(and the importance of eating the right kind of sandwiches)

: : It was on a balmy winter night that the Montreal Tiki Appreciation Society made its expedition to the mysteriously enchanting and uncharted South Seas paradise of Tahiti. The road was long and potentially dangerous but, luckily for us, we made it there safely thanks to the ruggedness of our all-urban-terrain vehicle: we took my car. : :

: : The Tahiti is Chateauguay’s homage to South Seas culture. Chateauguay is on Montreal’s south shore. To get there, take the Mercier bridge, then the 138 southbound. The restaurant is on the south side of St-Jean-Baptiste Boulevard. It only took us 40 minutes to get there, thanks to a powerful northeast wind. : :

: : How did the M.T.A.S. locate this exotic destination known enticingly as the Tahiti? Well, I simply remembered never going there as a kid. You see, my family and I lived in Chateauguay during my youth, and as is the case with most conservative Italian immigrant families, we never ventured out to such non-Italian sounding restaurants. The most exotic we ever got was to order combination menu “C” for 5 at Lee’s Chinese Restaurant. : :

: : Chateauguay, as I remember it, was a quiet little suburban town. It was perfectly bilingual, with one English and one French high school. My friends and I would meet up in the morning to walk to school, happily strolling along Maple Street. I had anglophone friends on Birch Street and francophone friends on Trudeau street (I ain’t kiddin’ either). Still other friends had one English parent and one French parent. They lived on Tolerate Everybody Street (okay, now I’m kidding). : :

: : Early in Chateauguay history, the culturally important “Battle of Chateauguay” took place, during which Canada successfully fought off an American invasion, thanks to the leadership of the infamous Colonel DeSalaberry. In fact, his house still stands in Chateauguay; it has been granted the status of historical landmark and is currently serving as a tavern. It is in part due to this battle that we only watch American programs on TV today rather than make them. : :

: : My family moved to Chateauguay during a late sixties housing boom and bought a nice little bungalow on Maple street (strange word, “bungalow” – sounds like it should be the name of an aboriginal tribe living on a small island... the Bungalow Indians of Bunga-Bunga). : :

: : All our relatives were shocked when we moved to Chateauguay. During the late sixties, all Italian immigrant families in Montreal who felt a need to move out of Little Italy were required to buy a duplex in St-Leonard (there’s a written rule about this somewhere). In fact, some of my relatives did not even move out of Little Italy – period. So, to most of them, our living off the island of Montreal was unwise, imprudent, and downright dangerous since we were now living in the “wild.” What made it even worse was the fact that Chateauguay bordered on Kahnawake, causing some of our relatives to think our lives would be in constant danger and that we would have to hide in our bungalow, fending off potential attacks from the “savages.” : :

: : Needless to say, we were the only Italian family in Chateauguay. Okay, maybe not the only Italian family; it is possible that the Ciccarelli family who owned the Italian restaurant may have been of Italian background but I didn’t know them very well. : :

: : Living in Chateauguay was pleasant, yet, as the only Italian kid in school, it was difficult for me to become readily accepted by the other kids. For starters my mother dressed me funny, comparatively speaking. As bad as I wanted jeans and running shoes to be just like the other kids, I was stuck with wool dress pants and little leather Italian dress shoes. In the old country, people only dressed “sporty” or “casual” to play soccer. Then the kids bugged me about how I must have eaten spaghetti every night. This hurt the most since it was a vicious, dirty lie. We didn’t eat spaghetti every night. My mom would alternate between linguini, rigatoni, and macaroni. : :

: : Lunch-time was another source of ridicule, especially when the other kids saw me pull out my Nutella sandwiches, instead of ham and cheese or peanut butter and jam. The sight of chocolate spread between two slices of bread was not appetizing to my friends (let alone the slice of salami that I would occasionally fire in there, but that’s a whole other psychosis). I quickly learned that eating the right kind of sandwiches was just as important for social acceptance as wearing the right kind of clothing was. : :

