The Real Story Behind Montreal’s Cafe Olimpico
Everyone's favourite coffee spot.
If you've ever been to Montreal's Mile End, then the chances are very high that you've passed by Cafe Olimpico (124 Rue St-Viateur Ouest). It's pretty much an institution in the area - and in Montreal in general.
True talk, it's one of my absolute favourite places to grab coffee.
There's something about the friendly, familiar atmosphere and awesome~ coffee that just get me every. Single. Time.
And I know I'm not alone. When it comes to cafes in Montreal, it's really obvious that Olimpico has a winning recipe. Especially considering its recent expansion into Old Montreal (419 Rue Saint Vincent).
As someone who's at Olimpico frequently, I personally couldn't help but wonder how this pretty famous Montreal spot came to be. It's been around for as long as I can remember, and I'm pretty sure it didn't just shoot out of the ground, Italia flag and espresso machine at the ready. (Well, maybe, but probably not).
So, after doing a little research, I managed to learn a little bit of the history about one of my fave Montreal coffee shops.
A while ago, parts of the Mile End were hotspots for Italian immigrants to settle into when they came to the city. (See: Little Italy, for example).
Rocco Furfaro, who immigrated from Rome to Montreal in 1960, actually opened Cafe Olimpico in 1970. But before that, he just so happened to own the very first pizzeria in Montreal, along with his wife.
Rocco eventually sold the pizzeria... But, shortly after, he opened up Cafe Olimpico. His goal with the coffee shop? Make it an awesome meeting space for everyone, which I think has been more than achieved.
He also wanted to make sure to preserve and pass down his special Italian espresso blend, which remains unchanged since Olimpico opened in the 1970s.
So, if you've ever tried one of Olimpico's signature lattes, cappuccinos, affogatos, or espressos, then you know you're tasting something that's lasted for about four decades. I think that's super chill, TBH.
Also, if you've ever been to the Mile End in July, then you might have noticed the San Marziale feast taking place. Funnily enough, Olimpico owner Rocco Furfaro would actually threw the San Marziale parties himself, as a way to catch up with other Italian immigrants who had moved elsewhere in the city.
I don't know about you guys, but I think the whole story is pretty amazing. My grandparents were Italian immigrants too, and having lived with them for most of my life, I've heard stories of their struggles forever. The fact that someone in that situation could go on to create one of the most successful coffee spots in the city is mindblowing to me... but, anyways, that's a little bit off topic.
Oh, and cute little anecdote time: if you've been to Olimpico, you might have noticed that their slogan is "open da night." That's because it was originally "open day and night", but a few letters fell off. And just like that, their cute, funny, famous pseudo-slogan was born.
Today, Olimpico serves up yummy espresso-based drinks, biscotti, pastries, and more, all in their signature green-roofed spot at the corner of St. Viateur and Waverly. It's one of the hottest spots to go to watch soccer, chill with friends, enjoy a latte, and basically do just about anything.
So, Cafe Olimpico, keep doing you. Because you're awesome.