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Tapeo
Photograph: Stephanie Foden

The 23 best Villeray restaurants for casual eats and fine dining

The best Villeray restaurant feature Italian pasta masters, awesome brunch services, succulent Portuguese chicken and more

JP Karwacki
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JP Karwacki
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If you take stock of all the time-honored and famed names in the area, and add up all of the new and noteworthy players that have been showing up lately, the best Villeray restaurants create as astoundingly mighty crew. It's part of the reason it was named one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world in 2021: It's home to some of the best Italian restaurants in Montreal and the birthplace of some of the best places for Portuguese chicken in Montreal, and once you top that with how you'll find some of the best cheap eats in Montreal and bakeries in Monteal here too? This relatively smaller third of the Villeray—Saint-Michel—Parc-Extension trifecta is carrying the torch gastronomically. Bring your appetite and prepare to be wowed at every turn.

RECOMMENDED: Full neighbourhood guide to Villeray

These are the best Villeray restaurants:

Feels like it took Maxime Landry and chef Luca Cianciulli next to no time from their opening in December 2018 to turn this 'little brat' of an Italian restaurant into one of the most low-key-yet-highly-lauded places to bite down on a small and sturdy trattoria menu from Cianciulli while diving into Landry's curated wines and cocktails. Moccione is keeping things simple and traditional while doing away with the old(er) school trappings of red-and-white checkered tablecloths and tavern candle holders, opting instead for a brightly-lit parlour setting that, at full capacity, you'll be hard-pressed to grab a table at due to straight-up popularity. 

Often looked to as the best place for drawn-out dining sessions in Villeray, Tapeo's specialization in Spanish tapas with sidebar innovations and near-daily specials from the chefs on staff make this equal parts a regular haunt for neighbours and a destinations for Montrealers 'abroad' elsewhere in the city. Principals Sébastien Muniz and Victor Afonso, and the lauded chef Marie-Fleur St-Pierre, have only enjoyed greater and greater noteriety as the years tred onward from their opening year of 2004—and that's saying a lot, as locals' preferences seem to change with the seasons these days.

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A 'child' of Restaurant Alep that opened in 1976, Le Petit Alep was created to be the more bohemian offering by offerings no less quality but for a bit cheaper than its predecessor. Its continuation of menus specializing in Syrian and Armenian cuisine comes from Aleppo-native Georges Frangié and the Armenian Montrealer Jacqueline Frangié. Despie the size of the 'petit' place, it sports massive wine lists and sharing plate menus that do Syrian dishes like fattouche, shinklish and fatayer with Aleppo-sourced ingredients and mixes it with Armenian offerings like basterma and sausages.

Niçoise cuisine to the front: Those who know Paloma from the father-daughter team Armand and Rosalie Forcherio know it well, and they know that this is among the city's best bets to get a taste for the art of living on the Cote d’Azur, from nibbling on socca and tapenade down to a main plate of immaculate fish. Armand's rapport with southern French cuisine is on full display here with proper Italian touches, so that means this is an ideal place for both specialties, and dishes of vegetables, seafood, and pasta that blend French and Italian senitments together harmoniously.

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Built out of a refurbished dépanneur, owner Matthew Shefler and chef Vincent Lévesque-Lepage's new operation is unassuming in its appearance, but it contains some amazing skills that stole a lot of hearts when it first opened in 2020. Despite a pandemic—a pandemic, you guys—Knuckles was able to sling Shefler's grandmother's recipe for panzerotti alongside stellar menus of cheap but fantastically delicious dishes of chanterelle spaghetti and blueberry tartelette until they were selling out on the regular. Clearly, a spot like this was just what the doctor ordered for city in need of gustatory comfort.

Montreal's best BYOB restaurants would be incomplete without Tandem, as it's often regarded a star player on the scene whose tables are regularly high in demand. The shifting menus of French specialities and inspirations, plus a couple of Italian delicacies, each hit stupendously well. Better yet, were you to walk in with a wine you know nothing of? Tell the server and they'll piece together a full evening for you that will compliment your selection. Chef and owner Pascal Turgeon is an unsung gem of a player in the city, and you'd be wise to eat here at least once.

