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Via Ristorante: A Hidden Gem in Montréal-Nord

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[Photographs: Natasha Pickowicz]

Via Ristorante

4711 Rue d'Amiens, Montréal-Nord, Québec (map); 514-321-3636
Pizza Style: A mix of Greek and bar styles, it's a slightly slimmer take on the 'old-school' Montreal style
The Skinny: The buttery wild mushroom pie is a rich, autumnal marvel, while Via's 'special' pie is satisfying and hearty
Price: A 12" cheese pie is $11.95; the 14" Via Special is $19.75
Notes: If you're interested in eating at home, they deliver as far south as La Petite Italie; but if you're dining in, stop by iconic slider joint Dic Ann's afterward.

Hidden deep on the northern tip of the island, Via Ristorante is located in Montréal's Marie-Clarac neighborhood, part of the heavily Italian suburb of Montréal-Nord. An irresistible hybrid of Greek and bar styles, the pies at Via are certainly among the best old-school Montreal specimens I've ever eaten. With its cozy, low-lit dining room and L-shaped terrace that hugs the perimeter of the building, the restaurant doesn't resemble your typical take-out pizza joint. When I arrived in the mid-afternoon, the outdoor tables were scattered with sunbathing Italian gentlemen, sipping espresso and reading newspapers.

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Though it's not listed on their take-out menu, Via Ristorante makes an astonishing Funghi Misti pizza. (Thanks to the chefs at Little Italy restaurant Inferno for tipping me off to this secret-menu dish). Don't mistake it for their other mushroom pie, "La Boscaiola," which lists mushrooms, cheese, and tomato sauce as its ingredients; this electric oven-cooked wonders a much more singular experience.

There's that dense tangle of sliced wild mushrooms (my pie was mostly porcinis), which are first sautéed in a pan with white wine, and then covered up to their necks in thick, creamy, bubbling mozzarella. There's that buttery, faintly deep-fried crunch of crust, which was firm, chewy and enriched with olive oil; it was flaky, almost like piecrust. And thankfully, there was no red sauce to compete with the mushrooms, which dominated the pie with its earthy flavor. This pie may seem simple, but it's almost overwhelmingly decadent. And at $23 for the 14" pizza, the Funghi Misti is much more of a splurge than La Boscaiolo ($15.95).

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I also tried the Via Special (the medium-ish 12" pie is $16.75), a robust pie laden with pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions, and black olives. The pepperoni, crisp and sliced thinly, was hidden underneath the cheese (a classic Greek-style Montreal touch). The chewier discs of spicy Calabrese sausage sat alongside sweet onions and sliced olives. The mellow-tasting sauce, spread up to the edges of the crust, had the concentrated, rounded flavor of a cooked Greek-style tomato sauce. Thankfully, it was applied with a much more restrained hand than most gloopy Montreal pies. The mozzarella was heaped high, too, but somehow the impressive volume of ingredients emerged in balance. Our waiter recommended we add more heat from a ramekin of house-made hot pepper oil. I was amazed that the crust, which didn't have much rise, and was quite a bit thinner than a typical Montreal old-school pie, could support its toppings so gracefully. When I lifted my slice to get a peek of its undercarriage, I noticed the telltale diamond hash created by a mesh pizza screen. The effectiveness of the pizza screen has been a controversial topic on Slice, but here, it rendered a crispy, golden crust with a rim that had very little rise. In my opinion, the crust was clearly one of the strongest components of the pie.

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At about a 30-minute drive north from downtown, it's not too far from my other favorite Montreal joint, Pizza D'Agostino. Montréal-Nord is fast shaping up to be one of my favorite eating zones in the city: Via Ristorante is only a few blocks away from Dic Ann's, an iconic Montreal hamburger spot. So while you're that far north, swing by Dic Ann's for a few sliders. It's an unbeatable day of eating.

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.

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