At the age of eight, Mike Cianciullo arrived in Montreal from Italy in 1960 with his parents and six siblings. Dad was a cook and mom took care of the kids.
For Mike, it was clear from a young age that his future would be in the restaurant business and he worked at a number of places, notably the Ritz Carlton Hotel where he went from kitchen duty to waiter. Ultimately, he purchased property on Fleury Street in Ahuntsic, making the plunge on his own dining establishment which he christened “La Molisana.” He did so with a good friend named Pasquale, who passed away a few years ago. Nearly 40 years later the restaurant continues to thrive.
While the pandemic had a huge impact on their private party bookings, take-out and delivery remained strong. They had previously been open seven days a week, including for lunch. Cianciullo hopes that will be the case again at some point.
La Molisana is renowned for its fine Italian cuisine. This includes homemade pasta, veal, seafood and authentic pizza baked in their splendid wood oven. Presently open Wednesday through Sunday evenings, those who live in the immediate area can also take advantage of delivery or take-out. I often have business in the area, so the latter option works nicely for me. One night I had a 40-minute drive home and when I opened my container of pasta, it was still piping hot.
Cianciullo’s close friend Frank gave me a call recently, inviting to come for a family dinner. I happily complied and I was surprised to learn that on Saturday evenings in particularly many of the customers are regulars from the West End of town. One of the draws that night is Israeli singer Michel Chétrit, who loves taking requests from the audience.
Cianciullo runs the operation with his son, Michael Jr., who works alongside his head chef of 35 years Renato. The family owns a good portion of the block. Across the street is Sacré Fût Resto-Bar, owned by son also named Renato and daughter Teresa. Another son, David, works in the meal prep business in Florida.
The restaurant has indoor seating for about 80 people. There is a private hall on the main floor that can accommodate 55 and a larger one upstairs with a capacity of 100. A seasonal terrace is popular as well.
Cianciullo loves the business. I arrived when the doors opened at 5 pm and he was very busy setting each table individually and making sure the window shades were perfectly closed. He then went to his pizza oven and began to process a slew of orders that had come in via the apps.
I started off with a piping hot bowl of tortellini in brodo soup, following that up with a nice serving of focaccia and then my main course of veal scallopini parmigiana, which came with a generous side of penne smothered in tomato sauce. For dessert, I ordered two Nutella bombs- warm rolls stuffed with Nutella.
As for the others, there was one order of filetto di manzo ai pepe verdi (an eight-ounce AAA filet mignonette) with a side of frites maison and two orders of salmon with rice and vegetables, along with an Italian salad that was shared. There was also a delicious tiramisu for dessert.
La Molisana has a variety of other soups and salads. Appetizers include calamari and arancini. As for pastas there is spaghetti napoli, carbonara and bolognese, penne arrabiata, linguini primavera, fettucini alfredo, manicotti Fiorentina, risotto, cannelloni, lasagna tortellini aurora and gigi and gnocchi and of course a variety of pizzas.
Some of the customer favorites include osso bucco casalinga and shrimp dishes. They also have a nice selection of wine.
La Molisana is located at 1014, rue Fleury E in Ahuntsic. For reservations call (514) 382-7100 or go to the website at https://www.lamolisana.ca/?lang=en.