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Pizzeria Magpie

Attended oenopole's third anniversary party this evening. Ran into gastronomically trustworthy friends who raved about Pizzeria Magpie, where they'd eaten the night before. Been open for business for about three weeks. The owner -- or one of the owners -- is also one of the owners of The Sparrow (whence the ornithological connection, what?). Friends said their starters -- meatballs and a ceasarish romaine salad with anchovies -- were great but their pizza, topped with caramelized onions, black olives, ricotta, oregano and tomato sauce, was out of this world.

Pizzas come in one size (12"?). Starters include oysters on the half shell. There are a few local beers on tap (including St. Ambroise Pale Ale) and a short wine list with all wines available by the bottle or the glass. Desserts include brownies (I wonder whether there's a Cocoa Locale connection).

They have a website of sorts (Facebook resto sites are so lame): www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=123615...

Decided to drop by for dinner and was sad to see they're closed Sundays and Mondays. Open Tuesday to Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday for dinner. Closing time is 22:00 if I recall correctly.

Some people are claiming Magpie serves the best pizza in town. Seemed strange that there's been no mention of it on Chowhound. If you've gone there, please report.

16 Maguire (a couple of doors east of St-Laurent)
514 507-2900

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  1. Sounds promising
    What kind of pizza is it? Neapolitan, Roman?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Evilbanana11

      Friends reply (slightly edited): "The crust at Magpie is in between matzoh and pillow bread: a puffy (not fluffy) crust that made a good handle, otherwise thin and moisture-resistant. We ordered a fairly moist pizza and the crust held strong. The tomato sauce is above average. They mention San Marzano tomatoes; not sure if they are fresh or canned."

    2. Sure the name is also a pun - on Maguire, the street, and pie, a term more common in parts of the US for pizza. Googling pizzeria Magpie, there are others in New England.

      I really hadn't seen that place, probably because it is on the south side of the street; if I'm cycling or taking the bus up St-Laurent I'd mostly see businesses on the north corners. Thanks for the tip, it sounds great. How are their prices?

      5 Replies
      1. re: lagatta

        from 12$ for the simple margharia to 18$ for the meatballs pizza.

        1. re: lagatta

          «Sure the name is also a pun - on Maguire, the street, and pie, a term more common in parts of the US for pizza.»

          Or, more likely, on the French word for magpie: pie. I'm sure that's what they'll claim if hauled before the OQLF.

          Canadian anglos, including locals of my acquaintence, use pie, pizza pie or Italian pie as a synonym for pizza too and have for years. I don't consider it strictly US usage, more Italo-North American.

          Given that we're not talking about $0.99 slices here, prices are fairly reasonable. For deets, see the (barely legible) menu -- probably the establishment's placemats -- in the Photos section of their "web" site: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid...

          Edit: Just noticed that prices include taxes. Also, it's cash only.

          1. re: carswell

            Yes, of course it is also a pun on la pie.

            I don't think pie for pizza is nearly as common here among anglophones (or in Ontario) as in the US. And have never heard an italophone here calling it anything but pizza or dialectical variations), but it is certainly possible.

            Certainly didn't expect 99 cent slices - there, you really do get what you pay for. But some "gourmet pizzas" can be overpriced.

            1. re: carswell

              "Also, it's cash only."

              a Sparrow specialty! :-)

              1. re: Maximilien

                Good to know - I've told some friends visiting from Toronto who are renting an apartment in Mile End nearby. Thanks to all!

          2. So they have a wood-burning pizza oven(that's what they say on their Facebook page)? I thought wood-burning ovens were not allowed in the Montreal-area.

            8 Replies
            1. re: BLM

              Not sure where you heard that... I've been to plenty of wood-burning oven pizza places in Montreal

              Also, reference: "Right in this block lies Pizzaiole, a rather conspicuous place with a loud Italian-colored awning boasting “pizza four de bois” (wood-oven pizza,) actually quite a common attribute of pizza places in Montreal these days."

              1. re: kpzoo

                It's only been the past year or so(maybe 15 months ago) it's been disallowed(for new restaurants only). Before that, the establishments already with wood burning ovens are allowed to keep them.

                1. re: BLM

                  So maybe whatever was at the Magpie location previously already had a wood-burning oven, then...?

