On Bélanger (where else?), just west of St-Michel, Montreal

The Pizzeria Project: The first stop in our attempt to eat at every single pizzeria on Bélanger St. between Lacordaire and St-Denis.

Two sides to every story: Depending on your mood, you can choose from the greasy spoon room (turquoise colour scheme, old fashioned booths and counter, and a view of the pizza oven and cash register), or the dining room (featuring live music on Friday and Saturday nights).

What? No Greek food?: Although it looks like a typical Montreal-style Greek-owned pizzeria, Belanger Pizzeria is actually Italian-owned, making it a Phase 2 ethnic restaurant, which serves good, hearty, basic Italian fare. If you’re there on the right day, you might even be able to get an order of tripe…

The Main Event: Enrico plays the accordion in the back room on Friday and Saturday nights and, surprisingly, draws quite a crowd. His son Gino accompanies him on drums. The place is packed when we arrive... and everyone seems to know each other, like it’s a big party or something. Like in a lowbrow version of Goodfellas, a guy comes out of the kitchen carrying a table over his head, walks into the dining room and puts down the table for us right next to the drums, in the centre of the action. Enrico drinks and talks more than he plays. When he sees us fingering the air and discussing his technique, he stops singing, calls us up and proceeds to give us an accordion lesson in front of the crowd. There are guest performers too. Ms. Sicotte has just returned from a four-month engagement on a cruise ship and she performs her “around the world” medley for us. She puts her arms around us, sits on our laps, and asks for a kiss on the cheek. Luigi comes out of the kitchen, wearing his tomato sauce-stained apron, to sing us his favourite song. Enrico announces that his food is ready; it’s time for a break. But wait a minute... a big beefy guy walks in from the greasy spoon room where he has been sitting and smoking and looking off into the distance by himself for the last half-hour. He’s wearing a light grey double-breasted suit, a black shirt, a white tie, and a very large pinky ring. He looks like he’s packin’ a piece. He walks up to Enrico... maybe to tell him “There’s no way you’re taking a break before playing what I’ve been waiting to hear.” But no, he turns to face us, microphone in hand, eyes closed, a melancholy look on his face… and breaks into a stunning rendition of Mala Femmena...

Thought about: There is a little bit of Dean Martin in everyone.

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