Hey Al - I wanted to drop you a note and a few pics of my recent field trip to Pub Italia in Ottawa. The restaurant is located in Ottawa's Little Italy district and has straight forward menu of pastas, specialty sauces, pizza and sandwiches. But the real attraction is the beer menu. The pub boasts a long list of imported draughts and bottles with the most impressive being the Belgians.Sounds good. Let's see how it went.
My buddy Tim, a budding beer fan and photographer for this trip, and I traveled up to meet my old college pal Doug who just happens to be a newly enlightened lover of Belgian and German ales. The intention was to meet for lunch but schedules being what they are, we arrived closer to 2:00 pm having eaten along the way. First impressions of the pub were fantastic.
We were shown to the main bar where we introduced ourselves to the bartender Gordie as "official Beer Tourists from Kingston"...and yes, we dropped the Beer Blog tag several times. Gordie explained the daily special which consisted of Guinness, Smithwicks, and something else. I explained that we were here for the Trappists and Gordie's smile brightened. The bar stocks at least one offering from every current Trappist brewery they had - three Chimay, two Westmalle and three Rochefort. My first order was Westmalle Dubbel. Doug ordered a Rochefort 8, and Tim had the Maredsous 8, not Trappist but he was curious. No fancy reviews from us three rubes except to say that the Westmalle and Rochfort were outstanding. A bit of a boozy aftertaste in the Maredsous but it was still pretty good and I only had a sip. But this is not so much a beer review as much as it is a pub tale.
We decided to order some snacks so we could rationalize the next beer order and a trip to the...umm...facilities was in order. Walking through the bar you are surrounded by stained glass pieces - both beer inspired and truly religious works - and nifty ornaments. On the other side of the restaurant is the hidden gem, The Abbey Bar. Upon my return to the main bar I inquired with Gordie about the Abbey. He told us that the Abbey was closed at the moment and would be open later but he did offer to take us on a tour so we grabbed our glasses and headed over. Gordie explained that the Abbey is a replica Belgian abbey pub complete with three glass washing sinks and pouring station which he demonstrated. Wooden framed coolers, old world art and glass, and cozy wooden booths provide a truly intimate drinking and dining experience. We snapped a few pics and headed back to the main bar for our next sampling.
My second order was Rochefort 10 while Doug had a Chimay Blue and Tim an Erdinger wheat beer. Turns out Tim didn't really come for the Trappists but that's OK considering he brought Corona to my place for New Years Eve. Again, the beers were terrific. And I really liked the Erdinger on tap too. I can imagine a couple of those on a hot summer afternoon sitting in the outdoor patio of the Abbey bar. I joked with the bartender that I should have ordered a Schneider Aventinus so I could steal the glass when he told me they had an on site store with brand swag for purchase. Sadly no Schneider, Westmalle or Chimay glasses for sale but I was directed to the owner of the bar to inquire about these. The Westmalle was a particularly beautiful glass and I do plan on acquiring a couple during my next visit. Visions of cab rides around Ottawa prevented any purchases at the time.
Outside of the beers we ordered, Gordie treated us to several samples from the taps. And I should mention that the veal sandwich and cannelloni that we ordered later that evening was very good. All in all, we had a great time at the pub. The beer and food and the hospitality shown to us was fantastic and I would recommend to anyone visiting Ottawa to drop in.