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While charming as a neighbourhood bistro can be, the power of the flavours at this fresh Villeray restaurant commands as much presence as the mountain it's named after. Combining the Spanish and Sardinian backgrounds of its owners Claudia Fancello and Sergio Conde, Etna serves the likes of Quebec meats, cheeses, and breads to accompany meals of seafood like squid and octopus, fresh pastas, albóndigas, and caponata to enjoy with natural wines and classic aperitifs. The pandemic was rough of them, but also spurred their own fresh pasta counter/gourmet food store ETNA — pastificio a mere ten minutes walking away, just in case you love the products they're working with.

Yes, it's associated with Tapeo through owners and its chefs. Yes, it's cooking up food that takes most of its cues from Spanish cuisine. But is it some of kind of mini-Tapeo, doing a repackaged version of their tapas-forward menu? Nope: Victor Afonso, Sébastien Muniz, chef Marie-Fleur St-Pierre and Pedro Oliveira's operations here easily stand on their own two feet. Serving more Spanish-inspired dishes, this place opts for classic menus of apps, mains, and desserts alongside one of the better brunches available in the city (with churros alone being a solid reason to visit). Our recommendation's to visit both and debate about the best of the two.

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Jorge Vergara's sandwich counter and grocery store specializing in Colombian cuisine with Southern sentiments is, without a doubt, the greatest place in the neighbourhood to grab a sandwich. If the brisket sando pictured here isn't enough to convince, then the pulled beef arepas and mac and cheese will put you in your place. This is your one-stop-shop for getting all the picnicking equipment you need for the summer, and all the comforting eats you'll need to keep you company in the winter. 

First came Romados, who then trained Ma Poule Mouillée, and now Cantine Emilia carries the torch. Thing is, Cantine Emilia is compartively prolific in Montreal with multiple spots to choose from, but the Villeray outpost is where it all started. It sets itself apart by getting a little more Insta-friendly here, but that's far from a bad thing. While classics like Portuguese chicken and chorizo poutines get served up, so too do Portuguese hot dogs, meaty grilled cheese sandwiches, and natas that get topped with Reese's Pieces or a drizzling of Nutella. Bouffe.

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When it coms to Peruvian cuisine, there are several dishes that are must-eats for anyone who's either trying it out for the first time or putting a spot to the test: Ceviches, papa a la huancaína, stuffed avocado, and seafood cooked just about any way you can think of. Thing is, Sol y Mar does it all, and Sol y Mar does it exceedingly well. Peruvian cuisine has enjoyed a revivial in Montreal thanks to new players on the scene, but this place remains an inspiring icon among them. It's a bit more old school with its table settings and live music, but damn it all if it isn't endearing to dine there each time.

A longstanding favourite for Montrealers when it comes to Portuguese chicken, Imperio stands out (and up) thanks to its platter approach to their cuisine, serving up piles of grilled chicken and seafood. That makes this place a solid contender when it comes to big family dinner—and they're absolutely perfect for a night together like that—but lunches and late-night comfort eats are just as good with bifana sandwiches and poutines topped with chorizo and chopped chicken. We're big fans of their piri piri recipe in particular (bottle that up and sell it, guys!).

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Impasto owners Stefano Faita and Michele Forgione have been on a hot streak ever since they first began working together, and we're not just talking about lines of spaghetti sauces and hazelnut spread you find in stores. Vesta was just what their restaurant family needed: Fried seafood (fritto misto), garlic knots, mozza sticks, and some of the finest pizza around thatlands somewhere between Montreal and New York styles, with thick-ish crust (but not too thick) and ample toppings spread none-too-thinly. They've got pizzeria chef Anthony Di Iorio of Gema to thank for that last recipe, and Impasto sommelier Benjamin Lemay Lemieux for the right wines to wash it all down.

Mokili is brimming with dishes from across the African continent, including the likes of Senegal, Kenya, Ghana, Morocco, the Congo and Mali in its menu that's a welcome addition to a neighbourhood that's got more Eurocentric leanings. Aromatic plates of maafe peanut stew, Congolese grilled goat, and sorrel juice to wash it down? And it's fuelled in part by the 10-acre specialty farm AgriTropiQ out in Île-Perrot? Owners Baka Serkoukou and Epepe Tukala Vuvu have opened a brilliant introduction to demystifying an often-homogenized part of the world, and it celebrates Africa's grand diversity through food.

