Da Bologna Pizzeria
5185 Rue de Charleroi, Montreal-Nord, Québec (map); 514-321-8361
Pizza Style: Thin-to-medium thick crust pie, more Italian than old-school Montreal style.
The Skinny: Don't miss the "Mercedes Arrabbiata," a fiery, bright pie topped with spicy shards of capicola and hot peppers marinated in olive oil.
Price: $14.50 (14-inch cheese), $21.95 (house special)
Notes: Parc Charleroi across the street is the perfect venue for an impromptu picnic.
Montreal-Nord is a hotbed for some of the city's finest Italian pizzerias, and Restaurant Da Bologna, which has been a staple of the neighborhood since it opened in 1958, might be the region's crown jewel. It has a casse-croûte style menu (that would be "snack-style", and includes subs, pasta, poutine and other snack bar staples), but the focus is all about the pizza.
Amidst a lengthy menu of traditional Montreal-style pies (like the ubiquitous toute garnie, or all dressed) there are several options that stand out. The Mercedes Arrabbiata is a blazing, exhilarating mix of capicola, pepperoni, and hot peppers marinated in olive oil (16-inch, $22.75). Between the tender shards of capicola, the salty chew of pepperoni, and those provocative, garlicky slips of chili, this is one of the most spirited pies I've ever had in this city.
The toppings are showstoppers, but the basics have a sturdy confidence to them, too, like the sweet, bright tang of lightly-cooked tomato sauce, applied so thinly, it looks as though it's painted on with a brush. One bite and the shredded mozzarella yields into soft, sweet ropes. But it's the dough, with its sturdy, dappled underbelly and pliant crust, that makes my heart sing. Mercedes, indeed—this is a luxury pie.
The Bologna Special ($26.26 for a 16" pie), with its heap of sautéed mushrooms that tumble into the center of the pie appears even more striking. Instead of the typical button mushroom slivers, these quartered mushrooms are bouncy and robust, and provide an earthy counterpart to the other ingredients, which include sliced ham, peppers, pepperoni, and bacon.
Da Bologna's pies have a creative, abundant style that feels unusual compared to the more traditional Italian restaurants in the area. They look and taste joyous. The pizza dough is so popular that Da Bologna uses it to make a selection of subs, which are an excellent alternative (if you don't mind the confetti of warm Romaine tucked inside). Montreal-Nord continues to reveal itself as one of the city's most dynamic pizza regions, with Da Bologna's trademark dough—a yeasty wonder that's both light and substantial—confidently at the head of the pack.
About the Author: Natasha Pickowicz is a San Diego-born food writer currently based in Montreal. She is also the baker at Montreal restaurant Dépanneur Le Pick Up. She contributes to the Kinfolk Magazine, Montreal Gazette, the Montreal Mirror, and Acquired Taste Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @natashapickowiz.