Let’s face it: Montreal’s by-the-slice pizza game is mostly non-existent. Yes, there are lots of good, thick and fluffy Sicilian squares around town, and then there’s the slew of Greek-style stuff, but not much in the ways of a traditional Neapolitan slice (the kind I imagined the Ninja Turtles were crazy about). Growing up, a standard pizza to me was all-dressed — something that came covered in mushrooms, green peppers, oodles of cheese and pepperoni slices the diameter of the sun.
Euro Deli on St-Laurent might have been the exception to that rule. When they shut down a few years ago, after being in business since 1982, they left many of us with a pizza-shaped hole in our hearts, and club-goers with decidedly inferior options that probably cause a lot of 4 a.m. regret. However, with the opening of his second St-Henri spot, Adamo’s, Tony Campanelli is trying to change our idea of what a slice should be.
When people step up to his counter and ask for all-dressed, Campanelli responds with, “I don’t know what that means.” That’s not so say he hates on these pies.
“It’s not bad, it’s just something completely different and not what you find in Italy.” At his small spot on Notre-Dame Street West, he strives to uphold the culinary traditions of his family’s country of origin. There’s not a green pepper in sight; instead, the standard is a margherita with simple sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil.
The crust is thin and crispy, and the quantity of cheese is just right, never overwhelming the flavour of the tangy sauce. This pie actually has its very own sauce, a simplified version of the parmesan-enhanced one you’ll find on their other pizzas. The sweetness of the tomatoes shines through and is complemented nicely by the herbal zest from baked basil. If you’re like me, I recommend adding the chili oil or Montreal-made Smoke Show hot sauce to your crust.
Those who like their pies with the kind of mozzarella that stretches with each bite can opt for a slice of pepperoni (Campanelli’s kryptonite), straight-up cheese, pesto, ham-ricotta or capicollo (that’s “gabagool” to the Sopranos lovers out there).
Slices are crunchy, delicious and big enough to fold in half. The folding’s actually an important variable for on-the-go eating and, while that might sound like New York-style pizza, the man at the helm would object. Even though he recognizes the influence of places like Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village, Campanelli does it “Montreal-style,” learning from Euro Deli, where he worked his first after-school job. Traces of his formative experience are visible on the walls, as well as in the food. Black and white stills from a student film about Euro Deli made by Campanelli’s friends decades ago hang in frames.
What it really comes down to is investing time and money in quality ingredients and making everything from scratch. Campanelli took a while to find the right tomatoes, he knows his suppliers personally and buys local whenever possible. A slice costs $3.75, which is worth it when you consider that everything is fresh and handmade.
The restaurateur brings the same attitude to his eponymous café and sandwich shop located just across the street — it’s been a neighbourhood haunt for five years. Campanelli has worked hard to strike a balance between inexpensiveness and quality. Consider the meatball sandwich: “The meatballs are handmade every day with veal and parmesan, and it shouldn’t be $16.”
Price consciousness also informs what comes out of the oven at Adamo’s. While Montreal has enjoyed a surge of good sit-down pizza restaurants in the last five years or so, Tony is doing something different: “I’ve always believed peasant food should be treated as such. A pizza shouldn’t be $30 with a $60 bottle of wine.”
Forget about candlelit tables, cloth napkins and truffle oil. Here, you eat your slice standing at a counter over a paper plate. You’ll be out the door 15 minutes later, having spent about $10 if it’s a two-slice kind of day, with a drink on the side.
Considering the line-ups this eatery had when they first opened in October and the growing number of regulars, folks seem to have been hungry for this kind of simplicity. ■
4629 Notre-Dame W., 514-386-1800