                  1. re: kpzoo

                    Just looked it up and it used to be a bakery, so maybe it already had a wood-burning oven.

                    1. re: kpzoo

                      Yep that would be the only exception(for a new establishment). It took over a place, with a previous wood-burning oven.

                      1. re: BLM

                        You're probably referring to the by-law which prohibits the installation of fireplaces and furnaces which are not "low emission" certified. I know that that by-law specifically permits the installation of wood burning equipment, provided it's used for commercial food production:



                        1. re: alexthecook

                          That's interesting. I've asked 2 Montreal restaurants about it. One of them, told me they installed their wood burning pizza oven just before the ban. The other told me, the ban doesn't apply to Laval(where they were opening a pizzeria with a wood burning oven). And another one told me, they have a gas-fired pizza oven, because new wood burning ovens are not allowed anymore in restaurants.

                    2. re: kpzoo

                      According to today's Gazette review, the Magpie wood burning oven, comes from the now defunct restaurant Tutto Bene on nearby St. Viateur street.

              2. (disclaimer, I'm no pizza expert...)

                stopped for a quickie take-out of "tomato-roquette-proscuito" pie.

                The crust is very good, probably better when eaten on site (10-ish walk to home), maybe 1, 2 more minutes cooking would have make it perfect.
                The tomato sauce is _very_ good (IMO), more like a minute-sauce than a long stewed sauce.
                The topping were good and fresh.

                at 18h, the place was filling up.


                3 Replies
                1. re: Maximilien

                  Thx for your report, Maximlien. About how big is this place?

                  1. re: kpzoo

                    My guess is it can seat about 30-40.

                    I had the tomato-roquette-prosciutto pie too. I also noticed that the crust could have benefited from just a minute or so more in the oven, but the pizza was otherwise very good, especially the sauce.

                2. I've been a few times now - and since the opening they have really gotten much better. Teh sauce is good - very good. Good distro of ingredients. Personally I could use a few more varieties of pizza. Service is super friendly, very nice folks in there. Totally a go to place in my regular round in my neighborhood. The interior is done up nicely, homey. The place was a bakery that never made it open, and before that it was a petfood store years ago. Well worth stopping in and checking out, fairly inexpensive dinner out for what is arguably within range of bottero in terms of crust + taste, and if there were more varieties of pie, Id go more often.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: delray

                    Unlike delray, I think it is important for small restaurants not to have too wide a variety of dishes - often the quality suffers as a result. I'm sure you could suggest a favourite of yours that you might have in mind.

                    Do they do takeout?

                  2. The reviews here are so glowing I could not resist giving this place a try a week or so ago. Loved the ambiance and got fantastic service. I even liked the music they were playing and appreciated the after dinner drinks offered on the house....too bad the pizza was soggy in the middle. And the crust was burnt. Best pizza in Montreal? I'd have to give it another try but no, don't think so, just trendy.

                    1. Dropped by on Tuesday evening. Though I arrived a half hour before official closing time, the place was half full and the staff seemed happy to seat me.

                      Dark, funky Montreal decor: Wood tables and chairs, pressed tin ceilings; polished concrete floors; wood bar, moldings and fixtures. Big windows in front and smaller windows on the side, so probably nicely illuminated during the day. Dragon-slaying St. George is depicted on the tiled wood-burning oven. Open views to storage areas and cold room with prosciutto hung in the windows. Two unisex rest rooms and a communal farm sink.

                      Good sound track, though I might have found it too loud if I were part of a group.

                      The staff is young and friendly. The guy working the oven gave me a big smile and thumbs up.

                      The wine glasses are small tumblers. Three local beers (including St-Ambroise Pale Ale) are on tap. A stout and more appropriate white wines are needed to go with the oysters.

                      Ordered a pie with tomato sauce, cherry tomatoes, bocconcini, prosciutto and arugula, the last two being added after the pizza is removed from the oven. The crust is puffy at the rim, thin elsewhere. The dough is more stretchy than bread-like. Cooked until nicely blistered but pliable, definitely not matzoh. A fork and knife are mandatory; it wouldn't be easy to pick up a slice or eat it while holding it in your hands. Quality of ingredients is high: the sauce (made from canned San Marzanos) fluid, fresh and bright; the cheese first-rate; the cherry tomatoes ripe; the prosciutto porky and just salty enough; the arugula unblemished.

