It wasn’t long ago that Montrealers would grumble over the short supply of quality slice shops in the city, the kinds of spots found in New York City that dole out pizza by the extra-large wedge, for an unapologetically practical, but still delicious grab-and-go meal. Then, in 2015, came along pizza counter Adamo in St-Henri, and since then, a number of other spots, including Pizza Toni in the Mile End, Pizza Bouquet in La Petite-Patrie, and the now city-wide outposts of Slice + Soda, all operating in that by-the-slice tradition. Now, Montrealers have one more option: Brook.
Starting tomorrow, Verdunites get their own New York-style slice shop, with Brook opening on Wellington, corner 4th Avenue, as a counterpunch to the old-school haunts (Woodland, Rex) and arguably humdrum chains (Pizza Pizza, Pizza Hut) that already dot the street.
Brook is the handiwork of Toby Bouchard, a Verdun resident and the former brewmaster of La Knowlton Co., a microbrewery by Lac-Brome, which he co-founded in 2019. But now, after three years of daily commutes to the Eastern Townships — and one close call falling asleep at the wheel — he’s decided to stay closer to home and bring something to the neighbourhood he felt was lacking.
“Walking along Wellington, there’s a lot of pizza, but a lot of it is that 2 for 1 crap, with an inch of cheese. What I like about the New York style is that there’s a great ratio between the sauce and the cheese,” Bouchard says. “And it’s convenient. I can grab a slice and eat it on the way to the metro.”
To start, Brook will lean more classic, with topping options including pepperoni, margherita, and mushrooms with sun-dried tomatoes. There’s also the Soprano-alluding Gabagool, featuring fresh mozzarella, capocollo, honey, and harissa. “And down the line, there will be even more creative ones because that’s what I like most about pizza — being able to put some really cool stuff on it,” Bouchard says.
Bouchard honed his pizza-making skills while working at the pizzeria No. 900 food truck in the summer of 2018. He then bought a small-scale home pizza oven and kept experimenting before spearheading the pizza offering at La Knowlton Co.’s on-site restaurant.
But Brook isn’t just about the pizza, Bouchard says. It’ll also serve coffee supplied by Julius Café, a roaster in Bromont, and once the necessary permit comes in, wine bottles to go — perhaps to Verdun Park down the street and along the water, with a 20-inch pie in hand, Bouchard suggests.
Within a year or two, Bouchard says he plans to turn the pizzeria’s basement into a neighbourhood dive bar. But unlike Knowlton’s micro-brewed blueberry pancake stout and bright and fruity sours, its offering will be “really, really simple,” Bouchard insists. “Some Jameson, some big beers, and, yeah, I think that’s about it,” he says.
Brook Bar à Café et Pizza NYC opens tomorrow, August 18, at 4900 Rue Wellington.