I have been on a lifelong mission for the last 14 years to find a good pizza place near where I work in downtown Montreal. You can easily find the standard cheap slices in a few spots around here but they are just that; cheap and slicy. None of them have been good enough to warrant a regular visit. Someone much less wisdomy than me once said something to the effect of “Pizza is like sex. Even bad pizza is still pretty good.” If I ever meet the person that came up with that I would shake their hand, pull them close to me, look them right in the eye and then punch them in the crotch with the angry force of a thousand exploding suns. I can’t be the only person who has woken up confused as to where I am with pants nowhere in sight, wondering why I feel so ill and ashamed at the same time. And that’s just from bad pizza! So while we all settle for bad pizza from time to time when there are no other options, my mind hasn’t been able to compehrend why there hasn’t been a better option around here for so long.
I guess I wasn’t the only one wondering that because since May I had been hearing rumor after rumor of a place that would soon be opening on Stanley street with the goal of serving up some legit Napolitaine style pizza. Enter Brigade. There were murmurs of this place having not one but two wood burning pizza ovens that can crank out heat topping out at around 900f. Oh ya baby! That means they can pump out pizzas in less than two minutes. Right there that on its own is a great start. Rather than waiting 10 minutes or so for a pizza to cook on your lunch (on top of order time, paying etc.) you can be in and out of here fast if you need to be. For people popping in on lunch break this is ideal. Aside from pizza cooking at the speed of light having it cook in a wood oven should give it an extra smokey, sexy little zazz too. So they seemed all set in terms of oven now to try them out once they open. Finally, after what felt like forever to a guy waiting for some solid pizza pie, that day came on August 2nd.
I always feel a little wave of disappoinment when I walk into a pizza joint and I can see the cook pull out a pizza pan with the dough already rolled out and ready to bake. How long has it been sitting there? How dry has it gotten? These are questions that I ask and this is why I used the question marks. No worry about that here. The dough is made fresh, fermented for 24 hours, and only rolled out right in front of you when you walk in and order. For those that aren’t familiar with Napolitaine style pizza it’s essentially a super thin pizza (not supposed to be more than 3mm thick!) with fresh tomato sauce and buffalo mozzarella. If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last 20 years you might recall the Seinfeld episode where Kramer comes up with an idea for a pizza place where the customers basically make their own pizza. The rest of the gang thought he was nuts but Brigade has set something up that’s very much like that and I love it. Now you don’t roll the dough yourself or throw it into the oven on your own (letting peeps near a 900 degree oven can maybe be risky) but once your dough is rolled out you then move down the counter to see about 1727 topping choices. Ok, it’s more like 40 but still, it’s something I’ve never seen before.
So once Dough Rolling Man has whisked my pie down to Pizza Topping Guy I muster all of my inner Phat Guy strength and tell him “No, no. No toppings please. Just straight up margherita pizza for me.” I can tell just by looking at the plethora of ingredients that all of this stuff is top quality. They do, after all, get their meats from Bari Meats. However, my belief is that the best test for any pizza place, especially this type, is to first try it au naturel if you will. So for today it is simple sauce, cheese, basil and a drizzle of olive oil. Passing up some of the killer meats and sexy looking veg was not easy but I know that if this place is good I will be back and I will eventually try every damn topping in this place. Just watch me. Well watching me eat comes with a PG13 rating cause it ain’t pretty. “Hang on Phatman, tell me more about some of these 40 or so toppings. With that many there must be some interesting choices?” A poignant question my Phatsoes. Yes. Yes there are some funky ways to dress up your pizza pie here. There are of course the standards of pepperoni, bacon, mushrooms, peppers and whatnot. But then I see thinly sliced potatoes, some killer looking smoked ham, a fresh egg (what?!), pine nuts, and capers. I won’t go through all of the things you can throw on here, for that you’ll have to check it out yourself, but just know that I will one day soon get me a breakfast pizza. Potato, bacon, ham, egg and cheese on a pizza. That is going to happen. Try to stop me. You can’t. So don’t even try to stop me.
I got there just after they opened for the day so I can’t speak as to how long of a wait you’ll have at peak hours but I was in and out in 7 minutes. That’s ordering, dough getting rolled, pizza getting dressed (I even asked him to do it slowly for my pleasure), paying for it and the cooking time. 7 minutes. When the pie comes out piping hot they sprinkle on a little sea salt to finish it off too. I tend to like my crust crispy so I asked them to keep it in there an extra 20 seconds or so and after tasting it I think it was a good call. If I have any complaint it’s that I might even ask them to keep it in another 10 seconds. What else can I say? I like the look of the place. Having the ovens there for everyone to see was a brilliant idea; these babies are slick. The staff was super friendly. The ingredients are all top notch and it’s a fun concept. Oh and price-wise tax included a 12″ margherita pizza runs you 8.55$. Pretty damn fair to me. Any veg toppings or other type of cheese is 1$. Any meat topping is 1.50$. Eating here won’t hurt the bank account by any stretch.Some of you may be waiting for a joke about if 12″ is enough or something to that effect. That is low brow and I won’t have any part of that. Plus I couldn’t think of anything clever off the top of my head.
Aside from preferring the pizza to be more crispy, which can be fixed by asking them to keep it in there a little more, I quite liked the pizza. The dough is tasty for sure and the smokiness from the wood makes my pants fit kind of funny if you catch my meaning. You don’t? Ok I liked the smokiness. It made me excited. I flat out love the sauce. It is just sweet enough and isn’t overly acidic. They don’t drench the pizza with it either. It is just the perfect, simple sauce that makes enjoying a basic cheese pizza all the more enjoyable. The use of fresh buffalo mozzarella will always win you extra points with me. Combine that with the nice little drizzled olive oil and sea salt to balance everything out and what you are left with is a dude who will come back for pizza once a week.