-service scene was not done up to standard.”
In addition to pasta, Brotelli offers classic Italian delicacies, including espresso and pastries, primarily to those working in the downtown areas and through catering. Employees and customers alike point out the unique advantage serving pasta to-go has given Brotelli in the Italian food industry. Robbie Koeck (U2 Arts), a McGill student working at Brotelli, explained that the restaurant’s goal is to provide gourmet food and speedy service.
“The concept is, they’re trying to bridge high quality pasta, which you would expect at a top tier restaurant, with a fast-food [service],” Koeck said. “You go there, order your pasta, and, in less than three minutes, you have a nice box of high-quality pasta ready for you.”
The main challenge the Napolitanos face is the fear of becoming too repetitive and losing their customers’ attention. To set themselves apart, Brotelli’s mission is to serve fresh, made-to-order dishes, that they update regularly.
“We took a lot of recipes from my dad’s restaurant trying to [recreate] the old [dishes] with a new touch,” Napolitano said. “We noticed we get a lot of repeating customers, and we don’t want them to think our menu is not changing, so [we created Pasta of the Month….] We always want to keep the best, and keep changing it up [to] keep the menu new and exciting.”
Brotelli further aims to appeal to customers by offering a lively and warm atmosphere. Those who brave the Montreal winter to trek to the restaurant are rewarded with both delicious cuisine and a friendly environment.
“What was important for us was the ambiance,” Joey Napolitano said. “We want an energetic vibe so [that when] people come down for a coffee, dessert, or pasta, it’s a little escape from their day.”
Currently, seven of the establishment’s eight employees are McGill students who work part-time during breaks or after class. In collaborating with students from their alma mater, the Napolitano brothers have attempted to recreate a McGill community off-campus.
“The [Napolitano brothers] are basically your friends, there’s no boss-worker relationship,” Koeck said. “It’s more like […] we’re all in this together, which makes you want to work well, not because you have to.”