Out with the 19th century-style British pub, and in with the upbeat Italian restaurant and bar inspired by Sophia Loren: That’s Bella, the newest spot to serve pasta and pizza in Old Montreal.
The 50-seat restaurant takes over the address of Parliament Pub & Parlour, which, according to owner Kevin Demers (also of bars El Pequeño and The Coldroom), couldn’t keep up with the conditions the pandemic created.
For Bella, Demers is partnering with long-time friend and neighbour Beniamino Bello, a longstanding Montreal restaurateur whose eponymous Bello Deli has been next door since 2012. Bello’s daughter Sabrina, armed with 15 years of experience in the industry, is its manager.
“It’s a sit-down Italian restaurant styled after the 1950s, but it combines both of our worlds: Beniamino’s Italian culture with the cocktail culture of The Coldroom,” Demers says.
While originally conceived as an off-shoot of the deli, Demers says he hopes Bella will stand on its own as a homier, less expensive counterpart to nearby spots like Da Emma, Mangiafoco, Graziella, and even the newly arrived Stellina.
In the kitchen, it’s Beniamino’s family cooking under the guidance of his brother-in-law Giuseppe Giordano, hailing from Lupara in the Molise region of Italy — with pasta-making skills in tow. Fresh capellini and parpadelle currently take up the lion’s share of the mains, but they’re served alongside antipasti such as burrata and fried calamari, proteins like lemon veal and mussels in tomato sauce, a pair of pizzas, and a light dessert and coffee menu.
As for the drinks? The taps that once poured Parliament’s beer are now serving cocktails — something Demers says is a first for the city. He points to a range of spritzes and a negroni at the ready, and a foamy nitro espresso martini dispensed from a Guinness tap.
“Don’t think you’ll be waiting on your cocktails,” says Demers. “We push a lever, and we’re done.”
Even with those à la minute options, Demers says Bella will still have a comprehensive cocktail list, also including a caffè corretto and bellini, taking up almost as much space on the menu as food and wine. “Bella is the kind of bar where we can educate people on where the drinks come from, how they’re meant to be drunk, their various styles — we’ve mastered those recipes.”
As for wine, the lists are curated by Jon Cercone, partner and sommelier of Westmount’s Taverne Sur le Square. His curation has resulted in a selection that’s mostly Italian, but spiked with French, Spanish, and the odd American options as well.
Bella, Demers says, is only the beginning: The restaurant and bar can be thought of as a sneak peek into what’s to come at Bar Bello, an upcoming Italian aperitivo bar in Little Italy.
Bella is open for dinner from Wednesday to Sunday at 351 Place d’Youville.