The pros behind Old Montreal Italian fine dining staple Graziella have opened a new, multipurpose project called Mercato Comunale. For now, the space houses a coffee shop and grocery section, with a focus on local ingredients and Italian flavours, but it’ll soon bring a wine bar and pinseria (serving a Roman-style relative to the pizza) into the fold.
Taking over the ground floor of a William Street condo tower in Cité du Multimédia, the area wedged between Old Montreal and Griffintown, Mercato Comunale co-owner Graziella Battista tells Eater the goal is to become a community hub that residents and workers in the neighbourhood can rely on for its versatile, all-day offering.
In the morning, a stop at Mercato Comunale could mean a quick espresso and cornetto piped with pistachio cream, but by lunch, its counter will be filled with focaccia, pizza (Roman-style al taglio and alla pala), arancini, and more. It has grab-and-go fridges and freezers stocked with gnocchi, lasagna, and organic Quebec cheeses, and shelves lined with Italian wines, olive oils, and jarred preserves.
“You’ll definitely find a lot of jams because, I have to say, that while we were waiting for the construction of this project to be done, we tried to keep busy by producing them here at Graziella,” Battista says, with a laugh.
Pierre Jullien and Alexandre Gagnon — both also from Graziella — join Battista as owners in the venture, which swung open its doors on March 8, after three years under development.
In a few weeks, Mercato Comunale will also include a 25-seat pinseria — “not a pizzeria,” Battista notes. Pinsa is an Ancient Roman hand-pressed flatbread characterized by its high water content and long fermentation time, not often seen in Montreal. The result is a light, airy, usually oblong base onto which traditional pizza toppings are layered. “I wanted to offer something that goes back in history ... and not many people really know much about pinsa here,” Battista says.
While Roman-style al taglio pizza has gained plenty of recent traction in the city (and Mercato Comunale will be serving it, too), searches for pinsa come up comparatively short. That said, in 2020, local food blog Le Cuisinomane reported that pinsa was being served at Le Cathcart food hall stall Pizza Del Fornaio.
Next up for the Mercato Comunale space will be a wine bar outfitted with a large oval counter that seats 28. It’ll launch by summertime, when diners will likely also enjoy spilling onto its outdoor terrasse.
“Hopefully by this summer, we’re going to see the city alive again,” Battista says. “We’re just happy that we’ll be participating in bringing that feeling back.”
Mercato Comunale is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. at 701 William Street.