Apr 23, 2011

Osteria Venti: First came the dream, then came the FOOD!

Chef Michele Forgione in his Azzuri jacket, at his new restaurant: Osteria Venti

It is quite a special event when sharing the moment someone’s effort and talent transforms a dream into reality. It was opening night at Osteria Venti last Friday, and as soon as I set foot in the place, I could feel the energy riding high. The chef Michele Forgione and his team-mates were hard at work in the open-concept kitchen, so concentrated they didn’t even notice the cameras pointing at them.

Takeshi Horinoue preparing fresh home-made pasta

I was looking forward to this supper because Chef Michele does everything home-made, bread, grissini, salumi and pasta included. It is a lot to take on, but knowing the passion he has for Italian rustic cuisine, I knew he could pull it off.

And so he did. First came the bread, a fresh and light focaccia, crispy yet soft, with a perfect texture and a pinch of salt. The grissinis were crisp but not as dry as the commercial ones served in most Italian restaurants (even in Italy!). I would go back just for the bread…

Osteria Venti menu reminds me so much of Italy, with it’s crostini, antipasti, primi piatti, secondi and contorni sections…At first it was difficult to choose with so many great options in front of me, but fortunately I was accompanied that night by 5 other foodies that were more than willing to share. The menu offers a choice of full or half-size portions, handy when you are facing a menu with 4 sections before you get to dessert...

The Baccala Mantecato crostini was my favourite crostini, a cod fish topping worth every mouth full. Then came the home-made salumi, which I usually don’t eat much of (too fatty for me), but the delicate taste of the mortadella had me going for seconds…

The Pallote Marchovecchio, veal meat balls, are a must. Tender, juicy, strong flavors of tomatoes and parmesan are what I would call THE Italian classic comfort food. If you need to put some warmth in your day, order the Pallote!

Pallote Marchovecchio

But if it is summer you are looking for, then I would suggest the Insalata di polipo, the octopus salad, with its tender octopus perfectly cooked, and seasoned with fennel and capers that refreshes your tastebuds.

Insalata di polipo

Ready for more? I was. Especially because the pasta was next to be served. For me, this was the real taste-test of the evening. You see, I grew up in Italy, in Rome. I ate pasta every single day; so pasta doesn’t hold any secret for me. Or so I thought…

Chef Michele Forgione impressed me. With all the controlled chaos of opening night, he still managed to serve incredible fresh pasta that knocked my socks off. I fell in love with his Agnelotti di piselli, fresh ravioli style pasta with an intense tasting pea filling, balanced with homemade sausage topping and pecorino cheese. Now that’s what I want from an Italian restaurant: Pasta I cannot find at the supermarket. Pasta that I cannot order at every Italian food-chain. Don’t give me another bland Alfredo sauce! Finally my plight has been heard and answered!! Thank you. Now I’m hoping that come springtime, nice artichoke pasta will be served? It can’t hurt to ask… ; )

Agnelotti di piselli

For secondi, we all had the Porchetta, piglet from the renowned St-Canut farm. It was again, amazing: Crispy and crunchy on the outside, with a mouth-watering thin layer of fat beneath it, just enough to expend the sweet and smoky flavors of the piglet. It was served with a poached pear. It all went fabulously well with the Rosa Nero d’Avola 2005 wine from Sicily. That was a memorable moment.


Finally it was dessert time! I don’t know how we managed to still have room for it…but we did and order all the dessert except for fruit and biscotti. The lemon semifreddo was good but a little too creamy and sweet for me.

The Tiramisu was exceptionally good. I was looking forward to it since Chef Michele had whispered his family recipe in my ear… All I can say is that he doesn’t blend in beaten egg whites but stir the egg yolks for a very long time until it fluffs up. The texture of his Tiramisu is simply divine, silky and smooth like no other! He also has a secret ingredient…that will remain secret for the time-being!

Tiramisu della mamma, almost a piece of art

We also devoured the bomboloni, served with the real Italian Nutella.

Hot bomboloni with Italian Nutella

If you are looking for a fun night out, in a relaxed atmosphere, where you can chat and laugh with your friends while eating delicious fresh quality Italian food…there is no better place in Montreal then Osteria Venti.

