Things to do in Little Italy Montreal
Welcome to Little Italy, where pizza is in the air, and the sights are sure to charm. This quaint neighbourhood is an increasingly popular spot for new homeowners, date-goers, and out-of-towners. The culprits? Jean-Talon market, cute parks, and the district’s stunning architecture are sure to blame. But Little Italy is much more than great food and nice buildings: it’s a district rich in culture and history, equipped with its own colourful, vibrant energy.
But before we delve into its many delights… Little Italy is located between St-Denis and St-Laurent, and spans from Jean-Talon to St-Zotique. If you enter via St-Laurent, you’ll go through its unmissable Little Italy archway.
Grab a slice
Okay, okay… We get it: you came here for the pizza.
A good place to start is Pizzeria Napoletana. Napoletana opened many moons ago in 1948, and claims to be the first pizzeria in Montreal. It evolved from a casual spot where immigrant workers would come to play pool and cards, to being one of the most popular eateries in Little Italy. Simplicity and authenticity make their pizzas a memorable affair. Oh and, it’s BYOW, so…get on it. 189 Dante Street; napoletana.com
Next up, Elio Pizzeria! Elio is known for its amazing tomato sauce, thin crust pies, and outstanding service. Come here after a long day of Little Italy activities and let yourself relax with a nice scrumptious slice. This popular neighbourhood joint will make you feel like a local and let you blend in for a sample of authentic Little Italy living. 351 Bellechasse; eliorestaurant.ca
Jean-Talon market is affectionately thought of as Little Italy’s main artery. Bustling through the market are locals, visitors, chefs, families, friends, lovers… It’s a hub of hungry, happy activity. Come join them for an afternoon at the market and sample different cheeses, meats, maybe even some freshly squeezed juice! Discover artisanal goodies, locally-grown produce, and of course, the world’s best maple syrup. We like Fromagerie Hamel for its exquisite cheeses, Délices de la Mer for its high quality seafood, and la Crêperie du Marché for some sinful crêpes.
7070 Henri-Julien Avenue
Savour some local craft beer
Right on the outskirts of Little Italy, you’ll find Montreal’s top craft beer destination, Rosemont. The district is home to many micro breweries, making it an excellent way to discover Montreal’s craft beer scene.
Birra: Steps away from Jean-Talon market, Birra is perfectly situated for some relaxation at the end of a charged touring day. Birra uses a local brewing coop, MABRASSERIE, to brew their beer. That means that the beer here is part of a bigger movement, the neighbourhood’s need and love of good brews! Come be part of the buzz. 7129 St-Laurent, birra.ca
Vices & Versa: This bistro serves a wide array of craft beer, has enchanting outdoor seating, and equally awesome food. Try their 15$ beer tasting option, and their fries with beer flavoured mayo. 6631 St-Laurent Blvd; www.vicesetversa.com/en
Brasserie Harricana: This one hits all the sweet spots: a carefully curated selection of craft beer, an awesome house brew, outdoor seating, full menu, and a wooden decor that adds a flavour all its own. Bring your crew here and be well taken care of. And with a kitchen open until 2AM, you can stay there all night long. 95 Jean-Talon W.; brasserieharricana.com
A more upscale restaurant that’s well worth the extra buck is Impasto. A project lead by celebrity chef Stefano Faita, the restaurant is known for its fresh pasta, authentic flavours, and high quality ingredients. The menu is seasonal, but you can bet that their dishes like the crab fetuccini or octopus will satisfy that Italy culinary trip yearning, albeit temporarily. Come here if you’re looking to be impressed and/or impress another. Reservations are a must. 48 Dante; impastomtl.ca
Bottega Pizzeria is a great pick if you’re looking for a lively, laid-back evening, but still have a three course dinner at a fair price. Pizza, meat balls, lamb, pasta… Their menu holds many gems, and Montreal’s known it since they opened, making it forever popular. Reservations recommended. 65 St-Zotique E.; bottega.ca
Dinette Triple Crown: Have you heard the saying, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is”? Triple Crown takes that saying and squashes it fast. American style BBQ chicken with all the fixings, mac ‘n cheese, and most importantly… picnic baskets you can bring to the park across the street!!!!! Yes, yes, yes. Take advantage of this picnic facilitation for your next romantic soirée. Sinful food and romance have never gone so perfectly together. 6704 Clark; dinettetriplecrown.com
Cul-sec is a wine bar with a private import selection (including organic and natural wines). If you’re looking to treat yourself with some elegant organic dishes and rare wine finds, Cul de Sac is your spot. 29 Beaubien Est; culsec.ca
For a decadent and hip snack bar, make your way to Chez Tousignant. A retro look, high quality ingredients and inventive takes on snack bar classics (think poutine cheeseburger) make Chez Tousignant a popular lunch and dinner spot. Put on your new floral print dress shirt and walk on over. 6956 Drolet; cheztousignant.com
Sample a new neighbourhood: The Mile Ex
A newly residential neighbourhood is hard to come by in a city like Montreal, but when industrial buildings turn into condos, that’s what you get. You also get trendy cafés, biergartens, and trendy restaurants. Mile Ex is exactly this, and being adjacent to Little Italy (and often considered part of it), you’ll want take a stroll through. Restaurant Manitoba, Café Dispatch, and Alexandraplatz bar are a few must-sees. Check out our guide on the hood for tips and pointers: http://localmontrealtours.com/mile-ex-montreal-reasons-why-you-should-go/
