Whether you need a coffee fix or fixings for supper, you can trust the Marcone brothers, the owners of the Italian Pantry and the café next door
Sitting at one of a few tiny tables on the quiet end of Monkland, looking across the street at Toilettage Snip Doggy Dog, doesn’t exactly feel like Italy. But the flavours of my sandwich – prosciutto cotto, rosemary-tinged mayo, spinach on moist semolina flour bread – puts me closer to Rome than NDG.
I was relaxing outside the Famiglia Marcone Torrefaction, the café and roaster opened up by Steve and Rino Marcone, the brothers who own the Italian Pantry (Le Garde-manger italien) next door. Neighbourhood cannoli addicts have been waiting with bated breath. Finally, a place to sit down with a decent espresso, buy coffee beans or eat a light meal. And then when you want fixings for supper, pop next door to the Pantry.
After my sandwich, I lingered over a macchiato (an espresso with just a bit of milk and froth) and enjoyed a sturdily constructed Genovese, a half-moon turnover filled with Nutella.
Next to me, an older man had tossed his fine caramel suede bomber over the ironwork chair, while his wife and son enjoyed sweets. The jacket’s label read "Alta moda Firenze, prodotto in Italia." After he left, a white-haired woman biked up to sit and enjoy a latte in a glass, then ceded her table to two mums wrangling baby carriages, looking for pizza.
At the café, Rino discussed different beans and showed me the cannoli, biscotti, cornetti (soft croissants). Beautiful boxes of nougat, cookies and brightly coloured fruit jellies lined the shelves on the walls.
Pantry-side, Steve unobtrusively peppered me with questions. He’s aware that not everyone knows how to properly cook with Italian ingredients, and doesn’t want anyone to feel intimidated by the range of pastas, tinned tuna or tomatoes.
Steve led me through the pestos, explained the vagaries of truffle products (he worked closely with the pungent fungus for a year in Italy) and expounded on the risotto rices. For some risottos, you’d best use the beautifully separating Acquerello carnaroli rice, aged for a year before being sealed in a tin. But Steve will help you match the rice to the recipe, avoiding an erroneous buy. These guys could explain film to Fellini.
A trim woman dropped by to ask of cheeses, settling on a buffalo mozzarella to serve with tomatoes and fresh basil. Inspired, I bought some and later loved its mild salty funk, smooth and a bit runny in the middle. I also came home with arancini, a.k.a. rice balls (the meat-and-pea one was my favourite), and a fully loaded slab of pizza for my appreciative small set.
Famiglia Marcone Torrefaction and the Italian Pantry
6128 Monkland, 6132 Monkland; 514-886-6033
Lunch, coffee, pastry: $10.95