The D’Arcy McGee Medal of Citizenship of the National Assembly goes to…

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Receiving the D’Arcy McGee Medal of Citizenship of the Quebec National Assembly by (L-R) Former MNAs Robert Libman and Lawrence Bergman, current MNA David Birnbaum and Mayor Mitchell Brownstein

What a great honour in receiving the D’Arcy McGee Medal of Citizenship of the Quebec National Assembly by MNA David Birnbaum surrounded by family and friends. This annual event awards three people for their outstanding contribution to the residents and communities of the D’Arcy McGee riding.

 

 

David Birnbaum, député de D’Arcy-McGee MNA honoured three people for outstanding community service last evening at Ashkelon Gardens: Lina Fortin, me, and the late Gerry Weinstein. The winners were selected by a blue-ribbon jury of three former D’Arcy-McGee MNAs and Ministers, retired Justice Herbert Marx, Robert Libman and 20-year MNA Lawrence S. Bergman. The Victor Goldbloom Essay winner was Sarah Buzaglo, a grade 10 student at École Maïmonide.

Most of you will know that I have served in public office nearly all of my adult life. Allow me sum up this incredible journey in the form of my shift-on-duty.

Glenn J. Nashen riding aboard Cote Saint-Luc’s first Rescue Medical Fire vehicle RMF-11, 1981

 

Glenn J. Nashen, on duty, in Cote Saint-Luc’s second ever First Response vehicle

My shift begins. Fall of 1979. I’m a young First Responder in the Cote Saint-Luc Emergency Measures Organization. Dressed in a smart looking brown uniform, yellow stripe down the side of my pants, the alert tone rings and we spring into action, lights and siren blaring from our small red rescue-fire truck. An elderly person tumbles down the stairs at home. A car crashes into a light pole on Cavendish. Suddenly, a call for a cardiac arrest across the street. We respond to hundreds of emergencies, on every street in CSL. And that’s just the early morning.

 

I rise through the ranks of EMO and EMS, promoting citizen CPR training and pushing for Automated Defibrillators in public buildings and public vehicles, relentlessly championing for recognition of paramedics across Quebec, and advocating for air ambulance helicopters for the outlying regions.

Cote Saint-Luc EMO launched my side-career as an Urgences-Santé ambulance technician in 1980

It’s a busy shift and we are only in the mid-80s. My uniform changes colour, and so does the vehicle, as I find myself riding aboard yellow ambulances and doctors cars with Urgences Santé. Racing to life and death situations, performing CPR 125 times, bringing some people back to life and even delivering a baby. What a privilege. What responsibility at a pretty young age, to be in a position to make a profound difference in someone’s life during their moment of highest anxiety.

Councillors Glenn J. Nashen and Ruth Kovac enrolled at the Emergency Preparedness College of Canada 1991

My shift continues, it’s 1990, and I’m elected as the youngest member on city council. My first priority is to make cycling safer and CSL adopts the first bicycle helmet bylaw in the country! I play a leading role during major floods, the infamous Ice Storm, preparing for doomsday during Y2K, you remember year 2000!

Newspaper ad from June 2005 commemorating the 1st anniversary of the demerger referendum by the Cote Saint-Luc Demerger Committee Co-Chairs

No rest on this patrol. It’s the early 2000s and Anthony, Ruth, Mitch and I are up for the biggest challenge, to get our City back… and saving our EMS and keeping our police and our fire stations from closure.

The men and women of Cote Saint-Luc volunteer Citizens on Patrol

It’s time for a lunch break when a great idea strikes me… It’s 2005, CSL is about to be back in our own hands again, and I decide that we need to harness the energy of more volunteers to ensure CSL’s place as the safest community on the Island of Montreal. We need to enlist more volunteers, retirees, a group of neighbours watching out for neighbours. After lunch I set out on founding the volunteer Citizens on Patrol organization. We launch on Canada Day 2006. Now suited up in a bright orange polo top and in marked vans, scooters and bikes, we continue our patrol through the streets and parks and municipal facilities.

