Story by Loretta Di Vita
Photos by Anisha Patel
Additional images from Fiorellino

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There’s something so groovy about the ’70s-inspired Italian snack bar-restaurant Fiorellino that makes you want to tuck daisies in your hair and peace sign everybody along the way to your table.

Conceived by the four pillars of Buonanotte fame—Massimo Lecas, Angelo Leone, Lino Lozza, and Roberto Pesut, it occupies the ground floor of Le U—the third infill phase of the Unity residential-commercial redevelopment in Montreal’s International Quarter. Located on a narrow, quiet stretch of de la Gauchetière, there’s something appealing about Fiorellino being a tad removed: as if you’re going to a special place that no one else has discovered, until you get there and find that it’s hopping. But, hey, the more, the merrier.

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Fiorellino means “little flower” in Italian; hence the restaurant’s flower logo. The cheery leitmotif pops up here and there, and even makes an appearance outside, where flower-shaped tables offer an al fresco spot to grab a morning cappuccino (the café opens at 8 a.m.) and bombolone (a voluptuous Nutella or custard-filled breakfast pastry), enjoy a refreshing evening gelato, or wait out peak-hour queues (it can get that busy).

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“The customer will find the vibe here fun. It’s fresh, vibrant…and unique,” says Joshua Glover—Fiorellino’s striking and strikingly efficient manager/brand ambassador. “The direction is about the food and bringing together a mixed clientele—a veritable melting pot of customers. We have our regulars, not only from the neighbourhood, but from everywhere.”

Like most hip venues these days, the restaurant (opened in December, 2015) has sprung from an obsolete property. Today, there’s nothing to suggest the space’s former lives, though this incarnation integrates a steel railing and an open grid wall (between the snack bar and dining room) salvaged from the past.

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The laid-back chic eatery has got a lot going for it. Among other things, there’s Chef Erik Mandracchia crafting kitchen magic; it’s set in a cool historic building; and it offers a great view of the St. Patrick basilica courtyard and a lush urban park across the street.  And, besides a good pedigree, it’s got looks.

The interior design, executed by Jean-Guy Chabauty of Moderno, has a predominantly ’70s groove laced with rustic-industrial undertones.  “There’s a certain style that reflects the good taste and design sense we associate with Italians,” says Glover.

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Turquoise-and-white op-art flooring pulsates its way past the café section and bar (Aperol spritz, anyone?) continuing up an Instagrammable wall. The geometric pattern delivers a one-two punch to the otherwise neutral mid-century modern decor and riffs the building’s architecturally-lauded cubist facade.

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Mod fixtures, including pistachio-colored pillars and horizontal bars studded with bulbs, and jumbo glossy white domed fixtures slung over round tables, add eye-catching detail. Seating comes in several forms: tall tavern chairs, leather-cushioned stools, chrome-framed chairs, and sleek grey-green banquettes. Wood-topped tables go ‘commando’—sans tablecloths—and are set close to each other, encouraging conviviality. The snug arrangement even provides the occasional ear-shot op (overheard the L.A. movie producer, wearing sunglasses at 9:30 p.m., recounting hot-tub escapades.)

Pizza lovers (and lovers, for that matter) can keep a watchful eye over their pizzas in-the-making (or each other) at the monolithic marble island overlooking a white-tiled pizza oven. Imported from Italy, it dutifully cranks out nearly a thousand gloriously puffy pies per week.

Overhead, whitewashed industrial pipes and other functional unmentionables blend into the ceiling, fitted with sound-absorbing panels. The resulting sound level is anything but hushed, but what’s heard is lively chatter, bustling service, and a catchy playlist—sounds of a “full-out experience,” as Glover puts it.

“Our main goal when customers leave is that they’ve enjoyed every element: the food experience first, and, around it, the Italian spirits, the decor, lots of little Italian things coming together, attentive service, and great music,” he continues. “We want them to connect, remember the experience, and keep coming back for more.”

Yes, Fiorellino… you charming little Italian flower, you… you’re definitely worth visiting again and again.

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Loretta Di Vita
Montreal Correspondent

Loretta Di Vita seeks out new restos, cafés, and shops around her native Montreal that stoke her fascination for design. According to her, we’re all looking for premium product, but the space and concept of an establishment are what makes the experience.