“The impetus behind Salad Pizza Wine was, first and foremost, [to show people it’s okay not to take] cooking so damn seriously and to bring some fun into their kitchens,” says Stephanie Mercier Voyer, the co-author who put Elena’s passion for food, wine and service into words. “At least as much fun as we had writing the book, I hope! We laughed a lot and told so many stories about what has happened there over the years. I think that really comes through when you read it.” And you can definitely trust this source—she used to work there. Elena, which opened back in 2018, is a Montreal must for not only its current, seasonal and local-ingredient-forward Italian cuisine but also its philosophy—which is a far cry from business-as-usual in the industry. “For us, it’s always been about steering clear of the toxic food-service culture built on a shaky foundation of excess, insane hours and poor work-life balance,” shares Ryan Gray, co-owner of and sommelier at Elena (as well as Montreal mainstay Nora Gray and the newer Gia Vin & Grill). “We want to offer our employees and ultimately our customers something better. We believe in taking care of people first.”

Out on May 23, Salad Pizza Wine has the same spirit of camaraderie, kindness and family that fills the four walls of Elena and its menu IRL. “We wanted the cookbook to read like a story from cover to cover,” explains Gray. There are more than 115 recipes, with dishes divided up by season, designed for home cooks to follow along using locally grown ingredients. “Seasonal eating is very Italian, very Elena, and that’s why the book is the way it is,” he says. “Fewer imports, more local products. It’s a win for the environment and local producers—but it’s also a far better way to make fresh, flavourful food.”

Accessible and adaptable to taste and cooking comfort levels, the dishes are meant to be mixed, matched and modified without fuss, like radishes with pine-nut purée, green beans with nduja and almonds, mortadella-artichoke-pistachio pizza, saffron bucatini with clams and bottarga and farfalle with fava beans and morels. “We wanted to write a ‘choose your own adventure’ of sorts,” says Janice Tiefenbach, Elena’s executive chef and the culinary mastermind behind the cookbook’s mouth-watering creations. “It’s kind of like at the restaurant,” Gray adds. “Folks can sit down at a table, cozy up to the bar or take their pizza and wine to go and savour it in the little park nearby. Dealer’s choice.”

When it comes to good eating and drinking, Elena doesn’t mess around—and its team hopes to inspire us with delicious salads, pizzas and wine too. 

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