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Nashen does Take-Out: Bistro Amerigo still heating up on Monkland

    Bistro Amerigo may be a relatively small eatery, but during the pandemic lockdown the well-known West-End restaurant is doing large scale take-out and delivery. I last reported on Amerigo some two-and-a-half years ago and have returned numerous times with friends and family since then. The local “Garde Manger Italien” (or kitchen pantry) has maintained its flair for fine authentic dishes at reasonable prices, not far from home.

    Located on Monkland Avenue, near Grand Boulevard, this wonderful little place is in the residential neighbourhood of Notre-Dame de Grace, in walking distance for many or a short drive for take-out for those in Montreal West, Cote Saint-Luc or Hampstead.

    Saturdays have become ‘support-a-local-restaurant-night’ in our house. My son diligently colours in a world map indicating which food we’ve had each week. Italy was our pick for this week.

    Bistro Amerigo owner, Steve Macarone (Photo Steve Marcone)

    The simple menu is mostly unchanged since our last visit and carries all the wonderful classics including sensational apps such as Antipasti di Prosciutto, Calamari Fritti and Mozzarella di Bufala, outstanding pastas like penne with roasted eggplant, spaghetti puttanesca and the deliciously unique fresh squid ink linguini with seafood. The ‘Terre e Mare’ menu consists of breaded chicken breast with spaghetti, cod with Sicilian olives and capers, braised veal shank better known as Ossobuco, and rosemary lamb chops with polenta and rapini. Soup or salad is included with most dishes.

    We limited our choices to vegetarian and pescatarian options and had no problem finding plenty to choose from. Our order was placed by phone and scheduled for pick-up a few hours later. When we showed up at our appointed time on a recent Saturday night I was warmly greeted by longtime server, Bappi, whom I’ve seen every time I’ve been there. While no diners are permitted to eat at the restaurant while we are under a Red Zone Alert another customer was picking up his order and the kitchen was cooking up a storm for multiple delivery services. There was plenty of room to keep a safe distance and to browse through the shelves of Italian imports including noodles, oil and vinegar, biscuits and so on.

    Their fridge carries blocks of parmesan and prosciutto. They also have jars of homemade sauce, grilled artichokes and olives, and of course meatballs made by, who else? – Amerigo himself (Steve’s dad). Any of these items are convenient to find when you show up for a take-out order. And each item you purchase helps the restaurant stay afloat during these difficult times for small businesses. You could even stop in just to grab an item from the pantry to help inspire you in cooking up your own dinner.

    Our bags were piping hot and remained so for the short 10-minute ride home and right to our table. Steve tells me that some dishes pack better than others for take-out so inquire about your favourite meal to ensure your satisfaction. Also, during the period of confinement, the government has exceptionally allowed for take-out and delivery of alcohol, so try a cold Italian beer, such as Moretti.

    We started off with a hefty serving of minestrone soup, loaded with potato and vegetables. The arancini is a favourite app, lightly breaded and fried on the outside and warm oozing cheese on the inside. Dipped in a tangy homemade tomato sauce and pure yum!

    The mozzarella di bufala is a crowd pleaser over here among my creamy-cheese lovers. With a nice pesto sauce and citrusy, tangy flavour it’s always on our list. The order came with a super fresh loaf of Italian bread which was great for soaking up the tasty oil and sauce.

    While a salad may be just a salad, the dressing makes all the difference. Amerigo makes a real nice homemade vinaigrette with high quality olive oil to liven up its greens.

    Nathalie really enjoyed her gnocchi with rose sauce. She said it had a nice citrus flavour that tingled her tongue. The portion was abundant, like all of Amerigo’s dishes.

    Nicole and I ordered the gnocchi tartufo. It’s one of my favourites, and as a mushroom fan I was as pleased as could be. Plus, the actual gnocchi was delicious. Nicole said the aroma was intoxicating and I would agree as the truffle is wonderfully pungent to smell and taste. “I knew from the first scent that I would love this dish,” she said.

    Jeremy is a noodle kind of guy and happily sticks with classic standards like the Pene Rose.

    Penne & Pomodoro (Photo: Facebook)

    Judy had visions of our last trip together to Portugal and chose the baccala, authentic, thick cod, lightly battered.

