Consider The Pizza: The Story Behind Montreal's Amelia's
A closer look at the McGill Ghetto's legendary pizzeria.
Photo cred - Montreal Best Food Ever
It’s been a sad couple of pizza-deprived months in the McGill Ghetto, but the drought has ended: as of Tuesday, Amelia’s (formerly known as “Amelio’s”) is officially reopen for business. In honour of the return of the beloved White Pizza (along with the rest of their delicious menu), I spoke with Jennifer Scodras, owner of the restaurant, to learn more about it and its history.
Amelio’s was founded in 1985 by her uncle and father. Their father had gotten them into the food business, and the brothers eventually decided to open a restaurant of their own on Lorne and Milton which capitalized on their love of pizza. Their passion melded with the knowledge they’d already acquired of the industry, and Amelio’s was born.
Many of the elements which make the restaurant as cherished as it is today were present in its original incarnation, including the White Pizza. Scodras’s father had a particular affection for cheese, and his feelings led him to test out different combinations until he came up with the immortal five cheese blend which still adorns the wonder that is the Amelio’s White.
I see this as being as good a time as any to insert my own personal history with the White Pizza. I was introduced to Amelio’s by my buddy MacLean, who was already a passionate fan of the restaurant by the time we’d met. After reaching the point in our relationship where a loyal Amelio’s customer simply must introduce his friend to the place, MacLean insisted on us celebrating this glorious moment at the only establishment befitting such an occasion.
Upon arriving at Amelio’s, he refused to let us order anything than the White. Naturally, I was skeptical of eating a pizza topped with nothing but tons and tons of cheese, but MacLean wouldn’t take no for an answer. Next thing I knew, the indulgent mix of dough and dairy arrived at our table, and it was time for us to begin our feast.
I regretted my skepticism the instant I took a bite of the culinary masterpiece that is the Amelio’s White. The creamy texture was the perfect complement to the idiosyncratic taste created by the combination of cheeses. Once I made my way through the glorious mixture, the buttery crust was a glorious conclusion to the slice. I wish I could say that I stopped to savour the wonderful flavour, but the truth is that I immediately reached for my next piece. I’d discovered that there is a heaven for pizza lovers, and it can be found at Amelio’s.
As many Montrealers have been relieved to hear, it will continue to be found in the city, but now at Amelia’s. Legal disputes within the Scodras family forced the restaurant to close and change its name, but the problem has since been resolved. Going forth, they’ll continue to offer the same delicious menu under the new moniker.
It’s a menu which has only changed to add innovations such as the Florentine, which tops Amelio’s signature cheese and dough with artichoke and spinach. Scodras’s father came up with it in an attempt to capture the deliciousness of spinach dip in the context of a pizza, and the results were wildly successful. He achieved a comparable triumph with the Reuben, which, as the name suggests, puts the meat and sauerkraut of its eponymous sandwich atop a pizza.
His culinary mastery was only matched by his business know-how, and he ran the restaurant in tandem with his brother, with Jennifer beginning to help out at the tender age of ten years old. After her uncle passed away last year, she began managing, and she’s continued to run and own the restaurant into its reopening.
Despite her independence, she’s had plenty of help to make Ameilia’s what it is, and it’s had the same staff for fifteen years. “It’s like a big family here,” she said. “It’s not like coming into work; it’s like a second home.”
Many pizza loving Montrealers think about Amelia’s with a similar love, and it’s built a passionate following amongst inhabitants of the McGill Ghetto and people from around the Island. Although the quality of the pizza has been more than enough to have lines going out of the restaurant nearly every night it’s open, its popularity has been bolstered by its generous BYOW policy. (Wine isn’t yet allowed at Amelia’s due to a licensing issue, but Scodras assured me that it would be soon.)
Even without customers being allowed to bring drinks, it’s hard to imagine Montrealers backing down from their allegiance to Amelia’s anytime soon. The few days and nights since they’ve re-opened have been busy ones, and the unwavering quality of the pizza ensures that their popularity will endure. No matter what legal issues or other setbacks occur, the city simply won’t let offerings as delicious as the White, the Florentine, and everything else on their menu fade away.