Fmr. Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen and Supervisor Mitchell Herf inaugurate the newest vCOP electric scooters

We stop to alert a resident that they forgot to close their garage door, a possible theft averted. We remind another to keep the emergency lane clear at the mall, we get the finger on that one, but that’s OK. All in a day’s volunteer work. An elderly couple thanks us for changing the battery in their smoke detector. We block a street from traffic and hold onlookers back as the fire department douses a house fire. Over to check on the home of vacationers. Then, we assist the police in looking for a missing child and we reunite the frightened youngster with their relieved parents. We feel pride and satisfaction knowing we’ve helped. We’ve made a difference. We’ve given our time but we’ve gained so much in return.

My first public council meeting as Mayor of Cote Saint-Luc, November 9, 2015

My shift isn’t quite done and yet another quick uniform change. This time for a two-month stint as mayor of CSL in 2015. What was once just a dream actually became a reality.

 

And as we head back to the station to wrap up this shift for today, in 2018, I can see how my my parents gave me the keys to these patrol vehicles, for this mission to Repair the World.

Receiving the D’Arcy McGee Medal of Citizenship with my parents, George and Phyllis Nashen (June 19, 2018)

So thank you mom, who just celebrated her 90th birthday and thank you dad, who is three days shy of his 95th. Thank you for these important life lessons in public service and looking out for one’s neighbour.

 

These lessons were also fueled by my wife, Judy, who’s always ready to give her utmost to her patients and to the community and together we are handing over these keys to our children, Nicole, Nathalie and Jeremy.

Glenn J. Nashen, Judy Hagshi with Nicole, Nathalie and Jeremy Nashen (*June 19, 2018)

So I close by again thanking my wife and children, because when my proverbial uniform went on, they knew that it meant I’d be away from the house again and again and again. Public service, and long shifts, do come at a very high cost!

 

My wife says this about me: My heart is in Cote Saint-Luc and Cote Saint-Luc is in my heart. I feel that way too about our beautiful province and our amazing country. And I hope that one day my tour of duty will continue and my unquenchable need to Repair the World (Tikun Olam) will take off in some new direction to make this place the very best for all of us.

 

Thank you as well to our incredible life-saving volunteers at CSL EMS and to our dedicated and unstoppable volunteers in vCOP.

Thank you David and our former MNAs Herbert, Robert and Lawrence for this great honour. And thank you for reading this and for “joining” me on today’s shift. I appreciate all the good wishes and support I receive from family, friends and members of the community.

 

Congratulations to my fellow laureates, Lina Fortin and the family of the late Gerry Weinstein

 

Celebrating with the Pressers (Sandie and Robert) and Fabians (Leslie, Ricki, Jamie and Sammi)

 

My longtime friend and fellow vCOP volunteer Mitchell Herf

 

Sharing the good vibes and smiles with my colleagues Stephanie Malley and Marisa Rodi

 

Siempre me complace celebrar con mis amigos cercanos Natalia y Pablo

 

D’Arcy McGee National Assembly Citizenship Medal Ceremony (Photo Darryl Levine)

 

Friends from way back to Bialik days, Ben Burko (and son Milo) and Gary Polachek

 

Mitchell Brownstein and I go way, way back. I am so proud of my friend the mayor and pleased to celebrate with him.

 

David Birnbaum and Glenn J. Nashen (Photo Darryl Levine)

 

Former Quebec Cabinet Minister Lawrence Bergman and I have had a wonderful relationship over the years. He has been a friend and a mentor.

 

Gracias Miguel Banet y Lulu Brenner por venir y mostrar tu amor y apoyo

 

 

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Quebec is ripe for a surge of electric mobility

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I was fortunate to have been invited to partake in the recent Movin’ On by Michelin world summit in sustainable mobility. Thousands of people gathered from over 60 countries to participate in workshops, conferences and keynote addresses. There were tests of virtually everything electric on two, three, four wheels and more. A Who’s Who of business, political leaders, social movers and shakers and keen enthusiasts from around the globe gathered in Montreal for the second annual congress.

The case for electrification is compelling, and it goes far beyond EVs.

The transition to electric vehicles (EVs) is just beginning and with automakers and other countries making significant commitments to phase out conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, the future for EVs is bright. But electrification of transportation (e-mobility) goes well beyond passenger vehicles to include fleet vehicles (cars and trucks), mass transit buses, light rail, ships and even non-road vehicles like forklifts.

