By buying the restaurant Connie’s Pizza, an institution of Pointe-Saint-Charles, the new owners had no idea that they would create quite a commotion. The establishment’s legendary recipes, which disappeared with Johnny’s departure, were demanded by the very (very!) loyal clientele. Result: four months later, Johnny is back in the kitchen to pass on the secret behind his famous pizza.
Posted at 9:00 a.m.
Pizza at Connie’s is part of the history of Pointe-Saint-Charles, in Montreal. Everyone in the neighborhood seems to frequent this small restaurant-counter located at the corner of Charlevoix and Coleraine streets.
However, last May, it is the disaster. Connie’s Pizza is changing hands as Jean Papadolias, who affectionately goes by the name Johnny, and his business partner Everest Kanakis retire. A departure very badly experienced by the regulars of the restaurant. They no longer recognize the unique taste of their pizza, because the new owners have changed the recipe.
“We were living in collective mourning, we no longer recognized our Connie’s, because we don’t call it pizza, but Connie’s”, confides Violaine Cousineau, 48, who has lived in the neighborhood since birth.
How can we be deprived of our pizza which is part of our heritage? It shows how attached we are to our local shops, even more so when a restaurant’s pizza has marked entire generations, why change the recipe?
Customers, dismayed, had been discussing the subject for a few months on the Facebook page of residents of Pointe-Saint-Charles.
Then, a few days ago, a dramatic turn of events: the former owner, Johnny, returned to the kitchen. “We called him for help,” says Maggie Dimitriadis, new owner of Connie’s Pizza with her husband Chris Dimopoulos. “We did some renovations, but it was our former partner who didn’t have the same vision as us. We parted with it, and all the original recipes that made Connie’s Pizza so successful are back, including the famous pizza and spaghetti sauce, ”she says.
But what the hell is in this pizza? “It’s the tomato sauce that is really delicious and the crispy dough has a really unique taste. I recognize Connie’s by its smell,” confides Martin Lacroix, a former neighborhood resident who doesn’t hesitate to travel from Longueuil to eat his Connie’s. “I order an extra-large one and have some left over for the next day,” he says. “The pizza’s tomato sauce is delicious, I can’t describe it to you, the crust is juicy, it gives me real emotion, it’s perfect! “says Violaine Cousineau.
Connie’s pizza recipe is secret and will remain so.
The former owner explains: “It comes from the first owners, around 60 years ago, an Italian couple, whose wife was called Connie! »
Johnny, of Greek origin, arrived in Quebec in 1969, and bought the restaurant in 1980. He retired, at age 68, last May, after 42 years in the kitchen at Connie’s Pizza. He knows people from all over the neighborhood. “Johnny watched me grow. I have so many beautiful memories here. Going to Connie’s is like coming home,” says Martin Lacroix, who lived in Pointe-Saint-Charles for 30 years. “When I was little, we played hockey and Johnny always offered us balls of bread that came out of the oven, he recalls. You know the balls of bread you put in the middle of the pizza so the cheese doesn’t stick to the cardboard box? A tradition that still exists, assures us Maggie, the new owner.
At this moment, Gaétan Gagnon, a neighborhood resident, cycles past the restaurant and recognizes Johnny behind the glass. ” Well then ! Johnny! You came back ! “, he says, with a big smile. “I’ve lived here for 40 years, it’s the best pizza in the world, but the last time it didn’t make sense, I said to myself, but what is this pizza? Johnny! You are back ! It’s amazing ! “, he repeats.
Johnny goes out to see him on the sidewalk. ” I’m back ! I came out of retirement because I want the tradition to continue for a long time. I’m going to stay in the kitchen as long as it takes to make sure my recipes are mastered to perfection by Chris, the new owner,” says Johnny, who became a grandfather three weeks ago.
Maggie and Chris, the new owners, are also of Greek origin. They grew up in Montreal and understand the importance of mutual aid. “The community of Pointe-Saint-Charles is tightly woven, there is a history in the neighborhood linked to this pizza, it’s part of the collective memory and it touches me a lot,” she said.
“We will continue to offer at Connie’s Pizza all the original recipes, as before. The spaghetti sauce is also very popular, as are the plates of souvlaki, always very popular. You’re ost welcome. »