Café Presto Inc
By Michelle Trottier

A Coffee Shop as a Pension Fund

In the restaurant world, there’s always new places to see, whether it’s the trendy bistro, the hip wine bar or the fashionable, must-visit “poutinerie.” Then there are businesses like Café Presto, a reassuring place, full of memories that the owner is more than happy to share.

The owner in question is Guerrino Massironi, an affable gentleman who has worked in the restaurant business his whole life. “I’ve worked in Switzerland, England, Germany, Spain – always in palaces,” he boasts. “Here in Montreal, I worked at the Ritz Carlton at Windsor [and] I was the manager for the Holiday Inn at the Expo.” In 1978, he opened a trattoria on Sherbrooke Street, then from ’80 to ’92, he ran a large establishment that saw a host of VIPs walk through its doors, including Jean Drapeau, Robert Bourassa and Celine Dion. Then, when his 50th birthday came around and he grew tired of working days that went on well into the night, Guerrino opened Café Presto in 1992. “This is my baby. It’s my pension fund,” he says, with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

It’s me who does the food and service. The customer wants to see the owner in a small place like this. - Guerrino Massironi, chef and owner
Photo by Michelle Trottier

Pasta, for the Appetite and the Wallet

Café Presto’s speciality is pasta. “On the menu, there’s always beef, meatballs or a stew,” explains Guerrino, who is also the restaurant’s chef. “And there’s always Italian sausage because the customers like it. There are three dishes that are always on the menu: penne, linguini and sausages. The other items change. [But] there’s always a meat dish on the menu.” With side salads at $1.95 and a glass of wine at $4, the exceptional value is a point of pride for Guerrino. But there’s another factor that adds to his satisfaction. “It’s me who does the food and service,” he boasts. “The customer wants to see the owner in a small place like this.”

Café Presto’s interior is full of nostalgia. When you enter the restaurant, you’ll be greeted by a dessert table with beautiful cannoli. The small square tables are covered with checkered tablecloths and the walls tell stories through an eclectic patchwork of posters with movie stars from a bygone era, yellowed newspaper clippings praising the coffee shop or recounting the exploits of its famous customers, photos of the boss with visiting dignitaries, and images of Italy.

Photo by Michelle Trottier
Photo by Michelle Trottier

Workers by Midday and Spectators by Evening

On nights when there’s a show or a hockey game, the coffee shop fills up. “We have a pretty stable customer base,” explains Guerrino. “When people go to see a show, they don’t want to spend $200 or $300 for dinner. You want something quick to eat, then go see the show or the hockey [game]. By 7:30 pm, everyone is out the door.” This, however, does not offend him in the slightest. He explains that “Downtown, it’s always ‘go.’ The customers come back, and that’s what counts.”

Photo by Michelle Trottier
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