Montreal has many restaurants which boast top-notch Italian cuisine. But the combination of Stefano Faita and Michele Forgione goes beyond the realm of delicious and crosses over into heavenly. They deliver some of the best Italian cuisine that Montreal has to offer.
Impasto is their combined effort, situated on Dante, in Montreal’s Little Italy, just a stone’s throw away from the Jean Talon Market. Stefano Faita is the host of CBC’s In the Kitchen with Stefano Faita, and Michele Forgione is a veteran of the Montreal restaurant scene; they have teamed up to open this new and fresh Italian gem.
A long, narrow but cozy restaurant with San Pellegrino bottles lining one side and an open kitchen on the other, including Chef Forgione at the pass, the Divas, Vegan Vixen, Sweet Pea and Zeus arrived happy, and a little tipsy. Once our table was ready and cocktails were ordered at the bar, we were seated at a round table in the window, perfect for people watching.
Diva #1 and Vegan Vixen ran into two groups of old friends from high school and reminiscing ensued. This was completely unplanned, which makes it all the better and we all headed outside for some air while waiting for our food.
Back at our table, the wine was decanted, as per Zeus’ request and our appetizers arrived. We started with the baby octopus salad with red onions, capers, fennel and potatoes. The octopus was tender and the vinaigrette was light enough to still taste all the ingredients. The fennel added a little crunch and the potatoes were surprisingly a good fit. The extra virgin olive oil was prominent and we ate a lot of bread to soak it up.
We also ordered the homemade Apuglia style sausage. It was presented wound in a circle on a skewer. The meat was juicy and flavourful and proves that homemade really is best. It was served on a bed of rapini which Vegan Vixen was happy to enjoy while we fought over the meat. At this point we were already a little worse for wear so Vegan Vixen and Diva #1, in what has now become a tradition, began loudly singing Happy Birthday to Diva #2. This time we sang in English but with a Greek accent… I am sure that the other customers appreciated us… It is nowhere near her birthday, but Diva #2 appreciates the sentiments anyway.
Our last appetizer was the burrata. This is the Divas’ favourite cheese so we had to order it. Presented simply on a bed of yellow heirloom tomatoes and frisella, a type of bread, the generous amount of burrata was creamy and pulled apart easily. The tomatoes added a slight acidity which complemented the cheese well. A definite dish to return for. And of course, we did a la scarpetta to clean up all our dishes. Nonna would be happy!
The wine was flowing, vacation plans were being made far in advance and the laughing never stopped. Our mains arrived and we started with the ricotta gnocchi in a simple tomato-basil sauce. The portion was large which was nice to see because in most restaurants, when you order gnocchi, they give you a handful and call it a day. Not here. They were extremely light and the sauce was fresh. Diva #2 doesn’t want to say that they were better than her mom’s ricotta gnocchi for fear of being beaten with a wooden spoon but safe to say that they are worth going back for. Sorry Ma!
Note: Diva #2 is now in the ICU, Mickey the Butcher (her ma) read this post and does not take such comments lightly… DIva #1 is at her bedside awaiting good news!
It was hard to resist the Paccheri with seafood. Overflowing with calamari rings which were tender and not overcooked, plump mussels, shrimps and clams, this dish was a winner. The little bit of seasoned breadcrumbs on top added a nice little bite under the tooth. It tasted like the sea and was very fresh, the pasta was a perfect al dente and the large dish was quickly devoured and enjoyed by all. It even comes in two sizes for those who are more dignified than the always-hungry Divas.
The Divas tried to convince Vegan Vixen that rabbit is a game meat and was not penned up and suffering like chickens and cows. She didn’t buy our story and simply ate around the rabbit, sadly she has been fooled by us one to many times. After trying the rabbit ragu, this suited the Divas just fine, it was too divine to share anyway. The meat was beyond tender and the pasta was cooked perfectly. The chicory was nice to see as it is not something many restaurants include in dishes, let alone Italian restaurants. And the olives added just the right amount of salt and brininess to pull everything together. This was our favourite dish of the night.
Our last dish was Nonno’s porchetta which Diva #2 and Sweet Pea insisted on ordering for their own Nonnos. Our waiter laughed when we told him that we wanted it as a side dish in addition to everything else we ordered. Another large portion, the meat was cooked well, still juicy and was served with a quarter of a cooked pear which added a slightly unexpected sweet taste. Porchetta is generally salty so the sweetness of the pear was a lovely addition. The meat was crisp but succulent and we were soon stuffed. Once again Vegan Vixen ate away at the rapini.
It was decided that after our dinner we would continue our night at Garde Manger for more drinks and dancing. Not that we needed more drinks. But first, we ordered dessert. The brownie was great. Dense and rich and covered in macerated black cherries, it was hard to stop eating it even though we were full. Somehow we missed taking a photo of this, our glutttony knows no end.
The tiramisu is a staple in Italian restaurants and here it was served in a small mason jar. Smooth and creamy, it was delicious. Nothing fancy, just straight up simple and done right. The panna cotta was by far the best dessert. Also served in a small mason jar, it was topped with preserved sour cherries and was creamy, velvety and perfectly set.
The night was still young, well not so young for a Thursday night when we all worked the next day. We were off to Garde Manger to meet another troublemaking friend, and Garde-regular. Zeus, of course, zeroed in on our female waitress and made sure we were never too long without a shot in hand. Diva #1 and Vegan Vixen ran into more old friends, including a hunk from high school who, in our drunken stupor, almost got molested. Lucky for him he escaped. Our night was filled with drinks, dancing and new “just for one night” friends. At some point we lost Zeus but he dutifully came back to bring us home. Zeus always returns to us!
In the end, both Divas found a new appreciation for Montreal’s religious architecture, Vegan Vixen had a new perspective of the Orient and Sweet Pea had a taste of the sweet nectars of the single Diva life. Zeus, well, let’s just say he was witness to yet another night of backseat memories with the Divas and co. and is a little more broken for it. Some of us made it to work the next day, others did not bother going in and some went in, threw up and inched home to nurse their hangover. Pure class…
But never mind our bad decisions, if you want Italian food that really shows the simplicity of ingredients and what they can produce on a plate, Impasto is the place. Fantastic food and great atmosphere, the Divas will definitely be eating there again.
Bravo ragazzi, perfezione!
Our Rating: Always on Thursdays
Tagged: Always on Thursdays, Baby Octopus, Brownie, Burrata, Charcuterie, Cocktails, Cornish hen, Dante, Fish of the Day, Gnocchi, Homemade, Impasto, In the Kitchen with Stefano Faita, Italian Sausage, Jean Talon Market, Little Italy, Mafalda, Michele Forgione, Paccheri, Panna Cotta, Pasta, Porchetta, Porterhouse Steak, Prosciutto, Rabbit, Rabbit Ragu, Reservations Needed, Ricotta Gnocchi, Saint Édouard, Seafood, Stefano Faita, Tiramisu, wine