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Giovanni Apollo Is Quebec City's Problem Now

Bombastic chef takes his act to the capital.

This is Giovanni Apollo's new restaurant
This is Giovanni Apollo's new restaurant

With his Montreal restaurant empire in shambles, Giovanni Apollo has decamped for Quebec City. The chef, and now television personality, opened PastApollo, a fast food franchise pasta concept, in the borough of Charlesbourg over the weekend. Apollo's partner in Société de Franchises Restaurant PastApollo Inc., and, presumably, the money behind the project, is Myriane Gagnon. Gagnon also owns a Thaïzone franchise in Charlesbourg and PastApollo, it seems, hopes to ape the Groupe MTY chain.

In a recent interview with Le Journal de Québec, Apollo spoke about his love for Quebec City. "Quebec is the city that welcomed me when I came to Canada. I love the intimacy of the city and, not to offend Denis Coderre, but Montreal is less well made ​​for restaurant management." The Apollo dans l'frigo host says that PastApollo's $15 and under menu, available for takeout and delivery, showcases his mother's recipes. "I picked super high quality pasta made ​​from 100% durum wheat, real ripened tomatoes rooms, no preservatives." Do a cursory scan of the menu (see below) and it serves up the likes of penne primavera, penne arrabiata, meatballs with rosé sauce, and spag bolognese. Extra parmesan or pesto costs $2.50.

This excerpt from a 2011 two-star Gazette review by Lesley Chesterman of Apollo's former flagship Montreal restaurant is a worthwhile trip down memory lane. All of Apollo's Montreal restaurants have sinced closed.

This is my fifth review of an Apollo restaurant, and I remember them all so well. His first, Tentation, opened in 2001, and was his best. Located on St. Laurent Blvd. near Jean Talon St., Tentation was a fancy restaurant in a very plain locale. The food was high-end French and quite gorgeous. The kitchen staff, including Club Le 357C chef Frédéric St-Aubin and Raza chef-owner Mario Navarrete, was talented. The floor staff, including Pullman sommelier extraordinaire Véronique Dalle, was also fantastic. Tentation wasn’t perfect, but it certainly enriched the Montreal fine-dining scene. Apollo gained a following. The restaurant seemed popular, but was short-lived.

Apollo’s next venture, the Lychee Supper Club in 2003, never really took off. The food was fussy and expensive, which can work in a small space but seemed out of place in this expansive locale. That soon closed, too.

Apollo’s third mission, Restaurant Apollo et Traiteur in 2006, was (and remains) a bring-your-own-wine restaurant in the Little Italy section of the Main. Here, themed plates offer several variations conceived around an ingredient, be it foie gras, beet, duck or any foodstuff that inspired. As great as that idea sounds, the execution (tough meats, dull sauces) was flawed when I visited.

His fourth restaurant is Apollo Bistro, where the menu offers three columns from which customers choose their meat, an accompaniment and a sauce, as well as a soup or salad to begin. I recall a nice ostrich burger and some fine kangaroo meat, a good waiter and impressive desserts. Customers are invited into a wine vault to choose their own bottle. We’re far from Tentation territory, but the bistro is worth recommending.

All this information might seem like a long lead-up to this review, but it is essential. Apollo’s latest venture is a mix of them all.

PastApollo's menu

PastApollo's menu