The plaza marks itself by a metal and glass awning, covering all of its 300+ merchants. A bit of an eyesore, you won’t make your way here for the sight seeing. It seems a bit mysterious at first: why would they make this street look so… stale? But it’s part of a longer story: St-Hubert was the subject of many project proposals seeking to protect its mom and pop merchants while attracting new business and shoppers. The first was the biggest shopping center in the world, the second a pedestrian mall, and the third… its now infamous sidewalk covering! The result is a winter-friendly spot to shop, an association of vendors that stick together and serve their community. Visiting the plaza is well worth it if you want to get a glimpse into a local’s shopping spot, or if you want to witness first-hand a strange piece of Montreal’s development history. maplaza.ca/en/
St-Hubert Plaza is located on St-Hubert Street between Bellechasse and Jean-Talon
Check out Madonna Della Difesa church
Madonna Della Difesa church, also known as Notre Dame de la Défense, is an architectural sweet spot. It was built by Italian immigrants in 1919 to commemorate the miracle of Madonna’s apparition in Molise. It marks its claim to fame with by combining both breathtakingly beautiful and controversial elements. On the side of beauty, architect R. Montbirant painted the church’s remarkable frescoes based on tartist Guido Nincheri’s drawings. For the controversial part? Inside you will find a painting of Mussolini. Without commenting on the latter, the church is an authentic representation of the era it was built in, and is well worth a visit.
Address: 6810 Henri Julien
Take a coffee break
Montreal’s Little Italy marks itself apart from the rest of the city in terms of coffee shops. Not only by way of its particularly deliciously strong coffee, but Little Italy swaps its most of its cafes carry an authentic, mom and pop quality to them.
Caffe Italia: Authentic vibes are at their highest here, with a 50/60’s decor and Italian men at the bar sipping espresso. 6840 Boul St-Laurent, (514) 495-0059
Caffè San Simeon: Coffee nerds, addicts, enthusiasts, and allies congregate at San Simeon for arguably the best cafe freddo in town. Seriously. People go nuts for the insanely strong San Simeon coffee. Their classic (and adorable!) selection of desserts are a quick sell, too. Summer months get the added bonus of a front deck, a feature that takes latte-sipping from a 5 to a 10, easily. 39 Dante, Instagram
Café Oui Mais Non: This sassily named spot embraces vintage goods in its boutique, caffeine on its espresso machine, and even food and beer in between! Café Oui Mais Non translates to Coffee Yes But No, a feeling we can all relate to, let’s be honest. Make your way here for a cute ambiance in which to sip a mean espresso or smooth latte. 72 Rue Jarry E, cafeouimaisnon.com
Located right around the corner from Little Italy, Jarry Park is nothing to scoff at. One of the city’s biggest parks, it comes equipped with paths, a pond, ducks (!!), a fountain, fields, a pool… ah the good life. Google Maps Link
Little Italy Park is much smaller, but size isn’t everything, right? This is the kind of park that takes up a whole block and acts as an oasis for cute dates and breaths of fresh air. It’s got a gazebo, picnic tables, and a few benches for that optimal sun soaking. What makes it extra special however, is its relation to Dinette Triple Crown. Located across the street, the decadent American style eatery provides cute picnic baskets with their meals so that you can eat in the parc. Yes, it’s a magical thing. Google Maps Link
Dante Park is another quaint spot, right across from the famous Madona Della Difesa church. Benches invite you for a bask in the sun. A bocce ball area invites you for some good ol’ bocce. Rest here and discuss your experience at Madona Della Difesa after you visit the architectural wonder. Google Maps link
Trou de Beigne: Did you hear the news? Doting a cute fancy doughnut in your hand as you walk down the street is the new way to affirm your fashion status. Out with the Michael Kors purses, in with the bacon maple goodies! Seriously though, Trou de Beigne (French for doughnut hole) is a doughy paradise of mouth watering concoctions like Nutella Banana and yep, Maple Bacon. Made fresh daily, you gotta try ’em. Artistan baked goods at their best. 156 Saint-Zotique East; troudebeigne.com
Alati-Casserta: One of the things about Little Italy that makes it so charming is its blend of old and new, trendy and traditional. Alati-Casserta keeps things old school, just to keep us in check. It’s one of the oldest kids on the block, and fills cannolis to order. Mm hmm. Freshly filled sweet ricotta goodness, and crisp exteriors, made on the spot. They’ve got tons of other creations too, and are a must-have while you’re in the area. 227 Dante; alaticaserta.com
La Cornetteria: Do you remember the cronut craze? La Cornetteria took part in the wave by creating Montreal’s first cronut, attracting Montrealers from all over to try the yummy things. They’ve kept them ever since, and have a wide variety of flavours. Come sample ’em for yourself, and sip an espresso while you’re there. 6528 St-Laurent; lacornetteria.com
Pro tip: Try one cannoli at each bakery. Compare and contrast. Repeat.
Photos by Gaëlle Leroyer