Blink and you just might miss it. And boy, will you regret it.

It’s one of those hidden gems, a well-kept secret off the beaten path, and far from the restaurant rows and overhyped fads that pad food writers’ and wannabe reviewers’ resumés these days.

In a Saint-Dorothée strip mall that you could easily pass on the way to the dry cleaner, Trattoria Bellamore is one of the finest Italian restaurants in the greater Montreal area.

The father-and-son operation serves up the best in traditional Italian cuisine with a fusion twist.

What does that mean? “Well,” says Daniel Bellacicco, who works the tables, “how about red tuna with a sesame honey sauce?”

But if you’re hankering for something a lot more traditional, then by all means try the mouth-watering bracciole or any other of their fresh savory homemade dishes, as of course everyone loves to say, “just like Nonna’s Sunday meals.”

There’s a lot more to it of course.

A BYOB that serves high-end cuisine is an increasingly rare find, and Bellacicco and his father Michele have worked hard to get It right. “We have spent a long time trying to invite a clientele with the love of wine, and to encourage curiosity and a desire for good wine to be paired with a fantastic meal. There’s nothing like it.”

The day here begins like all days for Michele: “Early” he laughs, recounting trips to market and butchers to get the best meat, fish and products available. “We’re known for meat and fish” he says, “we’re very strong,” adding that in addition to the table d’hôte that changes every two weeks, there are always chef’s specialties, some unique surprises. “Basically” he says, as the sweet and inviting aroma of fresh bread baking fills the small restaurant on an early Friday morning, “it’s just the things I felt like cooking this week!”

No need to ask, says Daniel. “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you!” But there’s a caveat says his dad. “Like a true trattoria: when we run out, we run out. That’s it.”

Indeed, even with little Italian provenance, one of Bellamore’s signature dishes, a delectable rack of lamb, brings in diners from as far north as Tremblant, south as Candiac, west from Ottawa and east to Quebec City. (If it makes you feel better, you can start with a spectacular pasta e fagioli and indulge with a zuppa inglese.

With one seating per night, it was evident to Michele that it just wouldn’t do. “It was definitely not enough so we added a second seating on Saturdays, because my loyal customers were waiting three weeks for a table.” (Reservations are highly recommended.)

The small, intimate restaurant on Samson seats about 50, and you’ll see Daniel moving from table to table with dishes and wine glasses while Michaele works in the open kitchen, in full view of the diners who can hear, see and smell what’s about to be a delicious experience.

The seven-year old eatery has flourished thanks to the dynamic team, attention of discerning diners who appreciate quality food with their favourite wines, and a growing reputation far beyond its immediate surroundings.

“It’s remarkable that business people and tourists travelling to Montreal and Laval have found us and become repeat customers” says Daniel. “That says a lot.” Indeed, Bellamore has fared well on Trip Advisor where many people find the restaurant, renowned for its lamb, grilled octopus and comfortable ambience. “It’s amazing. You can’t mess with those reviews and we get people coming from so far and wide and making the effort to come back when they are anywhere near Laval.

Well it’s amazing, and no surprise to him and his dad: It’s a love of food, love of wine and a lot of good company; that’s amore.

Well actually no…that’s Bellamore.

For more info visit www.trattoriabellamore.com

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