Café Milano is full of character - and characters
With the rise and demise of The Sopranos, a sensitivity to Italian arche- and stereotypes has entered the mainstream like rarely before. This leaves me feeling self-conscious when writing about old Italian men sipping milky coffee from thick stubby glasses on a terrasse, chatting in gravelly voices. But there you go. I didn’t put them there; I’m just reporting the facts. See them for yourself at Café Milano, on a suburban street in Saint-Leonard.
This legendary café offers sandwiches, salads, iced coffee and some pastries. Go on in, weave your way through a phalanx of black-teed staff to order at the cash. Inside there are plenty of seats, plus photos of the neighbourhood’s sports teams and paintings of Italian landmarks and women. I like the one of a mother lounging on a couch, with two children looking upon her adoringly, a nod to Madonna worship. Though deep down, I suspect she’s just being harassed by her spawn.
As the weather was fine, I hightailed it back outside and sat near the end of the terrasse with the old guys. On the other side, younger folk in mirrored aviator glasses and tank tops showed off their nice tans. I admired the convertible Mustangs, Lexi and Beemers parked in front.
The sandwiches and salads are the expected variants of chicken, steak, tuna, veal cutlet, etc. My curiosity got the better of me. Sausage belongs in a sandwich, sure, but seeing as I keened for the Milano Special sandwich I decided to have it in a salad. "It’s good if you like sausage," I was told with a shrug.
A bowl came densely packed with iceberg, balsamic dressing, onion, tomato and chunks of warm seasoned pork. The combination was a bit odd (tuna might make for a better salad component), but I liked the salty meat and bet it’d be great in a sandwich.
I tackled my Milano Special. The long crusty bun (and this was the half size) came stuffed with shredded steak, spicy eggplant and peppers, caramelized onions, lettuce shreds and tomato. A masterpiece from which I was only momentarily distracted by the hot pink boxers peeking above the jeans waistband on a well-tanned guy passing by. He sported nice sunglasses and white tee too, then crossed the street, leaving me to enjoy my meal in peace. I topped off my celebration of Café Milano’s bella vita with a fine espresso.
5196 Jarry St. East, 514-328-0561
Light lunch for two: $15-$22