A Hamburger Today
Pizza D'Agostino: Old-School Montreal Pizza at Its Best
7470 Maurice Duplessis Blvd., Rivière des Prairies, Montreal, Quebec (map); 514-494-7470
Pizza Style: Medium crust, or a slightly slimmer take on the 'old-school' Montreal style
The Skinny: The unique rapini-sausage pie is a vegetal wonder, and the 'D'Agostino Specal' is a tasty bacon-speckled twist on the 'all-dressed' Montreal genre
Price: Medium cheese pie is $12.50; medium 'D'Agostino special' is $17.35
Notes: While you wait, jog a few doors down to pick up a bag of fresh cookies from Pâtisserie Amaretti
There are many legendary dishes that are unique to the Quebec region—like poutine and smoked meat sandwiches—but outside of the province, most people aren't familiar with the "old-school" style pies that dominate the local pizza scene.
A classic Montreal pizza is characterized by its excess of almost everything: too much sauce, cheese, and toppings; all haphazardly piled onto a thick, dense crust. There's definitely nothing fancy about it. Many Quebeckers profess a nostalgic affection for the doughy slices, but it's just bad pizza: an oily, unyielding crust, rubbery industrial cheese, and overall greasy sheen. Usually the cheese is sloppily piled above the toppings, creating a messy, top-heavy, and structurally unsound slice.
Of course, there are many popular pizza restaurants in the city of the Neapolitan and gourmet varieties. But I failed to be truly impressed by any Montreal pies until I ventured out to the suburban borough of Rivière des Prairies, a heavily Italian neighborhood about 30 minutes northeast of downtown. At Pizza D'Agostino, a small spot run by Sicilian-born chef Agostino Lumia, the old-school style Montreal pie finally comes into its own.
After scanning the menu, I ordered three small pies. The first pizza, Mozzarella with Tomato (the size small, or bambino, is $11.20, and the medium $12.50), was the simplest, and I was happy with its even-handed foundation; a slightly sweet slick of tomato sauce, and a pert, yielding crust.
Our second pie, the D'Agostino Special, ($13.75 for a small, $17.35 for a medium), came with a blanket of crispy bacon, pepperoni, green bell peppers, and crescents of white onions—a well-balanced version of the classic Montreal "all-dressed" style. (Traditional versions of "all-dressed" pies omit the bacon and onion). The multiple layers of pepperoni were tucked underneath the cheese, while the rest of the toppings perched above. It was hearty, unpretentious, and delicious.
But it wasn't until the third pie arrived that I realized I was somewhere very special indeed. D'Agostino's rapini and sausage pizza was positively glowing with verdant hues (the size small, $13.75; medium, $17.35). Despite a conspicuous absence of sauce, I dove into a pie that was instead topped with an extraordinary thicket of chopped, blanched rapini.
The crumbled, garlicky pork sausage and coverlet of snowy mozzarella were indulgent foils, but this pie was all about vegetal dignity. The crust was puffy, warm and surprisingly light; moreover, it left no leaden reminder in my stomach, as other Montreal pies have done. That's not to say that this pizza is healthy, but it could have fooled me.
Since I moved to Montreal last fall, I've eaten a lot of bad pies. Though you'll need a car to get there, Pizza D'Agostino makes a great, solid pizza that I plan on returning to again and again. After lunch, stop by Boulangerie Pâtisserie Amaretti, an Italian bakery that's housed in the same strip mall. They specialize in almond-speckled, chewy amaretti, and a few dozen would be a sweet finish to your day.
About the Author: Natasha Pickowicz is a San Diego-born music and food writer, and a recent Montreal transplant. In addition to updating her food blog Popcorn Plays, she contributes to the Montreal Gazette, the Montreal Mirror, and enRoute.