    Can there be a better dessert than Bistro Amerigo’s cannoli? “What a great way to end a delicious meal,” Jeremy said. “Crispy and flakey on the outside and yummy, rich and fluffy, cheesy flavour on the inside,” Jeremy feasted. Roberto had previously insisted that we try his handmade cannoli. He uses ricotta as it is lighter than mascarpone. It was velvety, not overly-filling, with a sprinkle of chocolate in a crispy pastry shell made of fried biscotti.

    Judy is more of a tiramisu lady and absolutely delighted in that cup of Italian coffee-flavoured pick-me-up consisting of lady fingers dipped in layers of whipped eggs, sugar, creamy mascarpone cheese and cocoa. The tiramisu is made fresh by Steve with mascarpone and espresso. “Each chef makes it just a bit different,” he said.

    “International travel may be out of the question right now, but if you close your eyes you’d think you’re right in Italy,” Nicole marvelled at the end of our delicious meal.

    To add to our dining in experience we also play a Spotify soundtrack appropriate for each meal. Here’s our recommended entertainment for your dining experience at Bistro Amerigo.

    Our family is attuned to environmental issues and were pleased to note that all dishes came packaged in compostable containers.

    Ravioli di Cinghiale alla Norcia (Photo: Facebook)

    Steve previously told me that he was inspired by his father’s culinary teachings starting at just three years old. His father taught him to keep things simple and fresh and delicious, not fancy or complicated. He always remembered his father’s teachings and eventually placed his dad’s name, Amerigo, on the marquee.

    I asked Steve how the pandemic has changed the way he does business. “We’re going back to our roots as we originally did take-out and delivery,” he told me in a recent telephone interview. “We must adapt from our traditional plating to serving up our dishes in a box.”

    “This was not how we planned to celebrate our tenth anniversary,” Steve said, “but we’ve adapted quickly and are still in touch with our clients. It’s nice to see that people still want to come in and support us, their neighbourhood restaurant that they’ve known for a long time. They’ve touched us and we’ve touched them,” Steve pondered. “We are still making memories and for this we are so appreciative,” he aptly philosophized.

    While take-out is a market we haven’t focused on for a long time, we still prefer the face to face, sit down experience with our regulars and to enjoy a glass of wine with them. I can’t wait for that to return,” Steve said.

    “There’s a great Italian saying: ‘With everything you can make a broth,’” Steve told me. Luckily, we are quite busy from Wednesday to Saturday nights. “We must be doing some things right.”

    Steve indicated that the most popular dishes are the chicken parmesan, the cavatelli barese which is a sausage with rapini in sundried tomatoes and the gnocchi funghi e tartufata consisting of potato dumplings, truffle pesto and mushrooms.

    Steve used to be a chef in major hotels and restaurants and now works side by side with his chef-operator, Alex di Prima. Together they do the daily purchasing of fresh produce and pantry items.

    Steve works closely with his manager, Mike. They purchase imported Italian wines that you cannot find at the SAQ. The wall is full of these options that range in price from $25 to $55.

    Bistro Amerigo’s new imported wine selection (Photo: Facebook)

    “Our team is resourceful and we have adapted to the new conditions,” Steve brags. “But we don’t want to change very much. We want to keep our regular clientele happy and coming back.” He is boastful about his dedicated staff. Roberto and Bappi have been with him for a very long time and they are more like a family. “It’s my responsibility to keep them all motivated,” Steve said.

    Lobster Ravioli (Photo: Facebook)

    Dishes run a reasonable $7 to $29. They also cater corporate and personal events and work with their customers to suit their needs. “We can do a real special meal for your private bubble party of 5 or 6 members of your family,” Steve suggested. “We even have the Italian wine, beer, drinks and sodas.”

    At this time, Bistro Amerigo is open six days a week and closed on Sundays. The hours are noon to 9PM from Monday to Saturday.

    Phone orders can be made at 514-507-6121 and if you are able to pick it up yourself you will really be helping our local restaurants as delivery services take a major cut from their profits. Their menu is available on their website or visit their Facebook page for some ideas. If picking up is not a possibility you can access their menu and use Uber Eats. They will soon be connected to Door Dash.

    Bistro Amerigo is located at 6127 Monkland between Hingston and Beaconsfield in Monkland Village (NDG).

    Glenn J. Nashen