                      Must investigate further but, provided you like the style of crust, clearly one of the city's better pizza joints.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: carswell

                        I ended up going to Magpie by accident. We originally planned to go to Comptoir 21, but eventually couldn't make it before 9pm, so went to Sparrow. Although things were moving, it was hard to get a table for 5. So we spent an hour waiting with the premise of a large group of people finishing their drinks. Finally (after an hour) the waitress announced that they ordered a new round of drinks and that getting a table was looking very bleak. She was really apologetic and suggested to go to Magpie just around the corner for food. Arrived at Magpie we mentioned that the waitress at Sparrow sent us, and we were promptly offered a drink on the house. So we stuck to what we were drinking at Sparrow. Since the bartender/owner didn't know how to make an Old Fashioned, I instructed him how to do so and we spent some time chatting (he really seemed to like my cocktail suggestion). We ordered 3 pizzas: the special of the day with cherry tomatoes and prosciutto, homemade fennel sausage and roasted paprika and one with goat cheese and arugula. Dough was very bready at the rim but rather soft in the middle. The tomato sauce is very wet and slightly tangy. High quality ingredients (San Marzano tomatoes, EVO from Italy, '00' flour, etc). Probably one of the best pizzas I ever had in Montreal. The price is very reasonable (compared to Bottega) for the same quality. Great service.

                        While talking to the owner, he also mentioned that Ethan and Marc from Sparrow will be opening a new restaurant in the same area. The current sous-chef of Sparrow will take over the kitchen.

                        1. re: estilker

                          Probably for the best - Sparrow doesn't really do dinner!

                          (But the new resto will...)

                          1. re: nikkori

                            Oh I forgot to mention although it says cash only on their menu , I had no problems paying by credit card at all. And there is an ATM machine on site if needed.

                            1. re: estilker

                              "And there is an ATM machine on site if needed."

                              Oh I really hate when they do that. One strike against.

                      2. I have to say I was extremely impressed with my 3 visits to Magpie. And I do believe they now have a debit machine. Their prices are reasonable, especially their lunch special: split any pizza with a friend and get a drink and salad for 4 dollars each, which includes the option of a really good house iced tea or a very decent espresso, In the case of the Margarita, that equals only ten dollars per person, including tax. I guess odd numbered lunch groups are out of luck?

                        I'm not an expert. I've never been to Naples, and I've had a total of two "authentic" Neapolitan pies from pizzarias in Brooklyn, but I have to say that I am really really happy that Magpie opened in Mile End, and in my humble opinion they're filling the hipster-Neapolitan-revival niche with delicious results. I'm going back tomorrow.

                        1. Went to Magpie Saturday night, with my girlfriend and one other couple. This place is one of my new favorite restaurants. We started off with apps of meatballs, breadsticks with aioli, a salad, and their olives and hot peppers. They were all awesome. For the mains, we each ordered a pizza: goat cheese and pancetta, meatball, regular cheese pizza with caramelized onions, and I forget the fourth. We started off with a bottle of the Travini, and then once that was polished off we each went our own ways with drinks, beers, cocktails, etc... For desert we ordered the crème Brule which was amazing. Our experience was amazing, but was made even better by our waiter, I think his name was Vuk, ask for him. All in all, it was a great restaurant, and I found myself craving their pizza the very next day.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: BlueSteak

                            Thumbs up, although as I mentioned in the Pizza thread (someone mentioned it in here as well) it got a little soggy as they apply a tad too much sauce. I would either tone down the amount of sauce or make the dough a touch thicker. The secret is in the Tipo 00 flour they use. I thoroughly enjoyed their meatballs and sauce and the bread it comes with was excellent. They should put a meatball sandwich on their menu with that sauce and bread.