The rationale is simple: electric vehicles have lower cost of ownership than their conventionally powered peers, they emit less pollution, and they enable emerging mobility technologies and business models.

While EVs are currently in the “early adopter” phase of the product lifecycle, they hold tremendous potential.  As of 2017, EV sales in Canada have increased by 68% and there are approximately 50, 000 plug-in vehicles currently on Canadian roads.  New sales records are consistently being broken each year as the idea of green transportation gains national momentum.

100% electric motorboats on the Lachine Canal

The power grid represents the foundation for a ubiquitous “refueling” infrastructure for e-mobility, and it is capable of supporting many more vehicles than it currently does.  British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario are the three Canadian provinces with the highest number of Electric Vehicles.

Hydro- Québec calculated that it could incorporate a million EV’s into the system without having to make any big changes to the infrastructure.

Although Quebec has a goal of seeing 100,000 EVs on the road by 2020 I think they’ll fall short unless EV prices begin to drop, the price of gas shoots up or tye government increases its incentives as Ontario did last year.

100% electric police motorcycle

Meanwhile, the Quebec government could easily require all of its departments, agencies and institutions to install free charging stations as another important encouragement for employees to make the purchase.

Much discussion centred around green, smart cities and better quality of life because of sustainable mobility. The goal is to build attractive, livable, walkable, sustainable ‘villages’ with connected mobility hubs; Mixed-use communities where people love to live, work, learn, heal and play.

The Lion Electric Co. manufactures innovative zero emission vehicles like this city bus, right here in Quebec

What’s more, with massive investment by government in mass transit there should be a requirement to purchase electric buses. Additionally there are now electric options for municipal fleets from garbage trucks to pickup trucks, light duty vehicles to patrol cars. With the lowest electricity rates in North America, the time is ripe for Quebec to have a major push to electrify mobility.

What will it take for you to go electric?

Thanks to Executive Producer Nick Cogger for putting on an extraordinary show. Lookin’ forward to Movin’ On 2019.

My brand new 2017 Chevy Volt Electric Vehicle

Birnbaum campaign for the new D’Arcy McGee shaping up

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D’Arcy McGee Member of the National Assembly David Birnbaum welcomed a crowd of supporters to the Gelber Conference Centre earlier this week as part of a fundraiser to kick off his re-election campaign. The location of the event east of the Decarie Boulevard signifies the changing electoral boundary in the upcoming provincial elections. The riding of D’Arcy McGee will expand beyond its traditional territory of Cote Saint-Luc, Hampstead and Snowdon West. Newly included in  the riding will be a substantial area stretching to Cote des Neiges Road bordered by Cote Saint-Catherine to the south and the CP Railway to the north of Vezina.

Speaking with his customary eloquence and grace Birnbaum said that, “there is only one party in the National Assembly that truly represents all Quebecers,” giving examples of how the CAQ and PQ have not stood up for minority communities. The CAQ has indicated its position on immigrants which runs contrary to the belief of so many of Birnbaum’s constituents and, “the PQ still has its Article 1 that speaks of Quebec without Canada.”

 

 

D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum speaks to a group of supporters at the Gelber Conference Centre

Mitch Garber was the special guest speaker.  Chairman of the Board of the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil, Mitch was recently named as Chairman of  a new organization, Invest in Canada, which is focused on streamlining and encouraging investment in Canada. Mitch is also the co-founder of Ceasar’s Entertainment,  a world-leading game development company. Closer to home, Mitch is an old school-mate of mine at Bialik High School and McGill University.

Mitch has never forgotten his roots and always speaks proudly of his community and his love of Montreal, Quebec and Canada.

“Mitch and his wife Anne-Marie are doing so much to bridge the gaps between our linguistic communities, between our Jewish community and all over Quebec, with frankness of warmth and compassion,” said Birnbaum.

Speaking about his passion for business and baseball, Garber took care not to make any partisan pronouncements, although it was clear that his support for David Birnbaum was genuine and sincere.

Guest speaker Mitch Garber throws his enthusiastic support to Birnbaum

 

My wife, Dr. Judy Hagshi and I were pleased to show our support for David. I worked closely with him in my capacity as a City Councillor. David’s keen interest in matters affecting municipal life and provincial matters are evident. If he, and his very able staff of Chris and Elizabeth, could do anything to assist his constituents, they would do so with pleasure.

