For a city with so much shoreline, I have always lamented Montreal's dearth of restaurants lying along the waterfront. Memories of meals enjoyed by a beach, lake or river during my travels abroad seem to haunt me and instill a bit of jealousy. It's bad enough we only get four months to enjoy a meal outdoors with our long winters, the choices are few when it comes to "dinner with a view".
Pockets of exceptions do exist, either in the Old Port – too crowded and hard to get to – or Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue – too far. However, I have recently become aware of a third option in the neighborhood of Lachine, where a handful of restaurants afford a view of the canal by the same name. Of those, I picked Il Fornetto for lunch with my father, wife and kids on this beautiful late-September weekend.
Open since 1984, Il Fornetto is a clear fixture of its surroundings. After all, nothing screams familiarity and quaintness more than an older-than-average waitstaff tending to habitual, large family gatherings. We were lucky enough to grab a corner table on their streetside patio, which granted us a scenic view of the canal across the street and the tree-lined Promenade Père Marquette beyond it. The only spot topping our setting would be the tables on the second-floor terrace upstairs, but that section was closed for today's service.
tagged: BRING THE FAMILY
With a generous menu covering Italian staples from antipasti, zuppa and insalata to pasta, risotto, secondi and grilled meats, there is something for everyone at Il Fornetto. As the name implies, there is also a wood oven on site spitting out eighteen varieties of pizza. Contrary to most fine dining establishments proposing a reduced menu for lunch, the totality of the offering is served here. While the prices fall in the mid-to-upper range of comparable ristorantes, the plates we ordered fell short of matching those rates.
Starters resort to the ever-passé scribbles of balsamic vinegar, while pasta dishes are drowning in sauce. I purposefully omitted a photo of the Bolognese – which was so full of sauce you could not even see any pasta – from fear of being penalized by the Google crawler for such an atrocity! Presentations aside, the food was just A-okay, giving more of a family-style Italian-American fare than a polished, refined one.
tagged: TABLE D'HÔTE
While the food today was not up to par with my expectations considering the classy setting and moderate-to-high price point, there is enough going on at Il Fornetto to recommend. For starters, there is not much in the way of competition in the area. Second, the mix of chummy-yet-experienced waitstaff with the inviting atmosphere make for a convivial neighborhood hangout. Finally, the view overlooking the canal, trees and river beyond is a rare gem in Montreal, and the reason we came here.
Maybe next time I should try the pizza; since the place is called "the oven" after all!
tagged: DESERVES A RETRY
Price per person: $41
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.