Annex 86: Bottega | Mr. Lew's Great Burger Search

65 Saint-Zotique E.
Montreal, Quebec

Bus:  STM 18, 55, 160

Visit:  October 10, 2012

http://www.bottega.ca/

After doing a burger at a pizza place, it was about time that an actual pizza was consumed.   The debate for the “best” pizza in Montreal is just as fierce, or even more intense than that of the strongest burger in town.  On the cusp of Little Italy, Bottega does what it can to deliver their unique interpretation of everyone’s favorite dish, the pizza.

On a rainy Wednesday afternoon, a bunch of us braved the elements to set foot in a pretty trendy looking place.  You wouldn’t quite know it from the empty businesses nearby, but Bottega, on this particular evening, was quite busy.  We made sure to enter the restaurant at the very opening to ensure our prompt seating.

We were given a very interesting table for our evening of Italian food and pizza.  Our table was situated right next to the very visible pizza kitchen.  That area was staffed by at least two very well dressed pizza chefs, who were quite productive with their pizza making skills.  We even managed to compliment the chef on his quite ample body art.

In that area, there was also a rather large, red pizza oven.  It was quite interesting to be able to witness all of the action in this area during the two hour process.  Even though the oven was quite hard to miss, one of our group noted that it wasn’t as big as I made it out to be.  Then again, my view was obstructed and I wasn’t able to see everything in this area as clearly as I would of liked.

The other notable thing about our seating arrangement came with the mirrors against the walls.  I’m personally not huge on mirrors, especially in restaurants, but they did serve a purpose.  Having my back to the rest of the dining room floor, I was actually able to anticipate when someone was going to come to the table to clear something or refill water.  Maybe it’s a kin to the gangster movies where the boss sits in a corner to make sure no one can sneak one by.  Getting the mirror can easily dissuade any of my fears of angry burgers trying to get back at me.

The division of labour was a question at the start.  There was a time where there was more staff than diners.  As time passed and the restaurant filled up, this concern quickly dissipated.  All of the individuals working for Bottega were quite prompt and courteour.  Whenever water was needed, it was refilled without ever having to requested.  The necessary bread made its way to the table without fuss or worry.  Even a refill on the spicy liquid for the bread was delivered without a request ever being made.  That’s customer service at its best.

By the way, this liquid is spicy, just in case you were really wondering.

I can’t go on without a word about our server.  The person assigned to us was well versed in the entire menu and was able to answer our questions with relative ease.  You could easily tell that everything Italian was not a concern for them.  Our interactions with this individual made us feel at ease in a place that we were easily outclassed in.  I even was able to joke around with them.  If that happens, I just know we had a winner, as you can’t say that about every server in Montreal.

Bottega, in my opinion, attracts a very interesting clientele.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most affluent person on the planet, which kind of shows in the places that I go to.  But, when it comes to eating, I’ll spend the money if it’s worth it.  That evening, the restaurant attracted a very distinguished bunch of people to dine.  I just can’t forget the looks on the face of the diner next to our table.  We decided to eat our pizza the way we preferred and it might have offended the ‘lady” next to us.  It’s like she was thinking how she could be placed next to such barbarians.  Even with that being said, it was one of the more expensive bills I ever paid and it was worth it.

APPETIZERS

At Bottega and most Italian restaurants, the appetizers are known as sfizi.  These are small dishes that are meant to be taken down in two bites.  This gives you a chance to warm up before hitting the big time pizza.

Polpetta con Pomodoro

These are large meatballs in a San Marzano tomato sauce.

Of the four appetizers that were ordered at our table, this was the one that I liked the least.  That’s hard to say because I actually liked this a lot.  It goes to show that the selections we made were the right ones for the evening.

The sauce wasn’t overwhelming at all and it allowed the meatball to stand on its own.  The meatball even included a nice surprise, a center made with cheese.  I just love the fact that cheese is a staple in Italian cooking.

Olive Toscane Marinate

These are Tuscan herb marinated olives.

This was a dish that I didn’t touch myself because I’m not too big on olives, though I’m a bit hypocritical on the topic since I take them in my Subway sandwiches.  However,  this was the popular dish for the group.  When the server came to take them away, the enthusiastic gasp of shock made sure that they stayed put until the end of the meal.

Arancino Bella Napoli

These are rice croquettes stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto cotto (cooked).

Before I get into these croquettes, I just have to say that looking back at this a day later, I’m just astonished at how good they look.  In reality, they were quite good.  The crispy outer texture wasn’t too hard to get into.  The mix of rice and mozzarella was just a great combination.  The only regret is that I didn’t have a second one.

Bacio della Bottega

These are pizza buns stuffed with prosciutto cotto, mushrooms, mozzeralla, and ricotta.

I was lucky enough to get to try a piece of this.  Again, the cheese filled center and soft bun made this quite good.  In all, it was a grand slam of sfizi.

PIZZA

La Margherita

This pizza contains San Marzano tomatoes, fresh Dior di Latte mozzarella, and basil.

La Marinara

This pizza contains San Marzano tomatoes, oregano, basil, and garlic.

La Capricciosa

This pizza contains tomatoes, prosciutto cotto, olives, artichokes, mushrooms, and fresh Dior di Latte mozzarella.

This is the pizza I ended up choosing.  The research I did into the menu was one that was a little difficult for me.  The menu tends to lean towards vegetarian options that does not include much meat.  There are even some options that don’t even have any cheese to please the vegan crowd.  So, finding a pizza that satisfied my personal criteria for selection wasn’t easy.  In the end, this particular pizza contained enough to make me curious.

The set of ingredients is also a factor that made me quite curious.  The idea of having artichokes on a pizza is something that never occurred to me.  I know I mention that I’m not big on olives, but the way they were presented didn’t really factor in as an issue.

The thing that really caught my attention in all three pizzas was how nice they looked aesthetically.  After being used to so many deliver style pizzas, it’s kind of amazing to see just how much work went into making the pizza’s taste work and the appearance match the level of flavour.

One of the minor issues was with the fact that we had to cut the pizza.  As you can see above, the knife provided was a little awkward.  The fact that the dough was rather soft made the cutting process a little difficult.

For me, personally on my pizza, there were two slight issues that I questioned a bit.  The first thing I wondered was if there was a purpose to having basil on the pizza.  It must be a matter of personal taste on that one or perhaps, decoration.  The placement of ingredients was another thing that bothered me a bit.  With the cutting factored in, the way the toppings were places led to uneven pieces of pizza.  I tend to like a evenly distributed pizza.

Outside the things that we nitpicked at, the pizzas actually tasted quite good.  The remainder of the ingredients, outside the basil, were well thought out and all had a place on the pizza.  The portions were more than acceptable as some of us had to take the leftovers home.  I don’t think I’d mind returning and trying the same pizza again, especially with a crust that was quite easy to eat.

Final Verdict

Bottega may seem like a place where you get classy pizza, but it’s more than that.  You get to try very interesting Italian dishes on your way to having a good looking pizza.  The staff is alert and makes sure that everything moves smoothly.  The service provided by the server was top notch and we were made to feel at ease through the entire meal.

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