What’s more I was always impressed in his interest in the larger Jewish community and its public establishments, following in the footsteps of Lawrence Bergman, his predecessor. David was front and centre in speaking up in the National Assembly on Yom Hashoah, as was Bergman.

He also went out of his way, literally, in showing great interest in the advancement of the Jewish General Hospital, where I work in public relations on behalf of the West-Central Montreal health authority. The JGH is located in Mount Royal riding, which never stopped David (or Lawrence Bergman before him) from doing whatever he could to help out on any file, along with his neighbouring MNA, Pierre Arcand. As happenstance would have it, with the redrawing of the electoral map, the JGH will in fact be in the new D’Arcy McGee boundaries come October 1.

 

Dr. Judy Hagshi and Glenn J. Nashen supporting David Birnbaum for re-election

We may not agree on every single issue but that doesn’t diminish David’s strong support of his riding and constituents. And we may not agree with all of his party’s platform but that doesn’t take away from their strong handling of the economy and their clear position on Quebec’s place in a united Canada. As David said, that’s much more than we can say about his competitors.

I look forward to challenging David on issues of importance to me such as English-language rights, pre-hospital emergency medical care, public safety and the promotion of electric vehicles and other green initiatives. I know he will always give me an ear and bring my concerns to the seat of power in Quebec City.

Best of luck to my friend, David Birnbaum.

Review: Joseph, an amazing musical entertains all ages

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From 9 to 90 years old and then some, my family was awestruck by the incredibly talented cast on stage in Cote Saint-Luc Dramatic Society’s presentation of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, now playing at the Harold Greenspon Auditorium at City Hall. Once again, director extraordinaire Anisa Cameron has assembled a team worthy of high praise.

 

As Anisa noted, “Welcome to a time not long after the Bible began! Joseph’s story is from the book of Genesis and comes to life in CSL. We are thrilled to be producing the show for its 50th anniversary. The story of Joseph and his coat of many colours has been handed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. We are so proud to carry on this tradition.”

 

“From a small neighbourhood troope, the CSL Dramatic Society has grown to become one of the most successful English language theatre companies on the island of Montreal,” said Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather.

 

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and counselor Mitch Kujavsky, co-producers of the show said, “Over the course of its first seven years, the CSL Dramatic Society has become something that our community is proud to call our own. In every sense of the saying, we are by the community and for the community, while putting an emphasis on the values of inclusiveness and accomplishment. We are thrilled to be presenting this biblical story of Joseph, a truly intergenerational production with the cast ranging in age from 8 to 80!.”

Mitchell Brownstein in the role of Jacob

Brownstein goes on to say, “The story of Joseph has a very special place in the hearts of so many of us. Whether we first learned of the story of Joseph at school or saw the show during our childhood or even later in life, the experience elevates us and leaves us wanting more. If this is your first time experiencing the show, you’re sure to be humming the tunes of Joseph for days to come.”

 

I must admit that Joseph is one of only two soundtracks that I have downloaded on Spotify and I have indeed been humming the tunes since I saw the matinée performance last Saturday.

 

It was a special occasion for my family as we celebrated my mother’s 90th birthday bringing our whole family out to the theatre. Together with my son, age 9, teenage daughters, wife, brother, sister-in law, mom at 90 and dad, days shy of 95, we all enjoyed it tremendously and had a marvelous outing.

George and Phyllis Nashen on a birthday outing to see Joseph

The story begins in the biblical land of Canaan. Joseph is the favourite son of Jacob. Joseph’s knack for reading dreams and his beautiful coat of many colours lead his jealous brothers to hatch a plan to dispose of him. But when Joseph survives the attack, he is sent on a journey beyond his wildest dreams.

 

Sam Boucher (Joseph) is absolutely sensational from beginning to end. A modern-day Donny Osmond (who played Joseph on Broadway and in Toronto), Boucher captivated the audience with his formidable voice, sparkling eyes and facial expressions. No stranger to the Cote Saint-Luc Dramatic Society, Boucher has performed in Little Shop of Horrors, the Producers, Broadway’s Back, and Hairspray. Having just completed his first year of Concordia Theatre, Sam will be leaving soon to pursue a degree at Sheridan College in musical theatre performance.