                          2. Went back to Magpie. Arrived 9:15pm on a Friday. Not many tables left. The waitress proposed a table next to the wood burning oven. As it was already hot inside I pointed to other tables and was seated. As it was late, GF and I were going to share some oysters and a pizza. We ordered drinks (old fashioned + red wine). I saw the owner, whom I had a nice chat with last time, prepare my old fashioned. Our drinks came and my old fashioned wasn't quite right. There was soda water in mine. A lot.
                            Regardless, I already had had a couple of drinks that night and didn't think much of it. And then we waited. After 30 minutes I had to flag down the waitress for another drink. I told her to lose the soda water in the next old fashioned. This time it came back perfect. No water was offered though for me or GF who had almost finished her wine by then. 15 minutes later another waiter (Vuk, who served us on our previous visit) came to bring our pizza. He remembered me from last time (I am that guy who orders old fashioneds apparently :-)). I told him that we actually ordered oysters as an appetizer so he went to check and came back saying that the oysters were mistakenly delivered to another table but they were ready now for us. I told him that I didn't feel like having the oysters WITH my pizza. Pizza would get cold, etc. He apoligized and he said that he would make it up to us with free dessert. Shortly after, our waitress came and offered the oysters as well. So I said the same thing as before. We shared the pizza (meatballs, great homemade with an extra twist of black pepper, some might find it a tad too much). No small plates were put one the table, so we ate the pizza straight of the plate. After we finished, our waitress came and brusquely asked about dessert. We both ordered (brownie and creme brulee). She didn't offer or ask about coffee. Both desserts were good. When we got the bill, the desserts + one old fashioned were left off. Right after I payed , the waitress said "So you know, the desserts were courtesy of Vuk. Think I am eating here next time Vuk is serving".
                            I was appalled. I thought this was really inappropriate. Not only was the service lacking (no water, no plates, no coffee), an error was made (oysters is a really easy and cold appetizer, the only thing needed is the shucking) and then a make-good was offered. No need to make us feel guilty about accepting a freebie. As if we were free-loaders.
                            On my way out I exchanged a couple of words with the owner. He apologized for messing up my cocktail the first time. Nevertheless I congratulated him on the food.

                            I still like the place and ambiance, love the food but the service is unreliable and depending on the server you get.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: estilker

                              That is annoying that certain things were forgotten, and the service was iffy. The important part here is that, the mistake was recognized, and Vuk took the initiative to make it up to you, as customers. It really says a lot about a restaurant, when the staff takes it upon themselves to make sure that you are satisfied and taken care of. Sure, restaurants make mistakes, and it’s annoying, but its how the staff deals with the situation that is important, and I think Vuk did a great job here. No excuses for the comment by the waitress, that was just unnecessary and rude.

                              1. re: estilker

                                I hate to admit it, but I completely agree with the review above. I really wanted to love Magpie, but the service was just awful when we went on a saturday night about a month ago. Same deal - waitress looked appalled at our request for a table for two, then proceeds to seat us in probably the worst table available. Some tens of minutes later we had to flag down a waitress to take our order, hungry and thirsty as we were. My bf, being from BC and not yet fluent, addressed the waitress in English and was curtly answered in fast French, which I was obliged to translate. (not that I mind, but still, aren't we in the Mile-end??? Are we really their first anglo customers???)
                                After what seemed like an unreasonable wait we eventually did receive our food and drinks, however no water, coffee or dessert was ever offered. The waitress never checked in on us, and we had to flag her down for anything, including the bill.
                                For this kind of a restaurant, I honestly expected better service - the food was great, but I'll be sticking to ordering their pizzas for take out from now on, and save myself the hassle of tipping undeservedly.
                                Unfortunately, being a waitress myself, I am hyper aware of the huge difference great service makes.

                                1. re: gloggo

                                  i suppose that's what happens when your hiring pool is in mile end ;)

                                  1. re: gloggo

                                    I'm sad to reply with a similar experience as well. This weekend on our 3rd visit, for an 8pm reservation, we waited over 20 minutes at an empty table to have our drink order taken, another 15 for them to arrive, then another 15 minutes to order food.

                                    On a separate note, I would really recommend they invest in some simple stemware, as the tiny, clunky cups they use (while I'm sure traditional) certainly don't do any of their wines justice, and what looked to be about 3oz of their Pinot Noir for $9.25 disappeared quickly. No water provided throughout the meal, either. The table beside us received their food at the same time and were offered a free dessert for their wait, as it turns out they had arrived at 7!

                                    I really want to like Magpie, it's a nice atmosphere and the food's good, but the spotty service and new pricing has sealed the deal that we're not returning any time soon. (two individual pizzas, two "cups" of wine and a shared salad came to almost $80 with tip!) Back to the MTL pizza drawing board, I guess.

