After clicking through a 19-slide photo gallery on Staten Island pizza for the third time in 24 hours, I knew I couldn’t wait until my next trip to New York to indulge in the ‘za. I would either have to suck it up and down one of Montreal’s lackluster slices or hope for a miracle. Luckily, a promising-looking pizzeria had opened just around the corner from my apartment last week. There I sought salvation.
Pizzeria Moteur (5100 Hutchison) mercifully put Pizzaiolle out of its misery at the Hutchison/Laurier location. In addition to pizza, it specializes in Quebec microbrews and also features a small menu of shareable places. The space itself has been given a trendy update and has the potential to turn that sleepy corner of Outremont into more of a destination. But, really, it’s the pizza that matters.
A few things you should know: This is the fancy stuff. Your by-the-slice dream will have to remain a dream deferred. The cheapest pie is $12, and the most expensive is $17. Think Neapolitan-style, similar to but more subdued (and a bit less soggy) than Magpie’s offerings. I ordered the Rouge (tomato sauce, St-Guillaume cheese and basil) and the Champignon (Béchamel, Parmesan, wild mushrooms) to go and watched from the upper level as the pizzaiolo fished pies out of the oven. I was afraid to hope after so many disappointing experiences, but these looked good. They really did. And then I was handed a small container of fresh basil leaves packed separately from my pies. That, and a furtive glance inside my cardboard takeout carrier, confirmed that I had a winner.
Moteur makes much better use of its wood-fired oven than Pizzaiole ever did. The pizzas were beautifully charred, just crisp enough at the bottom and with a flaky crust and springy interior. A lot of thought was clearly gone into the toppings, and they were prepared with quality ingredients and a lot of restraint. I’m looking forward to trying the smoked herring pizza and another featuring artichoke purée, Pecorino and arugula.
These pies may not be enough to quell the despair that comes from looking at pizza in other cities, but you should probably avoid clicking on those links anyway. We still may not be able to get a cheap slice that tastes remotely like the way pizza is supposed to taste, but at least with places like Magpie, Bevo and, now, Moteur, we’re not doing so bad with the high-end stuff. It’s a step in the right direction.