Elio Pizzeria Ristorante is well-known to all lovers of Italian cuisine in Montreal. This restaurant in the Rosemont district has proudly reigned on Bellechasse Street for 55 years. It is one of those places where people feel at home, order blindly and have a warm chat with the owner.
Guests are not mistaken: here all the dishes are oozing with love of good food: delicious, hearty and colourful. The word guest is not chosen at random, because at Elio, you are welcomed as a guest and they want you to leave satisfied and happy. Seeing the different clientele gathered in the room: young couples, groups of teens, families, retirees, neighbourhood employees... We can tell that their recipe is working wonderfully!
Opening Elio's door takes us into a family history that revolves around the passion for Italian flavours in all its forms. Founded in 1964 by Elio de Lauri and his wife Nina, originally from Avellino near Naples, the restaurant has officially been in the hands of their son Frank since 2011 and his children are already part of the restaurant's life in the kitchen and in the dining room.
The generations succeed one another, but the tradition remains. As a ritual, Elio, 86, arrives first to prepare the basic ingredients for the day, including the famous secret tomato sauce recipe. During our visit, the arrival of this character transports something that is both solemn and touching. He tells us that he has owned a soccer team, been president of associations and about his philanthropist activities. We then understand where Frank gets his passion from and the colourful energy found in the dishes!
ELIO PIZZERIA RISTORANTE is a small empire that has been built over the decades. Two years ago, the typical Mediterranean Trattoria decor gave way to a more modern space with lots of character. The main hall, with its hundred seats, is furnished with large convivial tables or more intimate booths lit by a series of majestic windows that give a contrasting light. For a more summery atmosphere, you can also enjoy one of the two terraces, indoor or outdoor, which can accommodate up to 65 people. Elio also has two private reception rooms (75 and 200 seats) and, a small detail that makes all the difference, a free parking of 70 spaces right in front of the restaurant.
At Elio’s, the menu is full of secrets. If the left page offers the same dishes since the opening in 1964, the right page offers new compositions that broaden our vision of Italian cuisine, reminding us that a culture is in constant evolution. If you have the chance to talk to Chef Franco, he can make suggestions according to your wishes or even prepare a dish that is not on the menu. Because here we like to revisit the ingredients, whether it's inspired by classic dishes, family recipes or the new Italian-Montreal cuisine.
We can’t resist the call of some dishes from the traditional menu. Our antipasti (appetizer) will take the form of Melanzane alla Parmigiana: a nice slice of baked eggplant with tomato sauce and cheese. It is perfectly cooked and everything melts in your mouth. That's all it takes to awaken our appetite!
We continue with a nice Cesar Salad. It is always a pleasure to taste a homemade version of this popular dish. Elio's joyfully fulfills our expectations: crunchy salad with bacon, parmesan cheese and croutons that slowly soak up the creamy sauce.
We accompany everything with a focaccia, a flat bread baked in the oven, reminiscent of pizza. The basic version is topped with garlic, oil and spices, but we choose Bianca con Funghi with mushrooms and cheese. Thin, crispy dough and carefully arranged ingredients, all delicately soaked in olive oil: you can feel the lively and measured gesture of the chef passionate about his work.
The other side of the menu offers a variety of appetizing thin crust pizzas, that are soft and well dressed. One bite and you know that Elio's ultimate expertise is in his pizza. We also have the chance to taste several of Franco’s creations based on homemade pasta. Cavatelli Gira Gira, without derogating from the basic ingredients such as tomato sauce, surprise our palate with their caramelized melting touch. Fettucine Mamma, a beautiful composition based on garlic, oil, sausages, mushrooms, spinach, spices and tomato sauce, also transport us. We are clearly no longer hungry, but it is impossible not to keep planting the fork. Cannelloni al Forno, an imposing cannelloni stuffed with ricotta and covered with rosé sauce, is also a tasty example of a revisited classic cuisine.
The surprises are not over. When we taste the bavette, it is completely out of this world, it's delicious. The piece of meat is tender, fragrant and cooked to perfection. Infidelities to traditional Italian cuisine are 100% forgiven!
We all have an idea in mind when we go to Elio's, surrounded by the beautiful Italian flavours that we know. Yet, we find ourselves transported to Italy, alive, vibrant and reinventing itself every day here in Montreal.
For 55 years, the restaurant has never stopped thinking about expansion, while taking care of its values and what makes it successful. If the small family business has already became a great trademark, the new generation has many desires and ideas to take Elio into the 21st century!
While waiting to see what the future holds, if you want to enjoy a pizza that is so delicious it will inhabit your dreams, you know where to go. And if in Napoli everything is exaggerated, I guarantee that you will adore this overflow of love on your plate!