171 Villeray E. De Castelnau métro BYOB
RESERVATIONS: 277- 7455. HOURS: I I a.m.9 p.m., Tues. and Wed. I I a.m.I I p.m., Thurs. and Fri. 5 p.m.I I p.m., Sat. 5 p.m.10:30 p.m., Sun. Closed Mon. NO SMOKING SECTION: No. WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No. PRICESTABLE DHÔTE: $6.50$8.50 (ç la carte), $6 extra for table dhôte. CREDIT CARDS: No.
Long may Caf & Bouffe's little collapsible market cart hang in its honoured place near the public pay phone. This simple implement stands as a symbol of the power that small, dedicated restos can still wield in this frozen-food world, of the empowerment one can feel if one sticks to what one knows best.
Caf & Bouffe is located on Villeray, between Saint-Laurent and Saint-Denisnot, perhaps, the first location you'd think of for an Italian-style restaurant. On second thought, though, the Villeray district is largely Italian, and, being just south of the Jean-Talon market, it is ideally positioned for a chef committed to the cuisine du marché concept.
This little resto is a local "joint," where the regulars come to eat their meals, but it also has just enough class to offer a semi-elegant night out. It's as cute as you'd want, from the spindly city tree outside, decorated with white miniature lights, even in summer, to the mustard and forest-green decor, the "for-sale" artwork, the fanciful open kitchen, and the warm orange bistro tables and wooden chairs.
Caf & Bouffe offers a wide choice of pastas on their menu, and you can upgrade any choice to a table dhôte meal for $6 more, which includes an appetizer, salade jardinière (with olive oil and balsamic vinegar), an entrée such as bruschetta (made with fresh pesto and tomatoes in season), asparagus or mushroom antipasto, or fondue parmesane, as well as a pasta course, and dessert and coffee. Soup is available in winter.
Main courses sampled recently include the complex, savoury medaglione farci de poulet, nappe de sauce au gorgonzola, a dish that skimped neither on the cream nor the cheese, and the penne arrabbiate, a classic rendition of the dish with a fresh-tasting tomato sauce and a generous application of black pepper, as opposed to the usual red chilies.
The music is as eclectic as it is fun: a recent night's sampling included U2, some tasteful free jazz, Tom Petty, Claude Nougaro, Leonard Cohen, and Jacques Brel, amongst many others. Whew!
N.B.If you are a wine lover, simply call ahead, and Madame will make sure there is a custom-made entree ready without a vinaigrette, which she feels "fights" the wine.