My parents were in town last week, so we did the classic rounds of the city. Old Port, St. Laurent, a tour of McGill campus—you know the drill. They’ve never been to Montreal before and, indeed, they had their observations: “Are there any old people here?”—yes, you! “Has anyone ever tried poutine twice?”—Well, try it again after two bottles of wine at 3 a.m. and get back to me.
We walked through Old Montreal quite a few times, which is not the regular spot for McGill students, granted. But occasionally—for birthdays or anniversaries, or if the family is in town—you might head down for dinner or drinks, or if you’re lucky, both.
We passed by Jacopo on Jacques-Cartier—right in the centre of the tourist district. I pointed it out as a fairly well-known new Italian restaurant, often featured in Montreal’s eating-out guides. My dad looked at the menu and saw the suppli al telefono dish, which just took him back to Rome. I booked a table for the next day.
Don’t be under any illusions: Tourists do not lead to better restaurants. Most of them walk in tired, maybe jet-lagged, with no idea what time it is, and will eat anything. So as long as they get to tell the server their life story, they will have a good time.
Jacopo has an upmarket, stylish feel, which is well-catered for these worldly travellers looking for that hip Montreal vibe. There were wooden beams, a bar with colourful drinks, and a rustic stone wall that just takes the average Joe back to their 2017 summer holiday in Italy like a large glass of Chianti in the sun. There was also a seating area outside, but it was a bit nippy.
The interior design came together too well not to be professionally designed—a common trend for restaurants these days. And the reason why is simple: The feel of a restaurant is important. I’d just prefer if this feel was created by their cooks, and not their interior designers.
The waitress came over and well, we didn’t click. How do I put this: I said spaghetti, she said penne or something like that. Judge a chef by how they chop and a server by how fast they can bring a soft drink—and my diet coke sang Happy Birthday to the nearby table before it made its way to me.
Jacopo was founded in 2019, so it’s still technically a new kid on the block. But its menu had the swagger of an established restaurant. The octopus salad looked good, as did the squash ravioli. Of course, the calamari fritti is a classic, and there was also the fish of the day and roasted chicken. We ordered the suppli al telefono and the bruschetta al pomodoro to start.
Now the suppli al telefono is a clever dish. It’s from Rome originally and is effectively a ball of mozzarella wrapped in rice and bread crumbs, and then fried. The idea is when you break it in half, the cheese will droop like telephone wires.
Jacopo’s take on the classic was disappointing. With little to no rice and breading so oily that it was sickening, it felt more like a greasy snack at a frat party—certainly not the standard for a $26 starter in Old Montreal. The bruschetta, though, was actually pretty tasty. The tomato, basil and red onions worked together nicely to pack a punch. Bizarrely, they served it with the same bread as the bread basket—toasted focaccia.
For my main, I got the grilled lamb chops with truffle polenta and vegetables. Generous would not be a word I’d use to describe it, nor impressive—insipid is more appropriate. The lamb was overcooked and the polenta looked like porridge from the trenches and didn’t taste much better. I felt sorry for the vegetables—they should have stayed in the ground. And for $42 before tax and tip, I think not.
At the end of the day, Jacopo’s problems all come back to one thing: The quality of their dishes. It’s just not good enough. Jacopo can hire interior designers until they’re puce in the face, but it’s not going to do diddly squat for grilling lamb chops.
Score: 2 / 5 stars
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