Brought to us by Kitchen Table Group of restaurants (Ask for Luigi, Pourhouse, Di Beppe, Bacaro, Pizzeria Farina), the 88-seat Monzo takes over the space at Vancouver House (1401 Granville Street) once eyeballed by Chef David Chang for Momofuku.
The concept is best described as “American fast food culture as seen through an Italian lens”, but it’s more specific than that. This is a lens inspired by ‘paninari‘ – an Italian subculture of the 1980s that fetishized American music, fast food and fashion.
When I sat down with Kitchen Table’s owners, Jennifer and Nick Rossi, back in February to hear about their Monzo plans, Nick explained: “These paninari kids were so fixated on fashion, fast food and the idea of America; they just wanted to dress cool, hang out and eat burgers with their friends, usually in a piazza, surrounded by motorcycles. Google it, you’ll see what I mean.” So I did, and you should too. The images do not disappoint: packs of stylish youth wearing puffy coats, Levis and Ray-Bans lean against mopeds, resembling gangs of Preppies with an above-average fashion sense and an endless amount of time and money to burn. They look like they know how to have fun.
Chef Mark Perrier (partner at Monzo) understood the paninari spirit right away, and immediately knew how to factor it into menu development. His idea was to nail the ease and deliciousness of fast food, but to do it with quality ingredients and a bit of nostalgic paninari flair. Case in point: The King Monzo (house made double patty cheeseburger with shredded iceberg lettuce, tomato, diced onions, pickles and sauce) is a burger that immediately conjures a ‘Big Mac’, but as Nick tells it: “We’re using a blend of seven whole muscle cuts of Canadian beef, ground in house and handled in a certain way to produce a fantastic burger… No one would be that maniacal about fast food, but we want to be. Not to the point that it becomes outrageously expensive (it’s important to us to be accessible), just to the point that it is outrageously delicious.”
In addition to burgers, Monzo will offer tasty breaded-and-fried chicken cutlets, beef-fat fries, onion rings, a ‘Big Legume’ veg burger, tiramisu parfaits and old school floats (made with soft serve from Kitchen Table’s gelato spot, Motoretta). There will also be a kids’ meal that sounds like a cool delivery system similar to a White Spot ‘Pirate Pak’, but with a very Italian spin (swapping the pirate ship component for a sleek Italian sports car), plus wine, cold beer and cocktails on tap for the grown-ups.
Although ‘official’ opening day is not until September 9th, the public is invited to the soft opening of Monzo on Friday, September 1st, when complimentary cheeseburgers will be available on a first-come-first-served basis (while supplies last).
Monzo is located on the ground floor of the Vancouver House, at 1401 Granville Street, and will be open daily from 11am to midnight starting Saturday, September 9th. Stay tuned to their Instagram feed for updates (and style inspiration).