: : With my high schooling completed, we moved back onto the island of Montreal. A whole new kind of identity crisis awaited me at CEGEP. This important transition period usually gives one the opportunity to familiarize oneself with what university life will be like two years later, while at the same time allowing one’s adult personality to develop. Instead, after finally having mastered the art of fitting in with the Anglo-Canadians (i.e. learning about the right shoes and sandwiches), I was now faced with a new reality: the Italians of St-Leonard. : :

: : Again I found myself eating the wrong kind of sandwiches: my thin, flat little white bread sandwiches were pitiful in comparison to the whole-loaf-of-bread concepts these kids were sporting. In fact, based on my “sangwiches” alone, no one believed I could have been reared by Italian parents... something had gone terribly wrong somewhere. Even my masculinity was questioned! Compared to the more extremist contingent (i.e. the leather-shoed, woolen-trousered, cologne-doused, gold-chain-and-crucifix-swinging he-dudes), I was a half-baked panini. : :

: : For the first 12 years of school, I was the Italian kid who tried desperately to fit in with the WASPS but now, I was neither (actually, that’s not an identity crisis, it’s an identity shortage). Eventually, I finally decided that if I can’t be either, then screw it – I’ll be Hawaiian instead! Hence my involvement with the Tiki Society (not to mention the change of name and acquisition of various Hawaiian and Filipino shirts). So, if there’s to be a moral to my story that might help anyone out there, let’s just say that it’s this: in life, it is important to eat the right kind of sangwiches. : :

: : Epilogue: I actually ended up moving back to the old Italian area from whence I came. In fact, I am only a stone’s throw from St-Viateur Street, where one of my aunts lived for many years. My first residence was on Clark Street, up in the area now known as Little Italy (i.e. St-Laurent near St-Zotique). Before 1970, Little Italy actually stretched south to St-Viateur; in fact, old Italian bakeries and cafes still line that street today (east of Waverly), even though the Italians have now all moved away. My parents still can’t understand why I made this move. They still associate the area with their initial socio-economic state when they emigrated to Montreal – that of poor manual labourers. Little do they realize the importance of my nostalgic need to grasp on to the few remaining shreds of my long lost cultural heritage and my need for the occasional well made panini sandwich. : :

: : Hey wait a minute, this thing was supposed to be a restaurant review for the Tiki Society. Well, the Tahiti in Chateauguay was a lot of fun. Every square inch of the place was covered in bamboo and South Seas paraphernalia. As is usually the case, the food looked and tasted exactly like that in a standard Chinese buffet. Other than the decor, the only thing that makes these excursions worthwhile is the availability of exotic Polynesian drinks. The list was very impressive: not only did they have an extensive collection of flaming and/or smoking alcoholic concoctions, but each one was expertly photographed and proudly displayed in a 4-page drink menu. We tried as many as we could and all agreed on the excellent skills of the bartending staff. The owner of the Tahiti was very friendly... incredulous but friendly. He couldn’t believe that a bunch of us actually trekked all the way from Montreal, dressed in Hawaiian shirts, just to come and eat in his restaurant. He thought we were pulling his leg. Especially the part about how we do this on a regular basis and how we were going to do a write-up on his place in our Society newsletter. Once he finally realized we were serious, he gave each of us souvenir stir-sticks, napkins, and a coffee mug emblazoned with the restaurant’s logo. Very cool guy. He’s proud of his restaurant. He too has a nostalgic need to grasp on to the few remaining shreds of his long lost cultural heritage and a need for the occasional well made Mai Tai. : :


88 Boul Saint-Jean-Baptiste

Chateauguay, QC J6K 3A6


Fred Sarli © 1999


Back to 
Montreal Tiki
Tahiti - Outdoor Tik
Tahiti - Outdoor Tik
Tahiti - Cocktail menu page
Tahiti - Cocktail menu page
Tahiti - Interior
Tahiti - Interior
Tahiti - Bar
Tahiti - Bar
Tahiti - Drinks
Tahiti - Drinks