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The crust is puffy and golden around the edges, bubbled in spots, with a soft interior moistened by a layer of lightly seasoned tomato sauce. Atop that, a stack of paper-thin pepperoni slices, followed by a scattering of mushrooms and green pepper. And then the crowning glory: a blanket of stretchy melted cheese, lightly browned.

 

That’s an old-school Montreal pizza. All-dressed, to go, in small, medium, large or extra-large (maybe even jumbo), with an order of fries on the side and a dough ball in the middle.

 

Much is made of the wood-oven pizzas of Naples with their delicate crusts and pedigree toppings of mozzarella di bufala and San Marzano tomatoes. New Yorkers boast about their crispy, charred brick-oven pizzas with the trimmings on top; Chicago has its deep-dish pies.

 

What hits the spot in Montreal is an all-dressed pizza with a big and saucy personality. The ingredients list is sacrosanct, and even the order in which the toppings appear is strictly prescribed. Whether you’re ordering in Ville Émard, N.D.G. or Pointe aux Trembles, all-dressed in this city is code for pepperoni, green peppers, mushrooms and cheese. Toppings sliced, not diced. Except in rare cases, cheese on top (so it browns without impediment, and keeps the underlayers soft and moist.) Anything else, and it’s not an all-dressed. Never onions or red or yellow peppers. Ditto for meatballs, olives, capicollo and prosciutto. Heaven forbid broccoli.

 

About the crust: it’s not thin or deep-dish, but a hybrid that is crisp and sturdy enough on the bottom to support the generous trimmings, yet so soft along the rim that you’re tempted to butter it like fresh bread (which, in fact, a lot of Montreal pizza-eaters do).

 

Handmade from scratch, the traditional Montreal pizza was, not so long ago, in danger of extinction. The old generation of pizzaioli (pizza makers) who’d arrived from Italy and opened the city’s first wave of pizzerias in the 1950s and ’60s was beginning to retire. Chains offered two-for-one specials. The 99-cent slice took over the food court. Suddenly, thin crust was healthier, and artichokes, feta and sun-dried tomatoes were trendy.

 

“There aren’t a lot of people making their own dough and sauce anymore,” lamented pizza lover Sandro Lisi, author of the popular Montreal food blog The Hungry Italian. “What most people eat these days is a cheap imitation of the real thing – conveyor-belt pizza made with frozen dough and pre-made sauce and cheap, greasy ingredients.

 

Still, traditional Montreal pizza has endured in a smattering of old-fashioned family-run restaurants around the city, many of them now manned by the pizzaioli’s children and grandchildren or new Greek owners. Every weekend, lines form around the block outside Little Italy’s Pizzeria Napoletana, which is widely believed to be the oldest pizzeria in Montreal (it opened in 1948).

 

The old-fashioned all-dressed is comfort food to the generations of Montrealers who grew up phoning for pizza on Saturday nights, or squeezing into a vinyl-clad banquette with friends after the school dance for a JAD (jumbo all-dressed) and a Coke.

 

The backdrop to these childhood memories is likely one of these, depending on where you lived:

 

 

* Napoletana;

 

* Elio’s on Bellechasse;

 

* D’Agostino’s in Rivière des Prairies;

 

* Di Menna in St. Léonard;

 

* Pendeli’s in Côte St. Luc;

 

* Centrale in LaSalle;

 

* Woodland in Verdun;

 

* Como in Laprairie;

 

* Miss Italia in St. Lambert.

 

“Back in the day, you’d go to Elio’s for a traditional Montreal pie with gooey, rubbery cheese, and, I swear to God, an inch of pepperoni,” Lisi said. “It was awesome.”

 

At 78, Elio De Lauri is still in the kitchen at Elio’s most days, along with his daughters Anna Maria and Lucia and his son Franco. He opened in 1964, a few years after arriving from Italy. He was 20 years old, working for a Neapolitan baker on Park Ave. who imported frozen semi-cooked pizza crusts from New York’s burgeoning Little Italy. De Lauri started experimenting with his own dough, and the rest is history: Elio’s has been an institution among Montreal pizza lovers ever since, now selling upwards of 350 a day on weekends.

 

What’s the key to his success?

 

“There’s no big secret,” De Lauri says in a pastiche of English, French and Italian. “It’s very simple: We do everything from scratch every day.”

