Our perfect patio afternoon was plundered by pouring rain, when a plucky professional preserved my pizza from peril. We soon found ourselves perched at the bar, perusing a plethora of wines to pacify our thirst. Such was lunch on a stormy day in Old Hull at Piz’za-za.
It’s been a summer of unusual weather, sudden winds, dangerous storms and some dammed inconvenient wet stuff. When the French Dude asked me out to lunch is was a hot summer day, so off we rode in the Hyundi into the heart of Old Hull, the historic center of Gatineau, Quebec.
Directly across the Ottawa River from our nation’s capital, Gatineau remains largely undiscovered by this Gypsy so an opportunity to explore is welcome. As luck would have it, we stumbled upon a mini street market on Laval St, poking at amber beets and oggeling pink macrons before searching, in earnest, for an interesting spot to lunch.
People who think its all giggles and foie gras living with a chef in one’s life have obviously never gone looking for a restaurant with one. Like many people, I follow my nose and rely heavily on the vibe. This has lead to many spectacular feasts (and a few rather catastrophic disasters) all over the world. I call this “living”. Chef B, however, has a checklist of criteria that must be met before he’ll set foot inside an establishment. Item one: The Menu. He actually reads it before he sits down. In this case (mostly to amuse myself) I read them too and discovered a disconcerting trend; when did everyone start serving the same lunch menu?
We walked several blocks, looked at more than a dozen menus and found pretty much the same items on all but four. Local debate must be rather banal: “We have the best chicken sandwich!” “Noooo, we do!” “Nu, uh, WE have the best chicken sandwich!” Which is how we found ourselves at Piz’za-za Restaurant and Wine Bar - offering a twist on traditional favourites, a deep list of wines (many available by the glass) and decent price points.
The interior is welcoming, with a touch of quirk and colour. The day was so fine we opted for the patio, which we hadn’t noticed from the street and was a pleasant surprise. Wrapping along the side and back of the brick two-story building, the awning covered patio is bright and breezy and heated for those cooler evenings soon to come.
Menus were offered in both French and English, which was nice, but for the record my ‘menu’ French is semi-decent. Pronunciation of same is horrific, often causing Chef B to recoil or pretend not to know me but he was too deep in the multi-page wine list to care.
I opted for lemonade, which was pink. No idea what he ordered (too busy looking at other people’s food) whatever it was, was red and had him happy as a lark. I’m a fan of branded glassware. Theirs reads: “Piz’za-za”. Handy if, say, you’ve had a few too many and can’t remember where you are. The name is also slur-able, yet with enough “z” to appear sober. (Surely this was considered in the business plan.)
His Pizza (top photo): Carcutiere; tomato sauce, calabrese, capicollo, merguez, prosciutto and mozzarella ($12.75). Merguez sausage is a spicy North African lamb sausage, in this case, lean and small like a pepperoni stick. The review was favourable. Nice crust. Crisp. Thin . Tomato sauce was not too sweet and overall, the pizza was not too salty (often the case when you group so many cured meats on one pizza). Chef B says – two thumbs up.
Her Pizza: Frijoles; black beans and hot salsa, smoked chicken, red onions, jalapenos, mozzarella and sour cream (11.75). Nice, but not on my pizza. I enjoyed my pizza, don’t get me wrong, I’ll go back to Piz-za-za in a heartbeat. Thin crisp crust pizza; the smoked chicken worked well against the purple onions, the light heat of fresh jalapenos and the tang of tomato sauce… not hot salsa. There was also a distinct lack of black beans.
What I read on the menu and what was served were two different things. A shame really; chose the Frijoles for its unique combination of flavours (as recommended by my server).
Gypsy says – one thumb up.
If promised portions of particular toppings perched on pizza, one might expect said ingredients to be produced.
Never mind all that, this is where it gets exciting: the sky turned black, the wind kicked up and the day quickly shifted from sunny to stormy. Boxes from the street fair tumbled across the pavement, vendors took hold of their tents and with a mighty CRACK, rain came pummelling down.
Piz’za-za staff scurried into action, closing floor-to-ceiling windows and dragging heavy outdoor curtains as the falling rain suddenly sailed sideways. (One must protect one’s pizza.) We grabbed plates and covered glasses (loathing diluted wine as he does) and thought we might be dry on the other side of the patio, only to be further dampened.
Our Patron Saint of the patio, Piz’za-za heroine Julie Mayer – service professional, stood back to the prevailing wind, arms prone against a plastic-patio-protector, shielding patrons from possible (pie) peril.
Were we perturbed? Pfffffttttttttttttt! Parked our posteriors at the bar, pitched back a pithy glass of Pinot and waited for the clouds to part on profoundly entertaining afternoon at Piz’za-za.
Piz’za-za Restau Bar á Vin
36 Laval Street ,(Old Hull) Gatineau, QC
Monday and Tuesday: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Wednesday to Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Saturday: 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.