 

Sam Boucher is spectacular in the role of Joseph

 

Anisa could not have done better in selecting Boucher for the part of Joseph. His performance in Any Dream Will Do and Close Every Door is stirring and uplifting. Accompanied by a band led by the talented Musical Director Nick Burgess and three musicians who play the “part” of three of the brothers, the songs are sure to remain in your head for days to come.

 

Narrators Jeanne Motulsky and Nicole Arrage did a tremendous job of tying the entire production together in song and dance. This is Motulsky’s fifth show with the CSLDS. She is currently studying communications at Concordia University and hopes to become a producer. Her future looks bright.

Jeanne Motulsky and Nicole Arrage as the talented and spirited narrators

Arrage is with the CSLDS for a second consecutive year. She is a McGill University Schulich School of Music student in jazz voice performance. She was excellent in telling the tale, full of personality and clearly very talented.

 

Marc Ducusin does a tremendous job in the role of Pharaoh. This is his second outing with CSLDS, following last summer’s Little Shop of Horrors. He is so personable and entertaining, particularly during his solo in the genre of Elvis.

Marc Ducusin plays Pharoah in the style of Elvis

Kenny Stein gets a special shout out not only for performing four previous times with CSLDS but for his tremendous performance as Joseph’s brother, Simeon. His zany antics and comedic expressions, especially during Those Canaan Days were tremendous. Did he really eat that fly? Yuch!

Joseph’s brothers

Justin Johnson (Judah) is a professional performer who starred in Hairspray and Little Shop of Horrors. His dance moves, singing and expression in Benjamin Calypso make it obvious that the performing arts is his true calling.

 

Craig Dalley (Rueben) has a beautiful voice and is very engaging. He sang One More Angel in Heaven, cowboy style, and was captivating to watch.

 

Sean Nishmas, Sam Melnick, Jonah Zoldan, and Eli Rubineau are the other brothers and each one performed wonderfully and was entertaining and engaging. Their theatre careers look promising. The dancers, ensemble, and Jacob’s Wives added to the enjoyment of this incredible, local theatre experience.

 

A special word of appreciation goes to Mayor Mitchell Brownstein who not only played the role of Potiphar but stepped in to play the role of Joseph’s father Jacob on a moment’s notice due to unforeseen circumstances.

 

The choir was made up of some wonderful local talent many of whom have performed in the CSLDS Senior Summer Projects including Hannah Sheffren, Judy Kenigsberg and Ellen Rabin. They were backed up by the absolutely adorable children’s choir including Mackenzie, Rachel, Pailey, Naomie, Abigail, Victoria and Molly. Congrats to each of them for their stage presence and beautiful voices which added tremendously to the Joseph experience.

 

Joseph runs through June 17 and tickets are going fast. You can purchase your tickets online at ShowTix4U.com or by visiting CSLDramaticSociety.com. Prices are $32 Regular, $28 Students and Seniors and QDF Members, $28 Matinees. You won’t want to miss this one! Go Go Go Joseph!

Sam Boucher, Joseph, in his coat of many colours

Review: Golda’s Balcony, a powerful lesson in modern history by a powerful performer

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The Segal Centre for Performing Arts is wrapping up its 10th season with an extraordinary story in Golda’s Balcony. The incredible, one-woman performance by Tovah Felshuh is worthy of high praise and award. Indeed the play was nominated for a Tony Award in 2004 for best actress. With worldwide success it has become the longest running one-woman show in Broadway history.

“Viewing her journey from a modern perspective allows us to appreciate the intense scrutiny and harsh judgements she must have endured for her flaws and bold opinions in relation to her male peers,” said Lisa Rubin, Artistic and Executive Director. Golda was “an inspiring and extraordinary woman in her own right.”

Running 90 minutes without an intermission, Golda’s Balcony is a powerful lesson in modern history by a powerful woman. Feldshuh captivates the audience with non-stop tirades, banter and shtick, reminiscing about the life of Israel’s only female Prime Minister, her antics with world leaders and her own family.

