Chef David Pellizzari is well known to Montreal foodies. When his restaurant, the popular Lili.Co, closed its doors in 2018, the gastronomic scene was inconsolable. Everyone agreed that they were going to miss his culinary creativity. Fast forward a year later, David Pellizzari is back behind the stove, this time at the helm of the brand-new restaurant Le Boulevardier, in the Hotel Le Germain Montreal.
What have you done in the past year, after the closure of Lili.Co?
I spent the last year at home with my children. It was the basis of my decision to close my restaurant. My daughter Lili was born six weeks before the opening of Lili.Co. It was a big year, and I felt like I missed many things. When our second child arrived, James, we were confident that we had to stop.
How did you experience the closure of your restaurant?
It was hard. On my last night at Lili.Co, when everyone had left the restaurant, I cried. I gave a hug to my fridge. I apologized to my restaurant for having to close. But not all dads in the world are as lucky as I was to spend a year at home with their children.
How did you hear about Le Boulevardier restaurant?
My friend Clarah Germain contacted me. She told me it was a big project and asked me if I wanted that right now in my life. For the record, Clarah and I met at Lili.Co. She had spent an evening at the bar and we quickly became friends. She had learned that I had a knack for forming couples and asked me to put her on my list! It took me a year. Matthew Swift [now chef at Terre Restaurant in St. John's] started with me in the kitchen as a sous chef. On his third day in my kitchen, I took my cell phone, called Clarah and told her "come to the bar tonight, I have your guy". I owe a lot to Clarah.
What did you say to yourself when you learned about the restaurant project?
First of all: it's going to be a big challenge, but also a big opportunity. I have always worked in small private restaurants. The Boulevardier will be twice the size of Lili.Co.
Even if the restaurant is not open yet, you have already been working on the project for several months.
My last months were busy building menus (for banquets, Le Boulevardier and Bar Flâneur). I also started conversations with suppliers and former employees with whom I loved working to recruit for the brigade.
How did you build the menu?
The first thing I did was to open the Larousse gastronomique and flipped to find forgotten recipes we no longer see on menus. It will be an old-fashioned French cuisine. The most exciting dish for me is the royal hare [a dish where all the hare is cooked, from flesh to offal and blood]. It's a big menu. There is an appetizer section, seafood section, a main course section, charcuterie and some desserts.
Will you cook recipes from Lili.Co?
Only one, and this is a special request from Christiane Germain. It is a crème brûlée with peas, black pudding with honey and a salad of radishes, fennel and fresh herbs. It was a classic of Lili.Co.
How do you describe the gastronomic scene here in Montreal?
If I had tried to open Lili.Co in Vancouver, it would not have worked. People here are open. Montrealers love to try different things. I already made a plate with lamb's eyes: "spaghetti and eyeballs". It was a big success, I had sold everything after a night.
Photo by Jean Sebastien Senecal