Mikes turns 40 with a new, more Italian concept

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Mikes restaurants are celebrating 40 years of serving up Quebec-Italian inspired pizzas, hot sandwiches and pasta. They took time to raise their glasses to the next 40 at their restaurant in Ancienne-Lorette last week. Back row: Mikes Restaurants vice-president operations Demetri Tsigos and spokesperson Toni Conte; front row: Mikes executive chef Alain Demeule and Mikes vice-president marketing Yves Léveillée.

 

The Québécois chain Mikes is 40 years old this year. The restaurants, which began in Montreal, are evolving to meet their customers’ more refined tastes for Italian-inspired food. But the chain’s three basics, hot Italian sandwiches (subs), pizza and pasta, are here to stay.

This evolution, in the form of a new concept called Trattoria Di Mikes, is a bit of birthday treat. The first one opened last December near Montreal. The Mikes restaurant at Place Naviles, in the Sainte-Foy borough, will be reborn a trattoria this March.

This new concept is a little more refined, with additions to the regular menu. “We’ll have specialty meals, different starters,” said vice-president marketing Yves Léveillée. “We’re Italian flavoured,” he added, pointing out that the franchise was “born in Quebec.”

Back in 1967, Mikes was the brainchild of the Marano brothers who were inspired by their native Italy and their mother’s recipes. They opened a sub shop and made their customers an important part of their business, according to the Mikes website.

Along with a new restaurant concept, Mikes is also preparing to introduce a few new ideas to its customers this spring. Léveillée and Mikes executive chef Alain Demeule were inspired during a trip to the source of all things pizza – Naples, Italy.

“We came back with a few ideas,” said Léveillée. “One of them will be brought into the market in all Mikes in mid-April. It’s something different related to pizzas and subs.”

For head chef Demeule, “it’s all about top ingredients, fresh ingredients. We never stop creating and trying to improve,” he said. “Mikes’ flavours are recognizable.”

At 40, Mikes is also experiencing an evolution in personnel. Demeule has come to the company in the last year or so and Léveillée, who had 20 years’ previous experience with the franchise, returned a year ago.

“This is when life begins, at 40. It’s a crossroads for Mikes,” said Léveillé. “Now we’re going into 41 years. Our first step is the Trattoria Di Mikes.”

The new concept is in response to their customers’ evolving taste buds.

“Our studies show that Quebecers’ tastes have not only increased in Italian, but in food in general,” explained Léveillée. “Facing food in general our taste buds have evolved a great deal because of immigration. Immigrants from Asian countries … we have discovered these people and their cuisine.

Italian cuisine has been a part of our culture from way back,” he said, adding, “We are following the trends.”

The first Mikes in Quebec City opened in 1976 on Rue St-Jean. Mikes is part of Imvescor Inc., which also owns Bâton Rouge, Scores and Pizza Delight restaurants.