                                    1. re: wokhei

                                      What's this about new pricing? What has changed? And do you know when?

                                      Last time I went, it may have been November.

                                      1. re: sweettoothMTL

                                        No new pricing but assuming they spent $14-18 per pizza and $7-10 each per glass of wine, it would make sense that the total would come to about $60 before tax (roughly $30/pp). Add another $6-8 GST/PST and 15% and you're at $80.00 already. It is kinda pricey to be fair. If I were taking my girlfriend out for lunch and covering the bill myself, I certainly wouldn't be happy about spending that much on pizza and wine... But $30 tax-in with a glass of wine isn't over the edge for me. It's just not something that I would do every single time I was in the mood for pizza, which would deter me from making it a regular destination, like wokhei.

                                2. Wow, you guys are making hesitant to go back. I went once, and enjoyed the experience. No issues with service, but we had a guy, not a waitress like everyone who complains here has.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: sweettoothMTL

                                    Yes, when I was there in Nov service was fine (a guy).

                                    1. re: Maximilien

                                      "On attend. On attend. Nos voisins, qui sont arrivés après nous, ont déjà leurs plats. Peut-être ne sommes-nous pas assez hipsters?"

                                      Lol. Yeah, she liked the food, BUT...

                                      1. re: Shattered

                                        Yeah, my understanding is she feel in love with the place (so that's a plus), so she was blind to it's flaws (which she at least mentions).

                                        So it all depends if you fall in love or not :)

                                        1. re: sweettoothMTL

                                          No, she fell in love with the food, just the food. That's the main thing, but we're talking pizza - anyone can make their own at home. In fairness, they gave her a free desert to make up for the wait, but coupled with some reports here, playing 'make-up' seems to be a regular thing (and it being simple pizza makes the wait worse).

                                          1. re: Shattered

                                            Well, when I said ''in love with the place'', I meant the whole experience, including the food, but not only. I had the feeling that, while she noted some flaws, she generally liked her experience, not just the food.

                                            But to each it's interpretation, this was mine.

                                            1. re: Shattered

                                              Marie Claude Lortie has a love/hate relationship with hipsters...

                                              Me think one must take this with a grain of salt. and the fact that the restaurant compensated them with dessert helped.

                                              1. re: Shattered

                                                "...playing 'make-up' seems to be a regular thing..."

                                                Based on two instances? That's not really a fair assessment.

                                                I went right before they closed for the holidays and I thought the service was quite slow, but friendly. There did seem to be a few communications flaws (we were served the wrong drink, for example), but overall it was quite a nice experience.

                                        2. I had gone on a slow Wednesday night once, the service was nothing but attentive and the food was served in an appropriately timely manner, not to mention everything was delicious. Sad to hear so many of you didn't have the same experience.

                                          1. Went there tonight (Friday) at around 6:30pm. Nice decor and nice music. I began speaking in french but the waitress noticed my english accent and replied in english - 80% of the customers there were speaking english. The service was great. The place got busy when we left (about 8:15pm).

                                            The pizzas were great! I had the meatball pizza (a guy's pizza) which was yum. My girlfriend had the special of the day (provolone, bacon, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms and basil). She couldn't stop raving at how great the pizza was. They really have a killer sauce for the pizza which in my opinion makes a world of difference. The price was a little higher than the norm for pizza, but to finally find a place that does pizza right was well worth it.

                                            Recommend highly.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: brainznomnomnom

                                              For the second time, last night we had dinner at Magpie. Once again, a very good experience! Service was fantastic (got a reservation last minute and the pleasant server magically filled my glass of wine into a complementary second!) and the dinner was equally satisfying.

                                              Equally nice is to find a restaurant where both sets of in-laws will enjoy a meal (his: snobbish foodies, hers: less than adventurous)!

                                              And we ate for less than $40 (plus a very generous tip)!

                                              1. re: deepfried_sasquatch

                                                what??? 6 people plus wine for 40??? that makes no sense

                                                1. re: kpaxonite

                                                  Needless to say, the $40 was for dinner for two.

                                                  The latter statement refers to how Magpie fits in an interesting niche: appealing to foodies, but simple and accessible enough for more to enjoy.