On paper, Moretti isn’t incredibly appealing. The Griffintown pizzeria sits on a stretch of Wellington dotted with fresh condo towers, and facing a construction site that will soon obscure a great view of the iconic Farine Five Roses sign. The place shares its name with a well-known Italian beer, a bit of a crass move, perhaps. Moretti has also taken a lot of heat online from TripAdvisor haters for poor service and supperclub vibes, but luckily this was far from my experience when I stopped in for lunch recently.
You can imagine how lighting, loud music and boisterous crowds could flip the atmosphere, but lunch at Moretti is pretty chill. On a Thursday, daylight poured into the dining room, with its exposed brick, concrete beams and sleek marble bar with herringbone wood backsplash, and the tables and central banquette were occupied by business-lunch types and what might’ve been a few noon-hour dates. Low on new-fangled cocktails, the bar offered a handful of Italian (or Italian-sounding) standards like negronis and bellinis — we opted for the latter along with a glass of red wine, which was a bit steeply priced at $14 for a pretty paltry quantity. That said, the quality of the syrah as well as the cocktail (which was a few dollars cheaper) made up for the price.
Selling itself as “authentic Italian,” Moretti chefs Michel Paris Jr. and Steve Groves have something to live up to, especially in the pizza department. My lunch companion opted for the Moretti pizza ($24) with black tiger shrimps, San Marzano pomodoro sauce, fontina, fior di latte and njuda (a spicy sausage spread, the secret ingredient, really), while I went the other route and ordered not the mac and cheese (though that was tempting — even the TripAdvisor lot raved about it) but the other decadent pasta dish, the spaghetti del nero di seppia ($28), aka squid ink pasta with shrimps, calamari, mussels and “fresh clams” (so the other ingredients aren’t fresh?). As a pescetarian, these seafood pastas are a weakness of mine, and they’re a decent barometer of a restaurant’s finesse — with so much to balance, the dish is an easy one to mess up. I’m happy to report that Moretti got it right, from the portions and ratio of ingredients to the quality of each sea critter — fresh or not. The pizza was a hit, too, another effective balancing act of cheese, sauce, shrimp, greens and that spicy spread.
A promising start. Now we’ve gotta go back for that mac ‘n’ cheese. I’ll just skip the wine next time. ■