Golda’s yearning for a return to Israel after 2000 years of waiting, and her intense desire for peace are woven throughout the story. She shakes the audience with her famous line, “We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”

Tovah Feldshuh’s makeup and costume miraculously transforms her into an old Jewish bubby, yet her stage presence and delivery are that of a mighty, savvy, influential and commanding world leader.

Golda’s Balcony runs through June 10 and is a must-see.

While ambulance response times are reportedly too slow, Cote Saint-Luc Emergency Medical Services first responders arrive in a flash

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While the headline in today’s Journal de Quebec screams of unacceptable delays in ambulance response time, Cote Saint-Lucers should be mighty proud of their life-saving EMS First Responder Service.

From 2005 to 2015, twenty coroner reports have focused on unacceptable response time, often because of the lack of vehicles, the Journal reports.

By comparison, we are so fortunate to have the incredible dedicated and skilled volunteers at EMS to buffer us from this sad reality in Quebec. They respond in a flash, often averaging just three minutes.

Let’s celebrate CSL EMS and its incredible volunteers, especially during this National EMS Week. When you see the white, red and blue EMS First Responders in CSL, wave, give a thumbs up or blow a kiss! If you’re in line with them at Tim Horton’s, buy them a coffee. Let our volunteers know how much they are appreciated. And please leave a comment on this posting to give encouragement to our local life-savers.

MtlRestoRap Review: Authentic Pizza & Vino at Sapori di Napoli

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“It’s like having dinner in the basement of a St. Leonard triplex. Not fancy. Nothing trendy. Just good authentic homemade Italian food.” That’s how Guido Grasso Jr. described the restaurant his mother and father founded just seven short years ago.

“After 49 years in the plumbing business my dad closed up shop and transformed the space into our pizza restaurant,” Guido Jr. recounted.

“It was a bit of a joke,” Pina Grasso, school teacher by day and helping out in the restaurant by night, said of her parent’s venture into the pizza business. “Let’s put a classic Italian restaurant in the middle of a diverse ethnic neighbourhood. We’ll be the only one in the area,” she laughed. “Things just happened from there. We sponsored a pizza-man from Italy, we opened up to a long lineup on the first night, and it’s been going well ever since,” Pina said.

The proud Grasso famiglia: Pina, Guido, Michelina, Guido Jr.

 

The whole family is involved from the parents to the kids and even a granddaughter.  “A lot of recipes are from my mother,” Pina told us. “Our customers love it, come back as regulars and many have become our friends.” she revealed. “My late brother-in-law’s last words were, ‘Run the pizzeria and I’ll protect you from above,”’ Pina confided in us. The Grasso family really does have a guardian angel.

We went on a quiet night, mid-week. By coincidence, my wife bumped into a colleague from work who wanted to taste something that reminded her of her late mother’s cuisine. She was so pleased that she has been coming back routinely since that first bite a few years ago.

 

Sapori di Napoli, authentic ambiance

The venue is unassuming and unpretentious, located across the street from duplexes in a quiet residential neighbourhood of New Bordeaux (Ahuntsic-Cartierville Borough). It is instantly comfortable, whether you’re dressed up or in jeans and a T-shirt. There are large prints of Italian landscape scenes, two large TV screens piping in Italian TV and paraphernalia from the Old Country.

It is somewhat ironic that our waiter Carlos hails from Portugal. Fluent in five languages including Italian, he could easily be mistaken as originating from Napoli himself. He has been there for six of the restaurant’s seven years.

 

Carlos preps the most delicious fresh baked bread

Carlos started us off with very fresh bread, made on-site daily using Mrs. Grasso’s recipe. The aroma of olive oil and oregano was pleasingly evident and the spicy pepperoncini oil for drizzling made for a for a great start.

Along came the arugula and endive salad (my wife’s two favourite lettuces) and a plate of lightly-breaded calamari with marinara. The salad was devoured before you could say Grazie and the calamari was soft and juicy and could have been my whole meal. But that was just the beginning.

 

Plump and tender calamari

The arancini was next: a delicately rolled rice ball stuffed with cheese served over a tangy, fresh tomato sauce. It was followed by yet another tantalizing starter, the traditional veal meatball in the same hearty tomato sauce.