 

Over at D’Agostino’s in Rivière des Prairies, Sicilian-born Agostino Lumia, who has been perfecting his Montreal-style pizza for nearly four decades, says it takes love and patience and fresh ingredients to make great pizza. And he thinks the water in Montreal has something to do with it, too. He’s tried his recipe in New Jersey and Miami but could never get the same soft and puffy results he gets here.

 

There have been recent glimmerings of an old-school pizza renaissance in Montreal.

 

Amelios sur Bernard opened a few months ago, in Outremont, with Leah Scodras at the oven, making the same style of “not-too-thin-not-too-thick” pizza as the original Amelio’s, which her father, Chris, opened in the McGill ghetto 26 years ago. The second location is swish, with a cobblestone courtyard out front and original art on the walls inside, but Scodras still kneads her dough by hand every day and lets it rise for five hours, like her father did, and cooks her own tomato sauce and grates her own cheese. She got creative and added “gourmet” pizzas to the menu, such as the BBQ chicken pizza with chicken, barbecue sauce and caramelized onions. But she didn’t mess with the classics, the all-dressed and vegetarian pizzas that old-timers remember from the McGill ghetto.

 

Across the bridge in Laprairie, on the South Shore, the founder of Como Pizzeria is 83 years old and retired. But Francesco Porco’s all-dressed pizzas live on in the hands of his sons Robby and Joseph and his grandsons Dominic and Paolo. The beautifully blistered crusts are just as soft and flaky as ever. (The regulars are known to save them for last, to smear with butter as if they were croissants.)

 

The teeny pizzeria Porco opened in the late ’60s has morphed into a two-restaurant business, with locations in La Prairie and Delson, more than 400 seats in all, and 34 delivery cars on the road most Saturday nights.

 

Robert Porco says he doesn’t know how long the old-style pizzerias will survive. It’s a gruelling business. Newcomers incur exorbitant expenses buying ovens, fridges and furniture. There’s fierce competition from the chains.

 

“My dad and uncle started with nothing. But today you need a fortune to open a business,” he said. “And nobody wants to put in the kind of hours the early generation did.

 

“My dad had two days off a year. He worked from 2 in the afternoon until 3 or 4 in the morning until he was 65 years old.”

 

Over in Griffintown, old-school Montreal pizza is finding new life in unexpected digs. Chef Ryan Dixon earned his stripes working in some of the city’s top kitchens before opening his restaurant, Jane, on Notre Dame St. In the seven months since Jane has been open, it has garnered rave reviews, and Dixon is seen as a rising star. But he’s still a LaSalle boy at heart, one who grew up eating takeout pizza from Papa’s, Centrale Pizzeria and Dany’s.

 

Inspired by the pillowy crusts of his childhood, he set about recreating them – albeit with a contemporary twist. Dixon’s revival crusts are puffy and golden, and the toppings generous, immediately familiar to old-school devotees, even if they have gone upscale with ingredients such as truffle oil and porcini mushrooms.

 

“I remember pizza crusts that weren’t an even ring. They bubbled up and the cheese browned on top of the air pockets so that it was crunchy on the outside and doughy on the inside. That was before McDonald’s came around and made pizza fast and uniform, every single slice the same,” said Dixon, whose latest experiment in pizza nostalgia involves finding just the right pepperoni to slice lengthwise the way Pendeli’s in N.D.G does.

 

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Montreal+school+pizza/4423732/story.html#ixzz1GSJTeJ7g

 

There is also a video with the link :)

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The ingredients list is sacrosanct, and even the order in which the toppings appear is strictly prescribed. Whether you’re ordering in Ville Émard, N.D.G. or Pointe aux Trembles, all-dressed in this city is code for pepperoni, green peppers, mushrooms and cheese.

 

When my parents moved to Edmonton in the 1980's, they ordered a pizza and said of course "all dressed", being used to Montreal, they were surprised to get something loaded up with any kind of topping imaginable, like 200 different toppings, more toppings than bread :rotfl:

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I get Miss Italia sometimes. (although its not in St. Lambert anymore, its in Greenfield Park now). My only complaint is that it can sometimes be really greasy.

 

En même temps, si on mange de la restauration-rapide, on ne le fait pas parce que c'est bon pour la santé. :)

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