No, not Momesso’s!
The landmark diner, purveyors of the most fabled — and best, according to this palate — Italian subs in the city, is up for sale.
Say it ain’t so!
“It’s so,” says a sombre-sounding Paolo Momesso, 68, who’s been running the resto since the death of his father Alessandro in 2006. “We’re selling, not closing.
“It’s time for me to move on. I’m getting up there. I’m an old man now. It’s getting tough, and there are other things I want to do with my life. I’ve been working here since we first opened.”
Momesso Caffe Sportivo, as it is officially registered, was founded by Alessandro Momesso in 1978. Located on Upper Lachine Rd. in what is often referred to as N.D.G.’s Little Italy, Momesso’s is listed by Sutton Québec real estate broker Mark Orsini for $119,000, plus GST and QST. A $5,950 down payment is required. The price includes the restaurant equipment and furniture, though not the building as it is a rental property.
“I would love it if the new buyer could keep the tradition going,” says Paolo, older brother of former Montreal Canadien Sergio Momesso. “If I sell, I would be more than willing to hang around for a while and even help out the new owner for a bit.”
In 2020, Sergio launched Momesso’s Sports Bar and Lounge in the Bonaventure Arena on Côte-de-Liesse Rd., offering his family’s famed subs. But that ended with the closure of the arena in 2022.
The decision to sell the N.D.G. hotspot is not the result of the business having hit hard times, Paolo says.
“During COVID, it was a bit crazy here, like everywhere else. But we’ve been doing fine of late. We have our loyal followers who come here from all over the island.”
True, there’s little to beat the … Mmm … “Momesso Supreme,” a tantalizing combo of Italian sausage, steak, tomatoes, lettuce, fried onions, mushrooms, peppers, cheese and hot sauce. But there is so much more to Momesso’s than the grub, be it the classic subs or the pizza, burgers or specialty poutines. Recipes can be replicated, but the unique spirit the Momesso family brought to the place could be more difficult to sustain.
Momesso’s is a hangout for locals and outsiders to catch Habs games and soccer on the tube, among other attractions. And as anyone who has ever caught the World Cup there knows, there is absolutely nothing to beat the ambience of watching the soccer action at Momesso’s, particularly when Italy’s Azzurri takes to the pitch. And when the Italian team triumphed in 2006, it’s a wonder Momesso’s was left standing. The place shook to its foundation. Talk about jubilation! Talk about free-flowing Sambucas!
Some of us can recall Sambucas and espressos at Momesso’s on July 3, 1990, just prior to Azzurri losing to Diego Maradona-led Argentina in a World Cup semifinal shootout. The heartbreak was exacerbated by the match being played in Naples, where Maradona played professionally for the Napoli team. However, four days later, that agony was replaced by ecstasy of sorts, with Alessandro Momesso leading the charge and pouring the shots, as Italy downed England for a third-place finish.
“What great memories! I guess because I was working during those times, I didn’t always notice just how special the place was to so many who came,” Paolo says. “It’s so nice to hear people tell me how much Momesso’s has meant to them over the years, that it is a Montreal institution.”
Montrealers, to our credit, are equally despondent whether those institutions are haute-cuisine, like the soon-to-be-closed Maison Publique, or the already-closed deli fave the Main.
Alessandro Momesso took a rather circuitous route to his submarine sandwich calling. Born in Cessalto, Italy, near Venice, he came to Canada in 1951 to play soccer.
A professional for five years in Italy, he was signed by the Montreal-based Cantalia squad.
“I was captain of the team for 10 years,” Alessandro told me in a 1988 interview. “And for the first five years, we were undefeated. We won 100 games and tied five.
“They called us professionals because we were paid $25 a game against local teams, $50 against regional teams and $75 against international competition like Tottenham and Mexico City.”
But he didn’t bristle at the thought of the relatively astronomical salaries being paid professional athletes then.
“Anyway, Maurice Richard was only making $6,000 a year back in the early ’50s, and with my carpentry job as well as the soccer, I was doing well by those standards.”
As much as he was delighted by his son Sergio’s success in the NHL, Alessandro always preferred soccer. But he did have a theory as to why the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in ’86.
“Simple,” Alessandro chimed. “They were eating our subs all season long that year.”
Watch: A World Cup without Italy at Montreal’s Momesso
Brownstein: Former Hab Sergio Momesso returns to his sub roots
Brownstein: Lester’s Deli has been sold, but don’t panic