From left to right: A satisfied and happy team Takeshi, Ryan, Paulo and Chef Michele.

Osteria Venti
372 St-Paul West, Old Montreal
514 284 0445

(starting April 26th)
Tuesday to Friday: 11:30am to 2:30pm


Tuesday to Wednesday: 5:30pm to 10:00pm
Thursday to Saturday: 5:30pm to 11:00pm

And here, Venti's official Facebook page

PS: 3 of the 5 other foodies with me that night have blogs, check them out!
Mayssam of Will Travel for Food
Marcella of Eatalian Girl
Sandro of The Hungry Italian

Apr 14, 2011

Osteria Venti – a dream comes true on April 15th!

by Andrea Doucet Donida

How often do you see somebody’s lifelong dream come true before your eyes? First of a three-part tale, you are about to witness the birth of such a dream in the form of a restaurant opening.

Chef Michele Forgione a few days before opening!

This is the story of Chef Michele Forgione from Montreal. Like many that make up the social fabric of this cosmopolitan city, he brings to it the flavor of his foreign origins. His family came from the Napoli region of Italy. As a young boy, he had the good fortune of spending many of his summers in one of the most captivating environments, the Costa Amalfitana: stuck between the ocean and lemon trees. Michele learned then that good Italian food is made of great products and simple cooking.

Later, he decided to go to culinary school in Montreal at St-Pius where he discovered his talent for pastry under the watchful eye of his teacher Lesley Chesterman (the very well-known food critic of the Gazette). He then pursued pastry at the ITHQ cooking school and worked for Chef Claude Pelletier at Mediterraneo and with Bertrand Bazin of the private Club 357C, one of the best pastry chefs in Montreal.

Michele then went back to cooking as a Executive Chef at Verses, Hôtel Le Crystal, Masterpiece, Hôtel Loews and Koko. Over seven years he has formed a multicultural dream team around him with Paulo Posada (El Salvador), Ryan Montminy (Montreal) and Takeshi Horinoue (Japan) that have joined him in most of his work places, a rare occurrence in the restaurant business, giving them a solid and strong advantage.

From left to right: Takeshi, Paulo, Michele, Ryan.

Together they have started developing their restaurant project and concept, testing recipes whenever they could. They even had chosen the name for their future restaurant long before it became a reality: Venti, to represent the 20 regions of Italy.

Their concept is almost a revolutionary one for Montreal’s Italian restaurant scene, mostly concentrated on southern Italian cuisine unfortunately often tainted by heavy North American influences (there are beautiful exceptions to this like Graziella in Old Montreal, a modern breath of fresh air from Northern Italy). Michele motto is: “Eat Better, Cook Simpler”.

His objective is to bring to Montreal the depth and richness of all twenty regions of Italy with a rustic feel and in relaxed atmosphere. It is an Osteria after all. One of the original ideas is that all pasta will be hand made by them, even spaghetti! So no “al-dente” pasta on the menu, only fresh, soft and silky pasta will be served with unexpected yet simple seasonal sauces. I personally cannot wait to taste the Pallote or the fresh pea-filled raviolis!

The Arco "pasta machine" to make fresh pasta

The beautiful pasta molds, made of 100% bronze

With time, we should also be seeing his own salumi slowly aging in the glass wine cellar, right at the entrance of his new restaurant.

Indeed, he finally found the partner he needed to make this restaurant dream a reality. Osteria Venti is opening this Friday, April 15th. I will be there to witness this dream come true for Michele and his teammates and report back to you on the food they have created for us.

Osteria Venti opens on April 15th 2011.

Follow me on Twitter! @AndreaDDonida

Apr 9, 2011

Wine Flight with a twist!

By Andrea Doucet Donida

Ok, here it is: my first blog entry for Montreal for Insiders!

The question was what to write about: because there are so many new and interesting things happening all the time in this city… That was my dilemma; until I thought about a really tasty experience I had a few weeks ago. For me, it represents what Montreal for Insiders can also bring to the blogosphere, information that can completely change the view one had on a particular place and inspire them to go back and experience it differently.

