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Battuto, Quebec City

Low-key elegance.

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Despite its modest curb appeal, Battuto is easily spotted on its quiet corner in Quebec City; just look for the two-dozen people gathering outside the door every night.

Low-key simplicity was the original vision for this minimalist’s daydream of clean lines and uncomplicated yet vivid cuisine, the brainchild of chef Guillaume St-Pierre, sous chef Paul Croteau, and sommelier Pascal Bussières. But less than a year after landing the top spot on enRoute magazine’s Canada’s New Best Restaurants list, the four-person team of this 24-seat Italian eatery has found itself enjoying an unexpected celebrity—and is rising to the challenge.

“Having only 24 seats is like a blessing,” shares Bussières. “It keeps us sustainable in our goals… it keeps us human-sized.”

Battuto first sparked to life inside a 436-square-foot former snack bar in early 2017, after the space was gutted and custom-fit to the team’s exacting standards. A cozy, spare, and open room of cool greys, warm wood accents, and geometric light fixtures, the room is a canvas for a welcoming, intimate dining experience that places flavour at the forefront.

After the doors are opened and those lucky enough to secure a reservation set foot inside, the sincerely gracious Amélie Pruneau, Battuto’s only employee, collects coats and drink orders. After the diners are settled in with Pruneau’s zesty gin slings and the electric beats of Sporto Kantes over the sound system, Croteau and St-Pierre slice vegetables behind the chef’s counter. Here, everything is front-of-house.

“Having only 24 seats is like a blessing,” shares Bussières. “It keeps us sustainable in our goals… it keeps us human-sized.”

Things move briskly at Battuto, but nothing feels rushed. Rather, the team dips and sidesteps around each other fluidly, with a healthy hustle. St-Pierre arranges slivers of endive over rose-coloured tuna and creamy bagna càuda while Croteau tosses something into the fryer, simultaneously drizzling olive oil over a hunk of mozzarella. Pruneau helps us navigate the menu, suggesting arancini with Caesar sauce and house-made coppa before slipping behind the bar, where Bussières is uncorking our gamay.

Each team member moves as though they’re alone in the space, while at the same time complementing one another’s multitasking; Croteau gives a sizzling pan a shake before turning away, only to be replaced by St-Pierre, who grinds fresh pepper into the skillet.

“It would be a different restaurant if it were bigger,” Croteau says of the area. “Here, it can be casual, it’s like you’re coming over to see friends.”

Tender bites of poached octopus with herbed garlic hummus and crisp, white turnip are followed by buttery, sweet liver parfait on a chestnut crouton. Smoky, soft gnocchi is dressed with fresh basil plucked from a casserole dish garden. The celery root blended with pancetta and brown butter ravioli makes every bite taste like spring.

The room, while minute and filled to the brim with people, feels more like a polished dinner party than anything else. The team is busy, to be sure, but finds plenty of time for playful chit chat. It’s all part of what Croteau calls the Battuto philosophy: quality-forward, service-first, night after night, as long as the crowds keep lining up outside the door.

“We’re tired, but at least we sleep well,” he jokes of Battuto’s unexpected popularity. When asked what’s next for the team, he only laughs.

“We haven’t talked about the future. We’re busy living in the now.”

527 Boulevard Langelier, Ville de Québec, 418 614 4414.

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Post Date:

April 17, 2018