There is a new player on the Old Montreal restaurant scene. Joiea Sociale (645 Wellington Street) it opened for business in June 2018 – an authentic urban Italian eatery with a young and vibrant sense of local community spirit. Located just off McGill Street, has a wonderful vibe inside and based on the night we decided to dine it became increasingly crowded as the evening moved on.
Under the umbrella of the Ville-Marie Collection, Joiea Sociale is a multifaceted venue that offers modern and authentic Italian fare for lunch and dinner, an on premise cooking school, as well as a great bar that focuses on the cultural authenticity of the Italian “Aperitivo.” Joiea Sociale is a streetwise and genuine call from the heart of Italy, situated in the heart of Old Montreal.
Authentic urban Italian cuisine takes center stage at Joiea Sociale. Savour on stone oven pizzas, homemade pastas, traditional antipasti and many other simple, rustic and effortless Italian dishes. The menu showcases the simplicity and modesty of true Italian cuisine, where the focus is on the raw ingredients as well as seasonal and local products to showcase innovative cooking techniques.
The delectable menu is spearheaded by Ville-Marie Collection’s Culinary Director Natalia Machado, in partnership with Chef de Cuisine, Luigi Greco. Chef Luigi joined the team straight from Veneto, Italy, where his understanding of the roots of Italian cuisine is now being brought to Joiea Sociale. A menu that is simple in ingredients, authentic in base and, punchy in flavours.
Manager David Laurin greeted us to the restaurant. Our server was Charles Antoine, who told us how thrilled he was to be part of this new venture, went over the menu. My sister Lisa was my guest and she happily started the evening off with a glass of Merlot, a red wine variety with strong historic ties to Bordeaux and the southwest of France.
From the Antipasti section Lisa and I agreed to share the salumi, assorted local Italian and home cured charcuterie ,marinated ricotta salata, caponata and house baked focaccia as well as some crispy fried calamari served with spicy grilled lemon sauce. We liked what we saw on the salad menu, but decided to move on to the main course.
Lisa had pizza on her mind and went for the simple but flavorful Marguerita, featuring Joiea pomodoro, fresh mozzarella and basil. It came with four pieces and she stopped at three.
Veal is something I do not make for myself, so I went with Charles Antoine’s recommendation of the veal scaloppini. It came with lemon butter sauce, capers with confit fingerling potatoes and roasted tomatoes. I was very pleased with this choice. While I peered at the pasta selection, I was curious about the house ricotta gnocchi with slow braised beef Bolognese. Charles Antoine was kind enough to make a small almost side order for me. I have always liked gnocchi, but together with this sauce it was sensational. We
There were some nice dessert choices. The Gelato de Tiramisu came highly recommended by Charles Antoine, not only made in-house but part of an old family recipe from Chef Greco. It included Espresso and mascarpone ice cream, served with dark cocoa, sugar crumble and vanilla tile cookie. Wow! We also shared the Ciabattino di Pesche, a peach crumble pie served with vanilla mascarpone. Both were dynamite and we did not leave anything on the plates.
Manager Laurin made sure that all of our leftovers were neatly packed away in small and thin takeout boxes, providing me with a great lunch for the following day.
As co-founder and CEO of Ville-Marie Collection, Brian Bendix explains: “Montreal has a great number of fantastic Italian restaurants, but we wanted to create something that really underlines authentic young and contemporary Italian urban culture in all of its glory. Joiea Sociale is developed to be an unpretentious, accessible, vibrant and engaging bar and eatery destination. With the Italian Aperitivo at its core, Joeia Sociale is the social hangout serving the local Old Montreal community and Montreal at-large, while offering the best of contemporary Italy.”
Focus on Fostering Community
At the core of Joiea Sociale, is a focus on fostering community. This is where their bar comes into play – a modern space to drink, unwind, and engage with colleagues and friends alike. More importantly, this is where guests will indulge in the “Aperitivo”- the Italian ritual of going out for a pre-dinner drink, coupled with complimentary snacks, and great conversation. The “Aperitivo” is found in every major city and town across Italy, and now, at Joiea Sociale as well. Joiea Sociale has partnered with Peroni in the hosting of the daily Aperitivo to underline the Italian heritage. “The Italian Aperitivo in fundamental to the Italian culture and way of living and we are beyond excited to have a new home in Montréal” says Amandine Pruvot, Brand Manager for Peroni. Every day, from 5 pm to 7:30pm the Old Montreal community is invited to join in on the Aperitivo with complimentary Italian snacks, music chatter, and fun!
Next, there is the cooking school. now offering private cooking classes in their theatre kitchen, taking customers taste buds on a trip around Italy. These intimate classes (up to 12 people per reservation), are perfect for corporate events, a birthday celebration for the self-proclaimed “foodie”, and are a great way to spend time with friends, or even make a few new ones! Each class is guided by Joiea Sociale’s in-house chefs as well as various guest chefs. These interactive classes allow participants to unleash their inner chef as they learn how to make delicious and innovative dishes, and then savour on their creations while enjoying specially paired wine and/or cocktails.
At the end of each class, each participant gets to take home a Joiea Sociale “swag bag,” filled with specialty Italian kitchen gadgets to use at home, a recipe booklet of their class, as well as long-lasting memories.
This is the first new venture in a while for restaurant group Ville-Marie Collection, known for steakhouse L’Atelier d’Argentine, fancy French spot Decca 77 and Crescent Street’s Wienstein & Gavino’s. It also marks a very fast turnover for the Wellington Street space that housed grill restaurant Mercuri until it closed to reformat and move a couple of months ago.
By Mike Cohen