What to Do in Montreal’s Little Italy
Located north and across the train tracks of Mile End with Boulevard Saint-Laurent as its main artery, Little Italy is a foodie neighborhood that fans out around the big and beautiful Jean-Talon Market. The areas is full of Italian trattorias, caffes, bakeries and clothing stores, but also a newer batch of hipster bars and hangouts to reflect the young incoming residents.
It may not have the design flair of the nearby Magasin Général Bélangermartin, but this home ware store on Rue Dante is beloved citywide for its amazing selection of appliances, cooking tools and all-around useful stuff. Whether you need a meat cleaver, a new Le Creuset or an old school pressure cooker, you’ll find anything you need in the cooking department and more (there’s even a firearm counter dedicated to hunters). It’s become a true neighborhood social club over the years; manager Elena Faita-Vendittelli (mom to Stefano Faita, of the nearby restaurant Impasto) hosts popular cooking classes at the neighboring cooking school, Mezza Luna.
6822 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2S 3C7, Canada
Your nose will alert you to the exotic possibilities at hand in this place before you even walk all the way in. This spice emporium has passed through three generations of the Hatzidakis family already, and continues to provide the city’s chefs as well as avid cooks from all walks of life. From cumin to saffron to sumac to oregano, it’s all here among the 600-some spices on hand, along with a knowledgeable staff ready to help with all your questions. They also have bulk goods (including candy) and an impressive array of homemade natural essences, of everything from coconut to orange.
6436 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2S 3C4, Canada
A true neighbourhood institution, this dépanneur – Quebec’s answer to the corner store – has such a loyal following that within months they had successfully boycotted a 7/11 type of chain store that opened up across from it. The reason for the following, other than the staff’s boundless charm, is because you’ll find anything you could ever dream of needing in a pinch in this store, and much more: they make sandwiches and take-away meals here that will put your momma’s packed lunches to shame.
59 Rue Beaubien E, Montréal, QC H2S 1R1, Canada
This homely but homey little spot tucked away on Rue Beaubien makes an all-day breakfast that draws people from afar every weekend, and locals every day of the week. Saddle up to one of their handful of tables for their variety of eggs Benedict, all served with tomatoes fresh from the nearby Marché Jean-Talon and golden, chunky home fries. Or if you’re in a lunchy mood, try the BBLAT sandwich: brie, bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomatoes pressed together into an answer to your stomach’s prayers.
7070 Avenue Henri-Julien, Montréal, QC H2S 3S3, Canada
After Toronto, Montréal is the Canadian city with the largest population of residents of Italian descent. For more than a century, the community has been centered in one of the city’s most charming neighborhoods, Little Italy. The way to the heart of this neighborhood is arguably through its stomach or, rather, the Jean-Talon Market, where residents have come to buy produce and stock their pantries since 1933. Even if you aren’t shopping for fresh vegetables or fruits, it’s a good place to come to sample Québecois products and buy gifts like local jams, jellies, and maple products to take back home.
277 Rue Dante, Montréal, QC H2S 1K3, Canada
At the neighborhood’s eastern extreme, on Rue Dante, this traditional Italian bakery is renowned as the purveyor of the city’s best cannoli, though it’s a hotly debated issue. They are blindingly scrumptious, that’s for sure, and they come in chocolate, vanilla ricotta, vanilla ricotta with tiny chocolate chips, vanilla custard or mocha. They’re just one of the many sweet treats on offer though, so wander over after a day at the market and let yourself be tempted by the cornetti, the million-layered sfogliatelle, the flaky, cream-filled lobster tails or the dozens of varieties of cookie.
32 Rue Beaubien E, Montréal, QC H2S 1P8, Canada
Regulars at this Little Italy joint (and there are lots of regulars) flock here more for the friendly atmosphere and the cheap drinks than for the two bowling lanes that gave it its name (“quilles” is “bowling” in French). Games do happen though, usually more as the night goes on, unless it’s one of the nights when a band uses the lanes as a stage. The drinks are nothing special except that most moments in this down-home haven end up being special, and they go wonderfully with the vegetarian burritos made on the spot. Take a spot at the bar to keep the pints coming, or find a nook in the back or in the turquoise-painted side room to wile away the hours.
6906 Boul St-Laurent, Montréal, QC H2S 3C7, Canada
This enclave on upper Boulevard Saint-Laurent in Little Italy emanates style from the front window on, with a quirky and impeccable approach to layout. Its rich wooden tables and modernist shelves are rife with unique, collectible objects and everyday useful things. Some are wearable, like silk scarves, merino wool sweaters and designer galoshes, while others exist to embellish living spaces, like beautiful metal bowls and hand-painted birch branches that serve as sculptures. There are even edible things, like artisanal lemonade syrup and fancy teas. The focus is on locally made goods with a smattering of international purveyors too, who fit within the store’s general earthy-chic aesthetic.