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)
Thesimple 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.
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).
By Mike Cohen
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in mid-March, Restaurant Sho-dan on Metcalfe Street closed its doors like others in the industry. Now this place is traditionally packed for lunch and dinner during regular operating hours, so for charismatic owner Chinh Pham (best known as Romeo), it was a bitter pill to swallow.
Because restaurants like Sho-dan have such a loyal following, clients made it clear to Romeo that his superb cuisine was dearly missed. So, in mid-May, he reopened for take-out and delivery via Skip the Dishes and Uber Eats. On June 25 the dining room will reopen, with the new conditions set forth by the Quebec government. For starters, they will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 5 pm to 10 pm. (4 pm for take-out and delivery).
“We have a big place,” said Romeo, “so we will be able to set up the restaurant in a completely safe way.”
All surfaces will be disinfected before and after every customer. Employees will wear masks, social distancing measures respected and single-use paper menus used. “Make this your first official post-confinement outing and book a table now!” says Romeo.
Spread over two floors, with capacity for 180 to dine, Sho-dan does not have a terrace but Romeo will take advantage of the loosening of regulations this summer and add some tables with umbrellas in the front. “We hope to welcome many people downtown this summer,” Romeo said.
The take-out and delivery service has always been popular. Romeo recognizes that many clients will want to stick with that option. My family and I first experienced Sho-dan last summer. We actually loved the ambiance. We tried to go no nights when Romeo was there for he typically goes from table to table and makes timely suggestions from the menu.
So we were delighted to opt for the take-out route, for which Sho-dan is uniquely situated and has a special menu on its website. You merely need to pull up in front, where there are many available spots, call and someone will place the entire order in your trunk or back seat. Inside all staff was wearing full protective gear, including Chef Romeo.
The trip from downtown back to my house in Côte Saint-Luc was a mere 20 minutes. Everything was packaged so beautifully. We placed all of the plastic containers on the dining room table and prepared ourselves for a delicious meal. It could not have been fresher had we eaten it at the restaurant.
As usual, we started off and began by sharing a few appetizers: the Haru Maki (spring rolls); and the gyoza (Japanese dumplings filled with a mix of seasoned chicken and cabbage, served with soy-vinegar sauce) and simply sensational sushi pizza.
Next, we turned to some of the specialties, designed mainly Romeo. The different combinations of flavours are unique to this restaurant and will be sure to make you live the “Sho-dan” experience.
Next, it was on to the main course. First on our list remains the house specialty, the Besame Mucho (spicy tuna, shrimps, avocado and tempura flakes rolled in soya paper). Next was the Explosion (fresh yellowtail served with fresh ginger, green onions and ponzu sauce) followed by the Phoenix (crabsticks, avocado, mango and fried onions rolled in soya paper topped with red tuna), the Fuji (Red spicy tuna, jalapeno, shrimp tempura, rice, rolled in soya paper) and the Sunflower (lightly fried salmon with avocado and tobiko rolled in soya paper).
We had 12 pieces left to enjoy for lunch the following day.
When you dine at the restaurant make sure to try their dessert special: a plate consisting of two sorbets, a large piece of chocolate cake and a mouthwatering taste of cheesecake. The restaurant offers Nao teas. A Canadian company, based in Quebec City, Nao consists of a variety of organic infusions. A box is delivered to the table. Open it up and you will be able to choose from a nice variety of selections. They are described in writing and by the amount of caffeine included. You can smell the different small containers to clinch your choice.
Sho-Dan’s menu offers a perfect balance between intense and subtle flavours, artfully blending Japanese classics with original house specialties. Dishes such as lightly flambéed fresh yellowtail served with ponzu sauce and sesame seeds, or the Romeo and Juliette sushi roll featuring shrimp, blueberries, pineapple and strawberries will surely leave you wanting for more. There is a wide selection of à la carte dishes, many tending towards fusion cuisine, and the wine list offers excellent vintages to pair with Asian flavours.
The word “Sho-dan” has a double meaning in Japanese. The first meaning is “welcome home” and it also refers to the first degree black belt in martial arts. This perfectly captures Sho-dan’s philosophy: true excellence combined with the feeling of being welcomed home.
For the past few weeks, my family and I have gone through some major sushi withdrawal. So we were delighted to hear that Ryú Sushi (www.ryusushi.ca) had reopened its Peel and Westmount locations for take-out and delivery.
Ryú (Japanese for Dragon) is known throughout Montreal for its fresh ingredients and a unique philosophy of respect for the environment and one another. The place specializes in high-end sustainable sushi.
Peel is open from Tuesday to Saturday whereas Westmount is open from Thursday to Monday, both with different menus. We decided to order from Peel first; Westmount is penciled in for next week.
First a little bit about the precautions they are taking during this COVID-19 pandemic.
