Fine Italian cuisine, sought-after cocktails, a surprising wine list and cozy atmosphere: Nora Gray’s reputation is second to none. And for good reason! For almost 5 years, this delightful restaurant with just 45 seats has won over the hearts (and stomachs!) of not only Montrealers but avid restaurant-goers from the U.S. and Europe.
In September 2011, Chef Emma Cardarelli, sommelier Ryan Gray and designer Lisa McConnell saw their collective dream come true. The friends started out at the majors (Joe Beef, Liverpool House) before leaving to create a unique place with a refined retro atmosphere and local seasonal products.
“In 5 years, it exploded! Initially, there wasn’t much on St-Jacques Street, and no Italian restaurant in Montreal offered Italian cuisine using local products. Over the years, we went from being a neighborhood restaurant to a culinary destination, all while retaining the intimacy and uniqueness we’ve had from the start.” explains Ryan Gray, co-owner and sommelier of Nora Gray.
Forget the pasta Bolognese, American bruschetta and gargantuan portions. Nora Gray (a fusion of Emma’s grandmothers’ first name and the family name of the co-owner) offers delicate delights whose inspiration is drawn from the very heart of Italy. Last May, Emma, Ryan and Lisa spent three months criss-crossing Italy from north to south, looking for new inspirations and visiting wineries.
Renewed and updated several times a year, the menu is distinguished by showcasing fine, fresh, local products (buongiorno olive oil!).
The summer menu of lobster salad, orange and fennel, and zucchini carpaccio and shrimp had us salivating. With a glass of sweet pear-scented white wine from the Anjou region, the table was set for a meal as surprising as it was comforting.
Take a cocktail break and try their home elixir whose name conjures images of riding a Vespa around the Colosseum. 10 on 10 for their Roman Holiday and its mix of Aperol, St. Germain and Williams Pear, oscillating between floral and slightly bitter.
Primi piati tortelli stuffed with caramelized onions and pancetta accompanied by fine clams, a simply divine dish with flavors both sober, rich and crisp.
This was followed with secondo piati, a flank steak cooked to perfection with just enough fried polenta, ending with a delicious contrast of scallops and fennel-flavored homemade sausages.
The perfect execution of dishes, the simple, straight forward atmosphere without tricks, as well as the attentive and friendly service are what make Nora Gray an exceptional dining experience.
We shouldn’t forget to mention the lovely sixties decor designed by Lisa McConnell, with its large Mad Men style bar softened by wraparound mahogany walls and soft lighting.
We going back? Certainly! Do we recommend it? Definitely!
1391 Saint-Jacques Street
A few steps from Griffintown