In Montreal’s east end, just past the Plateau and beyond the railroad tracks that divide the city, is the up and coming Shop Angus neighbourhood. A mecca of new business mixed with a multitude of new residential development, the relatively new Rosemont neighbourhood is expanding at a breakneck pace. With the arrival new people and new business comes a need for great food and the addition of Caldo, a new Italian eatery is set to answer that need.
Shop Angus was at one time home to several shops where train cars were either built or repaired. In 2015 these shops now house a giant grocery store, a gym, an immense SAQ, a bakery and a couple restaurants. The latest of these restaurants to open is Caldo. Set back a few feet from Molson street, adjacent to a newly developed park that will no doubt be very busy next year, the restaurant’s name means warm in Italian and the atmosphere definitely lives up to its name.
Many of the older structures in Shop Angus are heritage buildings which means having to work within certain confines of development. Caldo’s warmth stems from the use of natural materials like brick, concrete, marble and wood and mixed in with that, the restaurant uses hammered metals in its lighting, a thoughtful wink at what the space may have looked like in its former life. We were seated at the bar during our visit and as usual, it was the best point of view in the restaurant.
The original structure remains completely intact and you can feel the history that once chugged through and around the brick walls. The owners have done a wonderful job of creating a well defined and welcoming space to receive their guests. During the summer season the restaurant will be able to stretch its legs onto the new stone pathway that reaches all the way out to the street.
Out of the gate, we started our meal off with a couple of on-tap beers before moving onto our food. We started with grilled octopus and burrata mozzarella. The octopus was perfectly cooked and the burrata was one of the best (and most unique) I’ve ever tried. It was covered in panko and fried for a few seconds, giving it a warm crust. Caldo is co-owned by the guys behind M sur Masson and serving their unique spin on familiar dishes is their trademark.
The menu feels largely familiar with pizza, pasta and mains like tartare, risotto and osso bucco filling out the food choices. The pizza menu is their most diverse with 13 different pizzas to try. There are the usual suspects like margarita, pepperoni and grilled chicken but they also aim to tantalize with inventive choices like a soupe a l’onion pizza, a smoked meat pizza and more. We tried their Italian sausage pizza and although I was expecting something a little spicier, the fresh ingredients and crisp crust were a pretty good balance. We also tried their beef tartare and while the meat was deliciously fresh, the tartare’s seasoning lacked a little oomph. I recommend that if you like your tartare spicy, make sure you let your waiter know.
During our visit we were served by the owner who took time out of his busy schedule to chat with us about the restaurant. His passion for the restaurant business in Montreal is palpable and he feels that being present and being tough but being fair is the key to being successful in Montreal’s vast food scene. He travelled around the restaurant, helping out in the kitchen, on the floor and at the bar as needed. I observed the service around the restaurant, which was constantly busy while we were there. With the exception of one waiter who was visibly unhappy and unprofessional while walking away from his tables, the service was spectacular. The bar staff was quick and friendly and the other waiters seemed cohesive and quite friendly.
Our first experience at Caldo was a promising one and the potential is there for a great restaurant. While ambiance and good service can impact a person’s experience in a restaurant, its the food that can make or break the relationship. Caldo is hitting some of the right notes on their menu and they should continue to push the boundaries of what an Italian eatery can be. There are a lot of Italian restaurants in Montreal and wanting to be the pinnacle amongst your peers is paramount. They are off to a good start and with time they can be an important contributor to the restaurant scene in Shop Angus.
Image credit: David Major-Lapierre
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