Gotham has Batman and Robin. England has Sherlock and Watson. Bedrock has Fred and Barney. And Montreal has Faita and Forgione, our own formidable duo. They go together like peanut butter and jam, wine and cheese, or alcohol and bad decisions. They are the perfect pairing, and we knew this after we first ate at Impasto, but our belief was solidified after our first visit to Pizzeria Gema. And after that first visit, returned two more times in seven days. After our third visit in such a short time frame, the “see you soon” salutation by our waiter was met by giggles on our part and winks on his; he knew we would be back sooner rather than later.
Stefano Faita and Michele Forgione, owners of the wildly popular Impasto, a Diva favourite, recently opened Pizzeria Gema across the street. Pizzeria Gema doesn’t take reservations, but after a food event that had left us famished, we decided to go check Montreal’s hottest new pizzeria. We arrived at the Little Italy establishment on St. Dominique, corner of Dante and loved the old school feel. On one side, a small terrace housed rosemary plants, on the other side, a takeout window with benches for awaiting customers. The interior was utterly charming in its simplicity. Old school metal chairs, distressed wood paneled walls, and a warm family feeling enveloped you in Pizzeria Gema. On our three visits we saw Faita, and Forgione coming and going, and always Anthony Di Iorio in the kitchen.
Our waiter brought us the menu and we quickly scanned the list of pizzas before deciding to start our meal with cocktails. The Porchetta Bloody Caesar was an obvious choice. It was salty and delicious. The strawberry mojito was refreshing, and it provided a nice balance between sweet and tart. The bar is the most modern part of the restaurant, with its wine cupboard enclosed in glass, and its espresso machine sitting on the bar. We knew we were in the right place when along with our cocktails came the usual Italian spicy oil, without asking they knew that we wanted it. And it sat on our table in anticipation for the pizzas that were soon to arrive.
On our first visit we scanned the pizzas on the list, and two words jumped out at the Divas, mint and lardo. We placed our order and our pizzas arrived in less than 2 minutes; instant satisfaction! Before we get to the ingredients of the two pizzas, we need to point out the crust. Thin yet chewy, with charred patches underneath, and air bubbles on the edge of the crust, it was heaven. It held up the ingredients perfectly and could easily fold in half. Perfect.
The first of the white pizzas was the Stefano, with fior di latte, taleggio, pecorino, gorgonzola and mint. Clearly, if you love cheese, and we do, this is your choice. The gorgonzola didn’t overpower anything, the taleggio aroma was dominant and the four cheeses blended together to create a perfect four cheese pizza. And who puts mint on a pizza? Geniuses do. Different from the usual fresh basil, the mint added a refreshing element.
Our second white pizza was the Emilia, with mushrooms, an onion and thyme infused cream and lardo. There were plenty of mushrooms and not the boring white button kind. The infused cream was subtle and didn’t ruin the crust, and the lardo simply added a level of fattiness and richness to tie everything together. We aren’t sure which white pizza we loved more!
But this was just on our first visit, after finding out that we went without him, Sensei yelled at us for not inviting him. So after a second food event, we caught ourselves ignoring the food before us and reminiscing about our dinner at Pizzeria Gema. We are women who like action, not dreaming, so we called up Sensei and got him to meet us at Pizzeria Gema for more of that instant satisfaction that they specialize in.
Since we had already eaten, and this was more of a snack, we ordered a tomato sauce based pizza since we had already tried two of their white pizzas. The Yann was composed of tomato sauce, fior di latte and homemade pepperoni. We aren’t a huge fan of meat on our pizzas but when someone advertises homemade pepperoni, our curiosity is piqued. A generous amount of crispy pepperoni, that was slightly oily and delicious, arrived on the Yann pizza. The tomato sauce was aromatic as the pizza hit the table and we devoured it in seconds.
This was our second visit to Pizzeria Gema so we threw in a dry bottle of red wine as we waited for one of the Foodie Guys to meet up with us. We were a group of four restaurant bloggers and owners, we loved to cook and splurge on a good meal. And we all agreed that we loved Pizzeria Gema. One of the Foodie Guys explained that he often stopped by Gema after work, even when he wasn’t hungry. The Divas were ridiculously full since we had already eaten dinner, but as Diva #2 always says, “a food coma is the only way to die.”
And then we had another food event, this one we enjoyed a lot, ate a ton of food and left quite satisfied. But Diva #1 was having a bad day at work, and needed something to make her happy. Since Gema had put a smile on our faces during our last two visits, we succumbed to temptation and returned. This time we opted for a traditional margherita pizza, called the 1889 at Pizzeria Gema. Simplicity at its best! That perfect crust with the most mouth-watering tomato sauce, covered in fior di latte cheese and fresh basil leaves. We are rarely this eager to write an article! We have told our friends to go, chastising them for not having been, and we will be back.
And of course after each one of our visits we tried one of Gema’s famous soft serve frozen custard. You can get vanilla, chocolate or swirl, but both Divas opted for vanilla. On our first visit we topped it with butterscotch sauce and Baci crumble. On our second we had it with Fabbri Amarena cherries, and on our third we tried it Affogato style with warm espresso. There are several other choices like nuts, fruit coulis, etc, and we will return to try them all. The frozen custard is smooth, rich, creamy and just plain delicious!
Every time the Divas have left Pizzeria Gema, they have been instantly rejuvenated. We have both been to Italy, and we have both eaten at every top pizzeria in Montreal. We just wish that we had eaten at Pizzeria Gema before we had written our guide on where to eat pizza in Montreal. Pizzeria Gema also has a take-out window where you can see them preparing the pizzas, and you can order a pizza pie to go. The menu is simple, the ingredients fresh, and the service friendly. Faita and Forgione have definitely created another success story. If you’re looking for a casual pizzeria with excellent food, head to Pizzeria Gema, and indulge in some of the best pizza in Montreal…you’ll likely run into the Divas stuffing our faces.
Our Rating: Always on Thursday
Tagged: 1889 Pizza, 6827 St. Dominique, Affogato, Amarena, Anthony Di Iorio, Cocktails, Dante, Emilia Pizza, Frozen Custard, Gema Montreal, H2S 3B1, Homemade Pepperoni, Ice Cream, Impasto, Impasto Montreal, Italian, Little Italy, Michele Forgione, Montreal, Montreal Pizza, Pizza, Pizza of the Month, Pizzeria, Pizzeria Gema, Pizzeria Gema Montreal, Porchetta Bloody Caesar, Soft Serve, Stefano Faita, Stefano Pizza, Strawberry Mojito, Take-Out Window, terrace, Yann Pizza