 

Arancini rice ball stuffed with cheese in amazing tomato sauce

The meal could be hurried in an hour, but we preferred to dine leisurely for nearly three. We chatted with Pina and Guido Jr. who were informative as well as entertaining, the personable and experienced server Carlos, along with the senior Grassos. What’s more, the 1950s American Italian classic music from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to Tony Bennett and Perry Como was immensely enjoyable (I wish they had such a channel on Sirius XM).

Guido Jr. started his culinary venture working at the famous Joe’s Pizza in NYC while trying to make a name for himself in show biz. He moved on to L.A. where he perfected his pizza baking skills while looking for his lucky break as a comedian. After spending the bulk of the evening with him, except for the ten minutes when he did a pizza delivery, we too believed he ought to try his hand on stage with a microphone, and keep pizza flipping as Plan B.

Speaking of pizza, we asked Guido Jr. how he’d describe Sapori di Napoli’s pies. “Our pizzas are the flavours of Montreal,” he responded, admitting that his personal favourite is the Margherita. “We don’t try to recreate Italian pizzas because we’re not in Italy. We use flavours and recipes from the old country but give them a local flair.”

 

Chef Nino pulls our Margherita pizza from the oven

“Mom tells our chef what to make,” he continued. “Many customers have been coming back since the beginning. This place is like an extension of my parent’s living room,” Guido Jr. said, noting his parents live just a short walk away, where he grew up with his two sisters and brother.

“The neighbourhood has changed. It used to be French, Italian and Greek and is now a mishmash of ethnicities, but our old friends and neighbours still return for the traditional tastes.”

Out came my Veal Scallopini with artichokes and mushrooms in a cream sauce with Brandy Cognac. Delissimo! The plate was complete with perfectly grilled zucchini, broccoli, rapini, red and yellow peppers. My wife ordered the Bella Napoli pizza bianche adorned with generous, tangy mozzarella, baby tomatoes and basil. The crust was thin with crispy edges. She said it was “delicious.”

Guido Jr. said, “We’re not trying to be fashionable. There are no square dishes here. It’s like eating at your cousin’s wedding,” he chuckled, and so did we.

 

Gnocchi di Ricotta e Pomodoro e Basilico

“My parents go to the market every morning. My mom is on the phone each day with her suppliers, involved in serious conversation with the butcher, like it’s the deal of the century,” he quipped.

“We were lucky to find a chef from the next town over from my parent’s native home in Italy,” Guido Jr. told us. “Nino D’otollo learned cooking in Italy while Mike Viscosi was schooled over here.”

The pizza menu is impressive with over 20 choices. There are the ‘classics’ like All-Dressed and Pepperoni. Tomato-based pizzas are called pizze rosse, while tomato-free pizzas are called pizze bianche and both types are listed separately. The ‘rosse’ includes the Margherita with tomato sauce, mozzarella, fiore di latte, fresh basil and olive oil and the Diavola with tomato sauce, mozzarella and spicy salami. The ‘bianche’ includes the Vegetariana and the Quattro Fromaggi along with offerings of Italian sausage, bocconcini cheese, arugula, cherry tomatoes and more.

There are plenty of interesting home-made pasta dishes, the traditional meat and fish plates, salads, soup and, of course, the must-have antipasto, all running between $8-$30.

We concluded our meal with an outstanding and unique cheesecake: light and creamy with pineapple inside and coated with strawberries, ladyfingers and graham crust. It was a sweet ending to a terrific meal.

Carlos then surprised us with a hefty serving of Zeppole, an Italian style of donut with Nutella dip. I recommend sharing it with the table over espressos. After the cheesecake we could only eat a bite or two (or three) and brought the rest home.

There’s a nice wine selection to choose from and two lovely terrasses for summertime outdoor dining. Sapori di Napoli is open Tuesday to Friday from 11AM-10PMSaturday and Sunday (make reservations) from 5PM to 11PM and closed Mondays. Take out is available and Guido Jr. and his dad even do deliveries!

We were really pleased with our evening of pizza, pasta and great company with the Grasso famiglia. You will be too.

Located at 1465 Dudemaine Street (Montreal, QC H3M 1P9), Sapori di Napoli is about five minutes north of the Marché Central. Call 514-335-1465 for reservations or delivery and visit them online at saporidinapoli.ca and on Facebook.

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