Montrealers have the right to brag about a lot of things when it comes to food. For such a small city, we have an abundance of independent coffee shops, a wide selection of places to go when you have a late night craving, and the privilege of having some essential culinary legacies like Schwartz’s, Moishes or Saint-Viateur Bagel (or Fairmount, depending on your allegiance). Where Montreal often falls short of other metropolitan cities is in the field of high quality, upscale markets or groceries, like New York’s Dean & DeLuca — that is, until recently. Nowadays, Le Richmond Marché Italien fills that void.
The original Le Richmond is a high-end restaurant in Griffintown, which—since its opening in 2013—has attracted Montrealers with its Northern Italian cuisine and one of the most spectacular terrasses in the city. And when the unit next to them in their big industrial space became available, they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bring a different business to the location.
Ibti Saadi, director of sales and marketing, explains that before their opening, it was “hard to have a simple bite around here.” So they started brainstorming and came up with the “garde-manger”, or fine grocery concept, along with the idea for a bistro, and the rest followed from there. They opened with the goal of being a one-stop-shop; as Saadi says, you can “come here, grab everything, and go home.”
They have a wide array of products to choose from, like sandwiches and salads at their to-go counter, pre-made meals and sauces to bring home, a grocery section, and a bistro where you can have a quick lunch. That’s one of the ways that the Marché Italien compliments the restaurant, according to Saadi: “If you just want a pizza, you can come here and it will be a quick half-hour to 45-minute lunch, or if you want to have a longer birthday dinner […] it would be at the restaurant. It’s to give you options to have two different places depending on your mindset.”
When walking through the place, it may at first seem unclear what the unifying thread is among the products. But every item has been carefully curated to be the best of its category. “It was 9 months of work,” Saadi explains. “Everything you see in this place has been tasted and we know the product and there’s a reason why we have this one instead of [another].” She explains that they tried dozens of brands of pasta before deciding on the one they chose (Rummo), which may be a fun job perk, but takes great time and attention when choosing all 2000+ products in this way.
The products come mainly from Italy, while some are from Quebec, and they are aware that knowing which product to choose requires a sort of education in its own right. For this reason, even they have tastings on Saturdays for clients to try different products, and a very well trained staff who can explain to you what makes a Tuscan olive oil different from another kind. This way, whether you’re looking for something for yourself or for a more innovative dinner gift than a bottle of wine, you know what you’re getting.
The same care is given to their takeout food section, with an assortment of sandwiches (including an outstanding looking grilled cheese with apple) and salads made fresh daily. If the choices overwhelm you, Saadi’s favourite is their “Le Richmond” sandwich, made of pizza bread, lettuce, tomato, marinated artichokes, cheese, and mortadella. “It’s super simple […] but it’s my favourite item,” she says. “I have at least one a week. At least.” They also have a selection of desserts to choose from, including cannoli that they (“of course”, according to the server) prepare fresh for you.
An undeniable bonus of Le Richmond’s Marché Italien is how stunning it is. The building was a powerhouse from the 1800s, and they made a big effort to preserve the authenticity of the building. According to Saadi, “what we like about this neighbourhood is you can have old and new, and we are part of the ‘old ones’, so […] we wanted to keep everything that is charming.” They kept the industrial look and played with wood, steel, and dark colours to keep it rustic. The chandeliers that hang overhead are the most striking feature when you first walk in, but everything from the tiled floor in certain areas and wood in others, to the same barstools as used in the restaurant, to the original sprinkler control valve and beams that they kept, has been chosen deliberately to at once maintain the history of the building and the contemporary/modern feel of Griffintown and their neighbouring restaurant.
Le Richmond Marché Italien brings to Montreal a one-stop shop so that you can get your lunch, your dinner for that night, a homemade sauce to use later in the week, and your groceries at once — an asset when in a city that’s “minus 40 and you don’t want to walk around everywhere,” Saadi laughs. Le Richmond Marché Italien is exceptional in that it fills a void in Montreal, making it a very promising addition to the Griffintown area and city at large.