By Simone FM Spinner
Even the most bored travellers wish to seek out comfort food now and then. And sometimes not just the food, they look for an ambiance that reminds them of simpler times.
Da Giovanni is a classic North American red sauce restaurant filled with kitsch, nostalgia, ancient red booths and tables, lined up against clichéd Roman themes and stone tiled walls that are bedecked with Italian themed murals and memorabilia.
Its old, red brick Montreal building with a 1950’s style, lighted red sign on a bright yellow background is couched on the bustling Rue Saint-Catherine between Rue Berri and Rue St-Hubert.
Da Giovanni serves the usual suspects: Italian immigrant fare including baskets of fresh, warm, and crusty garlic breads with or without toasted cheese to nibble on as you browse the brief but encompassing menu featuring crisp, hand-tossed pizzas, baked ravioli and densely layered lasagna smothered in bubbly and browned Italian cheeses, veal scaloppini, and, of course, spaghetti with or without meat balls.
Most dishes, pizza included, can be served with sides of spaghetti, meatballs, and Italian sausage. Québécois poutine is also available on the menu. For those new to French Canada, Poutine is a dish that includes fried potatoes and cheese curds topped with a brown gravy which originated in the province of Quebec.
Other offerings include fresh and crunchy salads: Greek, César, and house, antipasto platters and warm bruschetta starters.
I decided on a delicious Greek salad complete with tangy olives, pepperoncini peppers, and feta cheese drizzled with olive oil and red wine vinegar. I watched as pizzas and plate after plate of steaming fettucine alfredo, cheese tortellini, baked and bubbling rigatoni, ravioli and lasagnas drifted by to the packed house.
The delicious pizzas come in the expected options; pepperoni, sausage, vegetarian, Greek, and old-school Hawaiian (yes, not for pizza purists!) and bacon selection. I chose a substantial vegetarian pizza accompanied by a glass or two of an unpretentious Chianti. My pizza was topped with thinly sliced mushrooms, green peppers, tomatoes and black olives with a very generous sprinkling of shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.
Although, I was almost too full to sample the desserts, I couldn’t resist a slice of tangy lemon tart. The dessert menu showcases a classic line up of tarts and cakes including lemon, lime, and coconut tarts, $4.50 each, along with carrot, cheese and yoghurt, and chocolate cake, or a light mille-feuille almond cake $5.50 each.
Da Giovanni’s young and energetic staff provides excellent, attentive, and swift service, and perfectly prepared, piping hot, comfort food, simple but delicious wines and beers, and well-crafted desserts. The place isn’t fancy but it is consistent, fresh, and served with a smile. The evening I visited every seat in the house was occupied with clearly satisfied guests. Prices range from $10.95 to $19.95 for most dishes and pizzas come in 9” or 12” (22cm and 30cm) sizes. Simple offering of bottled beers, three Italian red, one white and one rose, wines by the bottle, carafe, and glass, sodas, and juice, tea and coffee. The menu showcases a decent kids menu too.
Rue Saint Catherine is a hip shopping and night life zone studded with trendy restaurants and venues. Nestled between a walking promenade and bustling cultural centre. Da Giovanni offers a surprising if not nostalgic, classic red-sauce restaurant and all of the expected comfort foods. It’s an homage to the North American Italian immigrant eating place.
572 St-Catherine Est, Montréal, Québec, 514-842-8851, [email protected]
Between Rue Saint-Hubert and Rue Berri, across from the Jardin and Berri-UQAM Metro stop.
Open 11.30 to 24.00 every day
Phone +1 514-842-8851