Barcola Café
By Rachel Ryan

Italian Class

Barcola Bistro is situated on Parc Avenue in the heart of the Mile End and is quickly becoming a favourite local spot. Serving simple, high-quality Italian cuisine with brunch options on the weekend and a great value tasting menu on Thursday nights, this friendly, low-key restaurant will make you want to become a regular.

Before opening Barcola, Fabrizio Caprioli had 20 years of experience as a chef in the restaurant business, half spent in Montreal, the other half in Italy where he owned a restaurant in Trieste until moving to Canada in 2004. Fabrizio says he modelled Barcola after his old restaurant, while drawing on his experiences working in Montreal restaurants.

The location for Barcola, formerly a Chilean restaurant, had been vacant for almost a year so it needed major renovation, which Fabrizio and his family undertook themselves. Fabrizio spends almost 15 hours a day in his family-run restaurant, while his wife comes in as a manager in the evenings.

It is great to have the human contact, the chance to chat with customers. - Fabrizio Caprioli, owner
Barcola Bistro - Tagliatelle, Gnocchi, Ravioli

Music and Style

The music of Barcola is a distinct part of the experience and it comes from Fabrizio’s own record collection, which customers can leisurely peruse at the back of the restaurant. “I am a record collector of classical and jazz,” says Fabrizio. “I spend long days here so I bring my hobby to work with me. I get to listen to the music I like best.”

The delightful combination of good food and pleasant music is gaining popularity, though Fabrizio acknowledges it was a gradual process. “There are 4,000 restaurants in Montreal,” he says. “You have to build up your reputation and your clientele, and that only happens slowly.”

Barcola’s customers range in age from 25 to 75, with the youngest in high attendance on Saturday nights. But the brunch menu and, most notably, the Thursday night tasting menu draws in a nice crowd, too. “It’s an Italian custom to have a tasting menu. Even though it goes from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. there, for the moment we serve it from 5 to 7 p.m. It’s an event for us, a chance to draw in more people to try our food over a glass of wine.” At only $16 for a three-course meal, it is a powerful draw indeed.

Barcola Bistro - Tagliatelle, Gnocchi, Ravioli

High Standards, Great Results

Fabrizio describes the food as simple and traditional Italian cuisine with a modern touch. He chooses classic recipes inspired by what is in the market at the time and stays very close to the seasons, using vegetable and fish that are at their best. While the selections are vast in the summer, he admits it gets harder during the winter months.

Still, Fabrizio is able to make do with what he’s got to ensure an enjoyable experience for his customers. “Having my own place allows me to be creative in the kitchen and in how I run it, but I still follow the tastes of the clients,” Fabrizio says. “It is great to have the human contact, the chance to chat with customers.”

While it seems Barcola has got a good thing going, Fabrizio admits, “I am never completely satisfied. But in the restaurant business I don’t think you should be. It’s never completely secure. You can’t anticipate what will come from one month to the next in terms of success.”

Lucky for him, the restaurant has been receiving good feedback with no stop in sight. “I would say at this stage I am 50 per cent satisfied, which is a lot better than when we opened.”

Fabrizio’s high standards are reflected in all aspects of Barcola Bistro, which make it a most noteworthy Mile End venue.

Barcola Bistro - Tagliatelle, Gnocchi, Ravioli
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