Tonight, my wife and kids surprised me with an early Fathers Day dinner. For the occasion, my better half chose her favorite pizzeria in town: Little Italy's GEMA. The neighborhood was palpably alive on this fine Saturday evening, with locals hanging out at parks, queuing in line at gelaterias and enjoying dinner on buzzing restaurant patios.
Owned by the renowned duo of Stefano Faita and Michele Forgione, GEMA has already been reviewed in these pages a few years back. This new writeup will serve as an update to see how the pizzeria is faring seven years in. Seemingly, things have not slowed down, as groups of diners were waiting to be seated outside, where reservations are not taken.
GEMA's corner disposition allows it multiple outside sections. The main patio goes down Dante Street, is well exposed to sunlight and split by an aisle for foot traffic. Next up are picnic tables along the Saint-Dominique side, facing the restaurant's takeout window, out of which GEMA's famous frozen custard can be ordered to go. The crowd for this evening was a mix of friends and couples with or without kids, all enjoying the relaxed community vibe.
tagged: BRING THE KIDS
The pizzeria's menu is exactly as I remember. Typical osteria appetizers – calamari, meatballs, salads – are followed by a dozen varieties of pies, plus a rotating pizza of the month. The wine list is 100% Italian, mostly composed of private imports, many of which available by the glass.
To begin, we ordered the entire list of starters to share – not all pictured below – which were excellent. The fried calamari were tender and tasty, the veal meatballs were fluffy and cheesy, and the salads were fresh and bright. Next up, our four pizzas were delicious thanks to a tangy sauce and balanced toppings. One of them was burnt and black at the bottom but the rest were beautifully chewy and crusty.
Finally, desserts pleased child and adult alike. We asked for two frozen custards – vanilla and strawberry – which were smooth and not too sweet. We topped those off with a Baci crumble for a chocolatey crunch. As for the doughnut bites – fried pizza dough really – those were fun, spongy and given the royal treatment with a hazelnut-cocoa spread and powdered sugar.
tagged: GOOD FOR SHARING
The staff at all Faita/Forgione establishments is savvy and hospitable. The duo of waiters tending to us tonight followed that template with sharpness and amicability. I particularly appreciated the time and attention given when my wife could not decide between two different glasses of wine. Our waiter was nice enough to bring both bottles for us to taste; nice move!
Since opening GEMA, Stefano Faita and Michele Forgione's second restaurant, the duo has added an upmarket casse-croûte and a casual trattoria to their collection in addition to launching a line of grocery items such as pastas, sauces, frozen pizzas and desserts. From the success of their extended endeavors to what GEMA stands for – an authentic neighborhood pizzeria – there is no denying the two chefs' imprint on Montreal's Italian heritage.
And while I have been portraying GEMA as a locals' favorite, it is also a "destination" restaurant by all means and easily one of the city's top five pizzerias.
Price per person: $32.35
Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink. We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.