Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Café International

I got an email asking me if I wanted to come for a free (FREE!) lunch/dinner at Café International in little Italy and try the food. I said no, of course. Ha. Of course I was totes in!

Since, 1968, this establishment has been serving up authentic Italian food from pasta to risotto to pizza! I love all of those thangs. OK, it's a lot of carbs, but when you gym it up 15 hours a week, you're good. I went for lunch. Why? Main reason was that, hey, I know there are going to be less people at lunch, therefore, more attention on ME and more food for ME. Oh, I know, I'm totes smart that way.
The place itself looks like it could use a pick-me-up: white paneled ceiling, old floors, badly lit dining room and old lookin' tables. The chef tells me that they are inviting bloggers so that we can tell dem peeps to go eat there because the last few years have been a hard hit for Little Italy. I think it's been a harder hit for Café International. They've been there longer than most but apart from a couple things here and there, haven't changed much of the decor. So now they are stuck with regulars that are about to croak (low blow, I know) and Italian gangsters. OK, that last one isn't true but I swear there was a group in there that looked very questionable! One of the only cool thing is their neon blue sign outside, which still looks great and means to say 'hello please come in'. It's also a huge space with around 80 seats inside and 20 on the terrace.

I got there and... no one knew I was coming. It felt like when I went to 'La Petite Mangue' with Val and it took 3 people and 12 minutes to finally have someone realize that I was there as a blogger. I'm already not too fond of saying 'hey, I'm a blogger: look at me, look at me' but when I got there, they were not expecting me. They had to go get the chef and even he seemed a bit in the dark at that point. But he was uber nice and we settled on him bringing out small portions of many awesome things. Many. Awesome. Things. Sounds just about right to me!
1st: house ham with aioli and arugula. Yes AND yes. The aioli was amazing with just the right amount of garlic in there. It was nice and thick. The ham was very tasty, somewhat on the salty side but I don't mind that too much when it comes to ham. Hello, home made! It was rather tough at some points so that wasn't as pleasant. The arugula added a certain earthiness to the dish and rounded it off. Oh and they brought grilled bread which was perfect with the ham. No butta, just awesome grilled bread. Yes to the yes.
2nd: house prosciutto with sprouts and squash mostarda. I think this might be part of why they are struggling to have more clients. I mean, who sells mostarda anymore? And why put a handful of sprouts on the plate. I am not a rabbit. No, but seriously. They have a delicious product like home made prosciutto and they put a tree beside it on the plate. No. Alright, so the prosciutto was aged 18 months and right on the damn ball. On. The. Ball. It was salty and soft and was just melting on my tongue. Yes. You could see that the chef took pride in this, as he should. This is why it was weird to me to put it with grass and mostarda. Speaking of mostarda, it was actually good. My last souvenirs of it were not awesome. I really liked the texture and the temperature. It was at room temperature and I guess that's what does it for me and mostarda. Wow, you never here THAT. The taste of the squash came through just enough.
3rd: pizza with pistachio pesto, mozzarella and house bologna. I gotta say I was never a fan of bologna. Neva. My friends would have that in their lunches in high school and I was all like 'ew'. It just tasted too strong for me and a bit fake. But this one was dsamn good. Ya, THAT good. It could have had a tiny bit more salt but it was still a bit crunchy and my taste buds really loved it. The dough was so soft and airy and pretty much a perfect A+. The pesto wasn't pesto though: it was more like pistachios here and there and some oil. It was nice and different to have pistachios on my pizza, but it sure wasn't pesto. I gotta say that it was a lot of bread. A LOT. Although it was like biting into a cloud, it was still bread. I forwent (yes, I use fancy words now) half of that loveliness.
4th: calamari and octopus salad on a bed of mesclun with a tomato, onion, caper and basil salsa on top. What do I despise more than mesclun? Nothing. Nothing is worse. I hate it so much I don't even know how to describe my hate. OK, I'm going to take a chill pill. Chill pill taken. In all honesty (and you guys know how brutally honest I can be), I wish the chef had never served me this dish. A, because it was not up to par and B, because it lowered the overall score for the food. The calamari were squishy, therefore either overcooked or undercooked. Look, it's crazy annoying to cook these bad boys so just don't risk it. You don't really need em' on your menu. The octopus wasn't as bad and had a charred taste to it which was 100% better than the calamari. The salsa was fresh tastin' and capers gave it a nice twist. The whole thing was very much overdressed and so everything kind of became soggy. Oh, ooooooh, I found the thing I hate more than mesclun: soggy, wet mesclun.
#5: gnocchi with tomato and basil sauce. See, if only all my courses could've been as small as this...The gnocchi were, for a lack of a better word, divine. Yep, that's right! They were just perfect: the perfect texture, the perfect taste, the perfect size. The tomato basil sauce was simple, yet very flavourful and the parmesan on top added that extra twang (yep, I'm goin' with 'twang' here!) we all like. That big-ass-GMO basil leaf was only there for colour, I'm guessing. Because, well, although I would totally just eat a leaf like that, I don't know many people who would.
#6: mushroom risotto. I was starting to go into a food coma. This was a huge portion, yet again. The waitress told me that she had hinted to the chef that he should serve risotto next and she was super proud. She was saying how no one actually makes risotto at home because it's so time consuming. I didn't think mentioning that I am quite the risotto making expert would be a good idea. I do make a mean lobster-stock oyster mushroom risotto tho. The rice itself was perfect: a risotto should always keep some kind of bite to it and be all rich and creamy. Rich and creamy are probably my favorite adjectives when it comes to food. Mmmm. The waitress asked if I wanted some pepper and extra parmesan --because there was already some in there--and hells yes I wanted extra parmesan. Let's make something clear; I will always want that extra parm. The mushrooms were nicely cooked but I would have liked a bit of variety instead of plain ol' button shrooms.
#7: tiramisu. This coffee tastin' dessert is not usually my fave. But this one. Oh! This one was...oh! Yes, that's a foodgasm if you haven't noticed. It was creamy, it was soft, it was nutty, it was coffee. It was gone in 2.5 seconds. Hands down the best tiramisu I've eva eva tasted.
Service was really good. Well, it had to be, didn't it? I mean, they knew I was there to write a review. At first, the waitress was kind of shy, bringing me the menu and mineral water. But then she started being friendlier, probably because I was there, eating 7 courses, for about 8 hours. OK, 1 hour and a half. Still. The chef served the plates and, although he seemed really introverted, would talk to me about the restaurant and about the dishes.

And now, the scores!

Food: 8 (that damn calamari!)
Service: 9
To answer your question, YES I ate everything. And to answer your second question, YES I am a pig. I left on my bike and I'm serious when I say that I don't remember anything from around St-Zotique/Clark to Pine/St-Urbain. It's like I blacked out! Food coma!!! I would definitely go back, especially for the tiramisu. I do hope that they revamp the place to get more customers tho. It would be worth their while.

Cafe international Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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