It’s only February, but here’s one of the year’s big openings: Elena, the casual pizza-and-more restaurant from two Nora Gray co-owners is open as of Thursday night (February 1).
As reported in December, it comes from Nora Gray chef/co-owner Emma Cardarelli, co-owner Ryan Gray, with restaurant man about town Marley Sniatowsky joining as a principal.
Elena brings 65 seats to Notre-Dame West near St-Rémi, in a stylish dining room that goes its own way, instead of following trends — think smooth black tabletops and a curved orange banquette.
“It’s Italian modern, lots of colours, lots of textures, really fun, and pretty slick actually,” Gray tells Eater.
While the design is sharp, food and wine are the big draws — there will be more of Cardarelli’s food to go around, as she takes on the executive chef role, with Nora Gray and Hvor alumna Janice Tiefenbach as chef de cuisine. Gray speaks enthusiastically about the menu, with wood-fired pizzas that opt for simplicity (including margherita, bianco, and mushroom pies), using flour from Moulin des Cèdres.
“We’re working with a good friend of ours who is a pizza and fermentation bread fanatic [Jake Bagshaw]...him and Emma came up with the recipe. It’s naturally leavened dough, it’s alive, like a levain.”
“There’s little bit of spelt and whole wheat in the dough, really tasty and elastic, easily digestible, you can eat a lot of it and not feel bad, then it’s all in our wood-fired oven that we had [custom] built.”
The wood-fired oven will be used for more than just pizza — the menu features a few dishes that will be roasted in there, including a half-rabbit and herb/lemon-stuffed bream. While pizza is a key plank at Elena, wise diners would also consider Cardarelli’s small selection of pasta, alongside a few salads and antipasti on a menu geared towards sharing.
With the descriptor “Pizza, Coffee, Wine”, it’s little surprise that Elena’s cellar is also a strength, with Gray taking charge and putting together a mostly (but not exclusively) Italian selection.
“It’s really fun, really top notch natural producers that we’ve worked with for years...it’s natural wine, nothing super dogmatic, just wines with a real sense of place and made with very minimal intervention.”
As for the coffee part of Elena, that’s on the way in the spring — a café named P.S. will be opening in the building’s lower level, with a separate entrance. Take-out options are also in the works for around the same time.
So why now? Gray says he feels that Nora Gray is in a strong place where he and Cardarelli can take a little more of a hands-off approach, freeing them up for something wood-fired, a passion for Cardarelli.
STATUS — Elena is open at 5090 Notre-Dame West from 5 p.m., seven nights a week, reservations are accepted.
- Elena [Official]
- Nora Gray Co-Owners Plot Casual Pizzeria For St-Henri [EMTL]