With COVID-19 bringing the world to a standstill, the Ryú team wishes to reassure clients that health and safety remain their top priority at both locations. For starters, manager Jorge Da Silva notes that they work with a limited staff: three on the floor and three in the kitchen and it always the same staff to ensure safety.
All staff wear gloves and face masks and disinfect their hands as much as possible;
Sanitizers/disinfectants are everywhere on site;
All take-out bags are sealed shut;
For the client’s safety, there is a vestibule area that separates the clients from staff. Clients enter the vestibule area to pick up their bag, where there are sanitizers all over the place.
Orders are pre-paid and no contact with staff is necessary;
Curbside pick-up is available for clients who request it;
Ryú has established an employee fund where 70 percent of the sales of gift cards go to these individuals. They are also encouraging people to donate to the Montreal Relief Workers Fund, which has thus far raised over $80,000 for those in need in the industry. Ryú has also created a short private import list of wine/sake, for which prices are reduced by 35 percent.
Our Dining Experience
It is hard to believe that the Ryú team just recently introduced this process for that have nailed it effectively in every category possible. To say we were impressed is an understatement! For a ranking out of 10, I would have to give them an 11.
I requested for my order to be ready for 5:45 pm and opted for the curbside pickup option. Already bestowed with a loyal clientele, I could see that this formula has caught on. There were a number of cars in front of me. Some people went directly inside, where a staffer asked their name and pointed to the large white bag they could carry out. Others just called or sent a text from outside the door and a staffer came out immediately and placed the bag in the trunk or the back seat.
When I got home we opened the bag to find two beautifully packaged boxes with all of the food, some extra soy sauce and of course chopsticks. Everything was fresh. If I closed my eyes and merely ate the food, I could believe I was sitting in their Peel Street dining room. This was not your typical take-out order that a half hour after picking it up still tasted like it came directly from the kitchen.
We started off with something new for us at Ryú, the Classic Poke, containing tuna, cucumber edamame, wakame, papaya, tobiko, shallots, green onion, furikake, crispy noodles, sesame seeds, togarashi, nori and classic sauce. I am new to Poke, but this was the perfect way to get an amazing meal underway.
At Ryú we always look forward to the nigiri and sashimi platters. They are based on their Chef’s choice of daily arrivals of fresh Oceanwise fish which may consist of bio salmon, big eye tuna, hamachi, albacore tuna and when in season, Japanese sourced fish.
Nigiri is a specific type of sushi consisting of a slice of raw fish over pressed vinegar rice. Our platter of 12 consisted of two pieces each of albacore, sustainable salmon, ebi shrimp, big eye tuna, hamachi (yellow tail) and scallop.
Unlike ordinary tunas, albacore also contains more omega 3 fatty acids. This makes it a healthier food choice that is good for one’s heart and even fights certain types of cancer. These fatty acids actually increase the total fat content and the calorie value of the product. Albacore has a non- metallic and a non-fishy taste compared to regular tuna. It is said to have the lightest flesh, not to mention, the mildest tuna flavor around. The sustainable salmon, made from fished or farmed sources that can be maintained or whose future production does not significantly jeopardize the ecosystems, is so good I could have eaten a dozen pieces on my own. Ebi is one of the most common ingredients in Japanese cuisine and outstanding as a piece of nigari. Found in the open waters of all tropical and temperate oceans, big eye tuna is another addictive piece. Then came hamachi, also known as the yellow tail. It is included in a group of sushi fish called the “Big Three Yellow tails.” They consist of yellowtail and amberjack. These three fishes are classed as a luxury fish. They are all related, and similar in nature, but the yellowtail is considered the most valuable. Finally, I have always been a fan of scallops in any formation-, especially nigiri.
For the sashimi we ordered a platter of 24.It looked like so much to eat, but between the three of us it went so quickly!
Then came time to choose from the specialty maki part of the menu. We opted for California Dream (salmon tartare, crabstick, cucumber, tempura, tobiko, soy paper, spicy mayo and apricot), six pieces; Paradise, a big favorite of ours (salmon tartare, avocado, tempura, soy paper, sesame oil and sweet sauce), six pieces; Hamachi Baby (Hamachi, avocado, green onion,, nori, spicy mayo), six pieces: and Ryú rainbow (tuna, salmon, cucumber, wakame, tempura, soy paper, rice paper, spicy mayo and basil mayo), eight pieces.
It was a superb culinary experience and the huge bonus is that we had leftovers to enjoy the following day. We did order dessert, but plan to do so for our follow-up meal at Westmount.
To enjoy the Ryú experience in the comfort of your own home, go to ryusushi.ca or from one of their delivery partners: Uber Eats or DoorDash. They also accept orders by text (514-587-3244)/phone (514-446-1468) seven days a week/as early as 9 am. You can follow the restaurant at https://www.instagram.com/ryu.sushi.