An ice cream shop called Mantovani 1946 has moved into the Murray Street space where Domus Café used to be. In the transom above its door is etched a big gold M, and then “Italy. UK. Canada.” Written on the windows (the ones that used to read “Regional, Seasonal, Canadian Cuisine”) is now “Award Winning Italian Artisanal Ice Cream.”
I suppose if a business had to move in to the former Domus space, ice cream does provide some comfort.
Mantovani 1946 has its ‘historical seat’ (since 1946) in Napoli. There are eight gelato branches in Italy, family run, and a shop newly open on Tottenham Road in London. And now they’ve crossed the briny deep and opened a first North American Mantovani 1946 ice cream parlour in… Ottawa. Logical, no?
I remember feeling the same sort of gobsmacked when Le Cordon Bleu International figured they’d set up shop in Ottawa. Since 1895, with its flagship headquarters in Paris, LCB opened, twenty-eight years ago, its first (and only) international campus in the United States and Canada. And it chose our town.
“Why us?” you might well ask.
Well, according to president André Cointreau it was “Ottawa’s rich history in gastronomy and flair for French architecture (that) made it the perfect venue.” Who knew?
And as it happens, a pastry chef who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu, Ottawa campus, now makes the Mantovani 1946, Ottawa campus’ line of cakes, tarts and pastries. Those sampled – tiramisu, a peach almond tart, a mini Cannolo Siciliano and a Bomboline Crema (an Italian doughnut dusted with sugar and filled with pastry cream) indicate the chef has received a very fine education.
There’s a sizeable selection of gelato flavours, all made in house. My go-to is always pistachio and it didn’t disappoint – creamy and rich with a pronounced roasted nut flavour. Also good, the cassata siciliana and the coconut. They were sold out of the (mouthful of a) flavour called “The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies,” which apparently took first prize at a 2015 gelato competition in Italy. Next time…
Images I’ve Googled of Mantovanis in Italy and London suggest that the décor for the Ottawa franchise is much the same as the European versions – a large, very white, elegant space, with couches for lounging and tables for working, all set with fresh flowers. There’s a bookcase at the back, where the Domus kitchen would have been, and a long harvest table for meetings or events. Counter service is provided by servers in starched white shirts and black aprons, their wares lit with oversized pendulum lights, white, of course, marked with the Mantovani ‘M’, and lightly distressed, their cords covered with poufy fabric. Italian cloth, most likely. But a trip there might be in order, just to be sure.
Open Monday to Sunday, 10am to 10pm. Gelato $5.50 for small to $7.50 for large. Slice of cake, $5.50
87 Murray Street, 613-422-4255.
Photography by Anne DesBrisay.