I’m talking about a new concept launched at Newtown, called “Wine Flight”, a wine pairing exercise with a twist: Wines are first selected from one region of the world by the sommelier, the talented James Graham-Simpkins, and then, a 4-course meal is created around those wines.

Before you judge too hastily my taste in restaurants, let me put things into perspective. Yes, Newtown was founded by Jacques Villeneuve, the car racer, and food was not the main attraction then. And yes, Crescent Street still pulsates during the Formula 1 weekend, but a lot has changed since the place was acquired by new owners. And it starts with the kitchen. First it got a breath of fresh air two years ago with the now celeb trio Chef Marc-André Jetté, Chef Patrice Demers and Sommelière Marie-Josée Beaudoin who brought the new market cuisine to the place. They have now opened their own restaurant Les 400 Coups, one of my personal favorites.

This led the way for Chef Martin Juneau to take the reins of the Newtown trajectory. He is the talent behind La Montée restaurant and he is the new 2011 Canadian Culinary Champion recipient of the Gold Medal Plates last month! Pretty impressive, don’t you think?

So now you can imagine my excitement when I received an invitation to this new “Wine Flight” concept with Martin Juneau freshly back from his victory, ready to take on sommelier James Graham-Simpkins choice of the Piedmont region in Italy as the culinary destination.

The expectations were high; there was no room for error. So I’m happy to report that the whole evening was a series of savoury and surprising plates and pairings, discovering wines and even grape varieties (have you heard of the very floral red Ruché from Piedmont?) making this event a delightful and memorable one.

Since Wine Flight visits different regions of the world each time and offers new menus, the plates savoured then were a one-time experience, making each event, unique. I have to mention however the charming and fresh handmade grissini with gremolata, confit lemon and cured duck breast paired with Gavi Fontanafredda 2009, perfect to start the evening and open up the appetite.

The dessert also deserves a special mention: the wonderful mascarpone yoghurt & Marsala, hazelnut, pear and orange was exceptional, light yet scrumptious and outside the beaten path, perfectly paired with the Mosacato d’Asti ‘’Bricco Quaglia’’ La Spinetta 2009.

photo Julia C. Vona.

The only disappointment was the coffee-chocolate mousse that was served at the end, too cold and the coffee didn’t taste very good, a bitter note that had better been forgotten. Below you can peruse the complete menu served.

The evening ended with a quick tour of the kitchen with Chef Martin Juneau, showing off the state of the art Newtown Kitchen (a fortunate legacy from Jacques Villeneuve).

So if you are in the mood to visit new regions of the world without leaving Montreal, you can safely reserve your seat at the upcoming Wine Flight at Newtown. The talented duo Martin Juneau and James Graham-Simkins will fly you there and back with enchanting pairings and culinary explorations.

Have a good flight!

Wine Flight evenings occur twice a month, on the first Tuesday and third Wednesday of every month.

Next departure
April 5th. Destination : Alsace in France
April 19th. Destination: Loire in France
Ticket: 75$ for a 4 course meal with 4 wine pairing
+ 20$ for dessert or cheese with wine

1476 Crescent Street
514 284 6555
PS: The restaurant is on the second floor!

More photos of this evening on Newtown's Facebook Page.

The Menu:
PROSCIUTTO STYLE CURED DUCK BREAST Gremolata & confit lemon grissinis // GAVI Fontanafredda 2009
«AGNELLO TONATO» Lamb loin cooked sous-vide & marinated albacore tuna, fingerling potatos à la «piémontaise » //RUCHÉ DI CASTAGNOLE MONFERRATO Cascina Tavijn 2009
BAROLO BRAISED NATURAL BEEF CHEEK Agnolotti, anchovy butter & olives //DOLCETTO D’ALBA ‘’Priavino’’ Roberto Voerzio 2008
MASCARPONE YOGHURT CREAM & MARSALA Hazelnut, pear & orange //MOSCATO D’ASTI ‘’Bricco Quaglia’’ La Spinetta 2009
« BICERIN » Hot chocolate & espresso mousse