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Il Galateo
5315 Gatineau St. (Metro CDN)

Open Mon - Fri 11:30 AM to 11:00 PM; Sat 5:30 PM to 11:30 PM. Licensed. Acccepts major credit cards. 737-1606.
Somewhere on Highway A3 between Torre del Greco and Pozzuoli is a man who will break my knees if this review is not good.

Saverio, if you’re reading this, please be assured that the review is good. It is very, very good.

Il Galateo is buried, bunker-style, below a quiet sidewalk near a fire station on Gatineau on Cote-des-Neiges.

A tinted glass front, Gambino limo-like, masks a small split-level space that’s decorated in spruce and wine-lacquer with a toss of Caravaggio.

I was here five or so years ago after the much-missed Helen Rochester gave the place a rave. I did not have a rave. I may have raved after leaving; I remember the bill for two was over $130 and that they left the SAQ price label on the wine bottle we ordered so we could see that they had jacked the price a notch or two. Plus, the place was jammed to the rafters, the service was bad, and the pasta had been through a French Laundry.

I am delighted to report, in spite of Saverio’s growled threat, that Il Galateo has undergone a renaissance of Antaean proportions.

It was fairly quiet on a Wednesday evening at 8 or so, but that’s the way I like it. I didn’t want a repeat of that weekend night.

Dean Martin crooned “That’s Amore.” Our waiter, the quietly dangerous Saverio from Napoli between Torre del Graco and Pozzuoli, was not busy. But one sensed he could have been.

“We watched Goodfellas last night,” I ventured cheerfully, making halting conversation.

“Yes,” he said expressionlessly,”the scene where he kills the guy again with the knife,” and here he gestured ominously with a stabbing motion.

“Yes,” I said falteringly. “We’re ready to order now.”

Compared to my memories of five years ago, the table d’hôte’s a bargain. You get a soup of the day (in our case minestrone—what’s wrong—got something against minestrone?) or mixed salad or escargot or pennine arrabiata, among others, for prices ranging from $16.95 for a Fresh Pasta Mix (Misto di pasta freche, $16.95) to a Gamberi alla nerone (Shrimp in rosée and cognac sauce, $24.95.) That includes a desert resting place and coffee. No, no, that’s dessert and coffee.

We ordered a Linguine ai frutti mare (seafood linguine, $18.95) from the table d’hôte and a Sirloin Madagascar (steak with cognac, cream and pepper sauce) at a very reasonable $18.95, considering these cuts go for $28 elsewhere.

Since the seafood linguini table d’hôte already came with a choice of pennine arrabiata, which I wanted to try, but my companion wanted the soup, we decided to order the soup à la carte. Saverio, however, not missing a thing, politely (but with a steel-eyed delivery) inquired if my companion “really wanted pasta with the pasta.”

Er, we explained meekly, it was so I could eat her pasta and she could have my soup. The flinty expression suddenly dissolved into an unexpected grin when he said “Suuure, that’s possible.”

Wiping the sweat off our brow, we ordered a house white. The wine list is mainly Italian, but since we didn’t have much time to linger and enjoy because of sudden obligations elsewhere, we decided to just go for the cold gold (about $10 for 1/2 a liter of white or red.)

A complimentary plate of succulent breaded, deep-fried mozzarella and some bruschetta were the first edibles to make their appearance. The bruschetta were the surprise here, being crispily delicious and unusally heavy on the garlic, which I adore. Saverio could lift the kill-o-meter at least one notch here. I was on my way to becoming a made guy.

Another surprise was a dandelion salad: topped with purple radicchio and chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano, it was a bitter-tangy medley of crunch and chlorophyll.

Saverio came out of the kitchen and said “I can get you a sirloin . . . or I can get you a filet. What do you want?” It was a filet for me, or get filleted.

I took the time out while we munched the bruschetta to observe the customer base. One man occupied the twelve-person table behind us. He was drinking what looked like two glasses of wine. Saverio was very polite to him. “He’s probably a doctor,” ventured my companion helpfully. “They say a glass of wine is good for your health, so he knows two glasses is probably better.”

The pennine arrabiata appetizer was almost too good—ribbed tubes of pasta in a heady, spicy, garlic-overloaded tomato sace, all quite without any prompting of “extra-everything” om my part. My companion, not overly fond of salt (sorry, Saverio! sorry! my companion!) rated the minestrone as a bit too salty.

The main courses arrived with a grand flourish, and they were grand. The seafood linguine came ringed with a circle of moist black mussels, pasta in the center and with jumbo shrimp as “claws.”

The medallion of filet mignon came bathed in a whole-peppercorn cream sauce and was framed with a rosée-sauced vermicelli. It was cooked to the precise medium-rare and melted in the mouth, while the spaghettini was delicately sauced with a slightly tamer version of the killer-garlic bruschetta theme.

The mussels, cooked as explained patiently by Saviero, were deemed a bit salty, but after all, this is what the sea has most of: salt. Yes, the sea is salty, and thus so are mussels.

The seafood linguine was delectable, fragarant and redolent of squid and prawn and all things seafarious, although the pasta was a bit—a very, very wee, wee bit—overdone. Nothing to get ballistic about, note, just a mite on the soft-scale of underdoneness.

As the cell phone was now ringing with unexpected appointments, it was hastily decided that I would have a Grappa as a “post-digéstif.” This was Saviero’s generous recommendation over my suggestion of Sambucca. “Too warm. Grappa’s cold.”

I passed on dessert but my companion called me back from the front door to order a crème caramel. I’m sure it tasted very, very good.—
Reviewed by Nick Robinson

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