Presenting Pinokio

The dining scene on Outremont's ever-buzzing Bernard St. has been undergoing quite the refresh of late. Le Cafe/Bistro Souvenir just m...

The dining scene on Outremont's ever-buzzing Bernard St. has been undergoing quite the refresh of late. Le Cafe/Bistro Souvenir just morphed into La Pêche aux Moules with a focus on mussels and fries, and now, going on eighteen years in the same spot, Le Petit Italien has rebranded itself as Pinokio in homage to the namesake fictional character Pinocchio created by a 19th century Italian children's writer. 

As I learned at the press launch a few weeks ago, the motive for the new guise is twofold. Malvin Lecoq, the restaurant's director explained how the menu hadn't really changed in the last six or seven years, a notion that stands in stark contrast with the prevailing trend of menus that evolve constantly with the seasons. 

The antipasti feature prominently and come with hot bread and olive oil.
Perusing a printed copy, I noticed the offering is Italian through and through, but you won't find a single pizza listed. Rather, a varied mix of antipasti, tartares, pastas and risottos, all of it under the capable hands of internationally renowned chef and pastry maker Cédrc Nieuvarts, whose accolades include working at the Élysée under President Chirac, and being consulting chef and director at La Pâtisserie des Rêves, a long-established Parisian pastry house. 

The homemade spelt risotto with wild mushrooms.
Hefty credentials to be sure, and ones that know how to make great use of local product which is then combined in original, well-executed plates. Standouts include bow-tie pasta with leg of Quebec lamb, penne with Brome Lake duck confit, or their famous spelt risotto with wild mushrooms. So authentic is their game that they've received a highly coveted certification that aims to preserve the integrity of real Italian cuisine. 

Parma prosciutto and Linguine Gorgonzola with spinach, pine nuts, and chives.
Chef Nieuvarts' profiteroles 'du moment'
In tandem, this spring and summer the restaurant will deploy its own Pinokio food truck for the first time, serving up a select number of dishes conceived expressly for it. Think gnocchi poutine with ossobucco, cudighi (Italian bread, mild sausage, caramelized onions, mushrooms and cheese), and even a Kids' Box that'll include a pasta, dessert, and toy for a very reasonable $7. After a tasty sneak-peek sampling we recommend making it your first stop at the First Fridays food truck rallies taking place again this year on Olympic Stadium's Esplanade Financière Sun Life, starting up again May 6th.

Street exclusive: the gnocchi poutine with pulled ossobucco.
Watch for the boy with the long nose at festivals all season long!
Of course the menu wasn't the only tweak as the decor has also taken on a new look thanks to 426 jars of tomato sauce that line the interior brick wall, the creative work of Montreal architect Zébulon Perron no less.

Rounding out the evening, or spirited festa as I should say, included a private import tasting of the restaurant's new Pinokio white and red wine, PUR Vodka mixing the house's signature negroni, Belgian coffee exporter Café Liégeois presenting its Nespresso-compatible capsules and delicious blend that'll be available in the food truck, and even the Montreal Italian Chamber of Commerce on hand to support. Bravissimo Pinokio! 



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