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The iconic Dilallo Restaurants stands the test of time  in Ville Émard, franchising and two food trucks

    Dilallo Burger Restaurant is indeed part of Montreal’s history, having first been established back in 1929.

    It all started off in Ville Émard in 1929  on Rue Allard in a building where the Monk Metro station is presently located. The land was expropriated in 1976 in order for the city to construct the then-new subway spot for the Olympic Games and so they moved into a larger venue just up the street. 

    Last summer I met one of the three owners, Santino Arcoraci when the Dilallo food truck catered lunch for an office celebration. We made plans for me to eventually visit the Ville Émard location. It took longer than expected, but the wait for me was worth it. 

    Guiseppe Maselli and server Jade.

    Now this is a place made famous for its burgers, but they also serve poutines, fresh-cut French fries, onion rings,  submarines and hot dogs.  Cooked on the same custom stoves designed and used by founder Luigi Di Lallo upon emigrating from Italy early in the 20th century, every Dilallo burger is made using the old family recipe Luigi and his wife Josephina employed to make burgers for their children. The signature dish remains the Buck Burger; dressed in lettuce, onions, tomatoes, mustard, relish, cheese, capicola, and Dilallo’s famous homemade peppers. The inclusion of peppers on the Buck Burger is an homage to Luigi, who never ate a burger without them – even at a time when putting peppers on a hamburger was unheard of.

    Arcoraci inherited his share of the restaurant from his dad Joe, who still remains integrally involved in the operation. The other partners are Louis Dillalo, grandson of the founder and Giuseppe Maselli.

    The famous Buck Burger 

    There was a time when Dilallo franchises dotted the city. But these days the ownership remains very careful about who they award rights.  While Ville Émard continues to remain the flagship, there are three franchises: Jean Talon East and the cities of  St. Jerome and St. Catherine. In an interview, Maselli told me they are now ready to consider more expansion in the next year. It is likely that the Sud Ouest area will be the target.  The first food truck hit the road in 2015. There are now two, with a third one in the cards. “This enables us to have a presence across the province,” he says. “Word of mouth continues to spread. The food truck is very busy. It started off as a trial. We purchased an old mail truck and converted it. We are very pleased. Believe it or not, we even get requests as far away as Ottawa.”

    I visited the Ville Émard locale on a weekday at lunchtime and it was packed. There are 110 seats inside, as well as a terrasse that can accommodate 30 more people. On one wall there are murals of sports legends from the area like Mario Lemieux, the Dilallo family and musical connections. Across the way, you will find original framed photos of VIP guests. There are five large-screen TV  monitors that showcase popular sports programs and bars. There is always music playing while customers sit comfortably at booths or tables.

    My friend Daniel ordered the Buck Burger, which never disappoints.  I had a hamburger with cheese. It was so fresh and juicy. The crispy French fries and a Cott cola made this the perfect lunch. I also tried a chicken sub sandwich, garnished with mayo, lettuce and tomato on a soft “Subway” roll. It was delicious!

    While the menu has essentially remained the same over the past several decades, Maselli said that in recent years a veggie burger and gluten-free options were added to grow with the times.

    “Our quality and freshness are non-negotiable,” Maselli says.

    Dilallo does indeed have a lot of regulars. But the Ville Émard location attracts clients from across the island and even some celebrities.

    Even after a fire in 1997 forced the store to close for four months, the clientele resurfaced – not to mention the famous photographs. Three-quarters of the irreplaceable autographed pictures were lost or damaged in the fire, which prompted many of the photographed to send in duplicates without being asked by the Dilallos.

    In 2007, upon having his number 29 retired at the Bell Centre before 21,273 attentive fans, Canadiens legend Dryden listed Dilallo’s as one of his favorites during his eight years playing in Montreal and continues to this day to eat at the restaurant when he is in town.

    You can go to www.dilalloburger.ca for all of the information you need about the restaurant, its history and catering and food truck options. The phone number for the 2851 Rue Allard location in Ville Émard is 514-767-9921.

    Mike Cohen

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