Since 1929, Dilallo Burger Restaurant has been all about the burger. Handcrafted from authentic Canadian beef, a hamburger at Dilallo’s tastes exactly as it did more than 80 years ago. Cooked on the same custom stoves designed and used by Luigi Di Lallo upon emigrating from Italy early in the 20th century, every Dilallo burger is made using the old family recipe Luigi and his wife Josephina employed to make burgers for their children.Dilallo’s signature dish is the Buck Burger; dressed with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, mustard, relish, cheese, capicole, and Dilallo’s famous home made peppers. The inclusion of peppers on the Buck Burger is homage to Luigi, who never ate a burger without them – even at a time when putting peppers on a hamburger was unheard of. Yet, the Buck Burger’s exceptional taste transcends time. This unique burger is served upside down – the only way Luigi served his – its top bun steamed to perfection.A Dilallo’s burger is a treat every time you indulge in one. As soon as you take your last bite, you can be sure you will already be thinking of your next one. The Di Lallos describe it as a burger “you can eat a few times a week.” But its quality speaks for itself; just ask the restaurant’s many loyal customers, some of which stop in every week for their Dilallo’s fix.
Yes, it’s that good. Why? Because of a single message that has been passed down more than three generations; an axiom Luigi lived and made his burgers by, and instilled in his sons and anyone who would be allowed to make a Dilallo’s burger. The message was simple: You make every hamburger for yourself; if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t serve it. How did this message come about? In fact, before Luigi starting serving his burgers to customers, they were a staple of the Di Lallo household. Luigi would make burgers for his children, and when customers started seeing (and smelling) the burgers the Di Lallo kids ate in the store, they asked for one themselves. Ever the entrepreneur, Luigi would do anything to satisfy his customers, so he delivered. Lo and behold, Dilallo’s became a full-time burger joint – serving burgers that were good enough for his own critical tongue, and those of his family.To this day, that is the golden rule at Dilallo Burger. And it ensures that every burger you eat, Buck and otherwise, is exceptional.
The Di Lallos are passionate about their burgers. Since 1929, the Di Lallo family has revolved around the Dilallo Burger restaurant – and vice versa. Before it became a restaurant, Luigi’s store – opened in 6801 on Monk Street – functioned as a dépanneur. By definition, this was a family store – it was literally attached to the Di Lallo home.
Luigi and Giuseppina had no shortage of help. All seven children – Tony, Carlo, Louis, Mike, Joseph, Constant, and Lauretta – were involved in the store from a young age. The kids at first swept floors and cleaned tables, later serving customers, and eventually – when they were ready – even making burgers.
Luigi was the consummate salesman, season to season. In the winter he sold Christmas trees, in the summer tomatoes from his garden. He ran a chicken coup and a taxi stand, often using those taxis to send off burgers to customers – an early adopter of food delivery he was. Luigi would do anything to get his product into the hands of a customer, knowing its quality would always bring them back.
After Luigi’s death in 1959, Joseph took over briefly before handing the reins over to Tony, Carlo, Lou Sr and John in the early 1960s. Forever loyal, after her husband passed away at the age of 59, Josephina never again stepped into the restaurant. Instead she sat outside the front door on her patented rocking chair, overlooking her sons’ management.
Today, third generation Di Lallo, Louis runs the restaurant. He became an owner when his uncle John decided to retire in 1992, but the family remains ever-present around the Ville-Émard eatery. To this day, Tony and Chas – both retired – can still be seen in the kitchen making hamburgers, and even more common, eating them. Dilallo Burger still is in a sense an extension of the Di Lallo household. Some family members can be seen there every morning; working, enjoying a Buck burger, or fraternizing with many of the loyal customers whom they still consider friends.
Now into its fourth generation (Louis’ children: Stephanie, 20; Peter, 17; Cory, 15) Dilallo Burger has been a requisite lifestyle for the Di Lallos. Some quick math reveals that the Di Lallos have eaten more than one million Dilallo’s burgers!
To step inside the Dilallo Burger restaurant is to step into a time warp. Adorned with hundreds of photographs, its walls paint a picture of the restaurant’s history as a who’s who of Montreal icons, with an emphasis on sports figures. Old and new pictures of Ken Dryden, Scotty Bowman, Mario Lemieux, Marc Bergevin and so on grace the walls. You could spend an entire day surveying the museum of prints that is Dilallo’s. Of course, if you were to spend an entire day there, you might just witness one of these local celebrities passing through for a bite, not a rare occurrence at the restaurant
Some of the celebrity visitors include Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin; Ken Dryden (view this Article, in which Ken mentions DiLallo) Gilles Proulx is a historian, radio and television host :hall of fame motorcycle racer Yvon Duhamel; Olympic gold medalist speed skater Nathalie Lambert; and Quebec author, actor, comedian, and producer Yvon Deschamps; Michel Pagilaro singer and song writer.
And if it’s not Bergevin, it might be his former peewee teammates Mario Lemieux and Jean-Jacques Daigneault. The three former NHLers all played minor hockey with the Ville-Émard Hurricanes, a team started by the Di Lallos. Former and current Hurricanes remain loyal to the restaurant. In fact, Gilles Meloche, the first Hurricane to reach the NHL, owns a Dilallo’s location on Notre-Dame Ouest with his brothers.
And while various other Dilallo Burger locations have surfaced around the city over the years, the Ville-Émard location remains the flagship. However, it doesn’t sit at the exact location it originally did. In a test of adversity, the Di Lallos were forced to move the store four blocks to the west down Rue Allard. The expropriation forced them to relocate in favour of the current Monk metro station – during the 1976 Montreal summer Olympic games.
While old-school Mom-and-Pop type family restaurants have made way for commercial fast food chains, Dilallo’s has never been threatened by the likes of McDonald’s and Harvey’s. The Di Lallo family stands by its burgers, many of them having never eaten a McDonald’s hamburger. They believe in the quality of their product, its fresh ingredients, and the precision and attention with which it is made.
Thanks to the uniqueness and downright tastiness of Dilallo’s burgers, its customers always leave satisfied. But it is the friendly service, the social atmosphere, and the daily presence of endless Di Lallo family members that makes a loyal customer that never stops coming back
Even after a fire in 1997 forced the store to close for four months, the clientele resurfaced – not to mention the famous photographs. Three quarters of the irreplaceable autographed pictures were lost or damaged in the fire, which prompted many of the photographed to send in duplicates without being asked by the Di Lallos.
In 2007, upon having his number 29 retired at the Bell Centre before 21,273 attentive fans, Canadiens legend Dryden listed Dilallo’s as one of his favorites during his eight years playing in Montreal and continues to this day to eat at the restaurant.
And such is the impact of the Dilallo Burger restaurant on the city of Montreal. Dilallo’s is a tasty burger that never goes out of style, a friendly neighbourhood hangout that never gets boring, a pictorial museum that never gets stale. And most of all, Dilallo’s is a legacy – a family heirloom that keeps on delivering, since 1929.