When I first started visiting Ottawa on a semi-regular basis a few years ago, filing restaurant stories, a former colleague from The Suburban Newspaper Christopher Michaud reached out. The West Island Pierrefonds native was now in the nation’s capital and operating a supper club called Marzitelli and named after his Italian mother.
On my most recent trip to Ottawa, I went to visit with Chris and take advantage of the ever-so-popular Marzitelli Sunday brunch. We sat on the beautiful rooftop terrace, overlooking hopping Elgin Street. Chris’s charming wife Fei helps manage the place and on this day his niece Caleigh was my server. Fei also handles the bar and provides great renditions of classic cocktails and specializes in custom house favourites. Ask about her Amaretto Sour or Fei’s Negroni!
The breakfast was top-notch. Chris recommended I try their Galette au Saumon Fumé: two sunny-side-up eggs, accompanied by a potato galette topped with Norwegian smoked salmon, wafer-thin red onion, sour cream & capers. On the side, you can have some crispy roasted potatoes or a garden salad, garnished with fruit. A Galette is a rustic French tart, but the Marzitelli version looks and tastes a lot more like a latke. “I worked at Chenoy’s on Boulevard St. Jean when I was a student at John Rennie High School,” Chris told me. “I made plenty of latkes in those days.”
I also ordered a clubhouse wrap to take back with me for lunch, marinated chicken breast, roasted peppers, onions, bacon and mozzarella. It was delicious, especially after putting it in the microwave oven for 30 seconds.
Chris left Montreal in 2013 to pursue his love for music and cooking, landing in Toronto. Initially, he built websites and came up with a concept for online orders and deliveries for restaurants, preceding Uber and the other apps. He did that for three years until he decided to open a bar on Yonge Street. When the venue started attracting lineups for its drinks, music and pasta, a neighbouring restaurant took notice and proposed a merger. That arrangement lasted two years before Chris was on the move again, this time to the popular Ontario summer vacation spot of Wasaga Beach where he set up some food kiosks. He returned to Toronto in 2018 and established his first Marzitelli.
This was a small operation, but business evolved nicely until the COVID-19 pandemic turned everything into pieces. By the fall of 2020, Chris and his wife decided that another fresh start was necessary and this time it would be Ottawa. His new version of Marzitelli materialized at some prime real estate at Elgin. The second-floor dining room and lounge can accommodate 220 people, plus 40 on the seasonal terrace. Facing east, it has the distinct advantage of an early morning sun and afternoon shade, for the perfect ambiance and maximum comfort.
Of course, Michaud had arrived in Ottawa with COVID protocols still in place. Patience was required, but with a lot of hard work, Marzitelli has already gained a good following here, featuring performances by some of the city’s best musicians. The dinner menu is noted for excellent pasta dishes, all made from scratch and from the Marzitelli family recipe book, as well as French classics, pizzas, burgers, steak, shrimp, whiskey maple braised salmon, fish tacos, a poke bowl and more.
Chris’s late dad was a musician and his mom was a cook. On the stage sits Chris’s baby grand piano and it isn’t uncommon to see him come out of the kitchen after dinner service to enjoy a few cocktails with the guests while playing well-known hits. Often, guests are also entertained by one of his many musical friends invited as performers. In fact, his house band is called the Men From Marz and performs about once a month. It includes Chris and NDG musician Dimo James Papadimitrios.
Marzitelli is located at 360 Elgin Street. Hours of operation are 4 pm to 10 pm Wednesday, 11 am to 10 pm Thursday, 11 am to 1 am Friday and Saturday and 10 am to 4 pm Sunday. For more information call 613-870-1377, e-mail; firstname.lastname@example.org, or log on to www.marzitelli.ca.