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Taking the age-old diner setup found across the province and merging it with the bespoke small restaurant experience taking off in Montreal, Le Toasteur is a relaxing environment to sit on a stool for a proper coffee as you peruse seasonal—that's right, seasonal!—menus. Of course, regular fixtures of breakfast poutines and breakfast sandwiches stay on, but they'll opt for tomatoes at peak ripeness in summer while opted for squash eggs Benedict in the autumn when it's time. They've also got a great vegan menu; a void not often filled well in Villeray to date.

Merging a best parts of a bakery with a restaurant, chef Julien Laporte and master baker Lilian Gourbin's neighbourhood project that began in 2019 now has to keep us all away with day-old baguettes. No wonder it's so popular: Fresh breads feature heavily in a menu that doesn't restrict itself to any one area, mixing and matching between cuisines that range anywhere from Neapolitan pizzas and French terrines to fried chicken and won ton soups. It's whatever they're feeling most passionate about at the moment, and it's apparent with a single taste. Last but not least: These guys are doing amazing brunches that are stupendous on their own. 

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Even as they stared down the barrel of the pandemic, owners Charles Thibault, Olivier Martinez, and Karina Tétrault pressed forward with their plans to open up this deli and wine shop doing services that focus on seasonal market cuisine with personalized touches. Now a neighbourhood standard, it's a must-try for their day menus of sandwiches and grilled chicken and night menus where they get 'serious' with creative small plates; if you go in the evening, be sure to be bold and order up the entire menu with three or four friends and enjoy the ride. 

It's not often that we'll find ourselves including a café on our lists for the best restaurants in a city, but when a menu's this good, you can't deny it: Erika Lafleur and Antoine Lacroix-Vézina's first-ever café does all the espresso-based drinks you'll need, but Lacroix-Vézina outdoes the typical sandwich-and-salad-or-soup model (though they offer those up too) with dishes like baby backs ribs, shrimp rolls and mac and cheese when they're in the mood. If there isn't a special, the 'standard' menu they're dishing out is exceedingly good. They've also expanded to an ice cream counter serving vegan soft-serve on weekends.

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Looked to for its deli-style sandos and brunch services, Comptoir Sainte-Cécile kept its head above water throughout the pandemic by reconfiguring part of its business into a wine shop that kept Montrealers pleasantly tipsy in the darkest of months. What started as a grocery store project focusing on local products for Ségué Lepage and Adèle Prud'homme has since become a must for a shifting menu of sandwiches (keep an eye out for the spaghetti sandwich!), salads, and home-baked desserts. A picnic equipment shop, an excellent wine shop, an afternoon snack destination, a place to try new products—it's all of that, and more.

Boulangerie Jarry has people all over the city taking notice of their refreshing approach to good old-fashioned breadmaking. Headed by Dominique Gauvrit—who's taking another crack at the bakery business after playing an early role in the success of Montreal bakery chain Premiere Moisson—and his carefully chosen team, the bakery sets itself apart from the pack by sourcing their wheat from nearby Moulin la Rémy in Charlevoix and even milling their own flour. The result? Artisanal breads made with a range of flours, and pastries both sweet and savory that knock it out of the park consistently.

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What started as a Portuguese restaurant in 2003 with a small crack team of dedicate restaurateurs is now a regular standby for churrascaria eats in the city. The chicken alone merits a visit, but there's a few curious Italian menu items that set this place apart that perform surprisingly well, like a plate of arancini, tortellini en brodo, and mozzarella di bufala. Even their wood-fired pizzas are bound to steal the show at times. Sound strange? One bite and you'll find that they balance out their choice of two cuisines in one place well.

Every neighbourhood in Montreal has at least one steady bistro that doesn't bother with the spotlight. They do what they do best, but they do so quietly: They feed us in a pleasant and friendly atmosphere throughout the week, up until the weekends when the owners come out and let the place get a little rowdy. For Villeray, it's Le Coin G. Don't expect to box them in to any category except one: Weekly shifting menus of bsitro classics like scallopini and 10-ounce Angus steaks, drinks on the cheap (shout-out to those mini glasses of wine), and strong community vibes. This is where the locals go, and with good reason. 

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A small secret we're imparting to folks who don't know Villeray that well or haven't explored it as extensively: Las Palmas is a great place for cheap eats in this city with its menu of pupusas, plain and simple. A Salvadoran restaurant that goes way back, it's incredibly cheap and filling to eat the dishes here that definitely have that family touch to everything. Everything here's handmade, and it shows; you'd be remiss if you didn't leave here with an order fresh pupusas with extra curtido (and chance some sauce if it's not sold out).

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