THIS PARTICULAR STRETCH of St. Jacques, just down the street from the Bell Centre, will never be confused for the Golden Square Mile or hipper blocks of the Plateau. But savvy Italophiles know it’s one of Montreal’s best destinations for superb Italian cooking.Dark wood, leather banquettes, a long, polished bar and candlelight conspire to give Nora Gray’s intimate dining room a clubby, romantic feel. The team, sommelier Ryan Gray, front-of-house manager Lisa McConnell and chef Emma Cardarelli, all come out of the Joe Beef-Liverpool House school of restaurants, and that excellent background serves them well. Service is relaxed, knowledgeable and, judging by the number of people greeted on a first-name basis, something to come back for. Gray’s wine program emphasizes organic and/or natural wines from private importers. There’s a good selection available by the glass, and diners would do well to heed his suggestions for pairing.Cardarelli’s cooking spans Italy, often drawing inspiration from cucina povera but updating peasant dishes with refined technique. Classic dishes often come with a flavoursome twist—say, vitello tonnato made with veal tongue instead of loin, or ’nduja in the linguine alle vongole. In season, and all the cooking here is seasonal, look for squash blossoms stuffed and fried with something delicious. In winter, maybe handmade pappardelle in a rich rabbit Bolognese, at once simple and utterly complex. Recurring classics include rabbit and leek tart and rich, Roman-style braised tripe, as humble a dish as they come, made special through a long, slow braise and exceptional seasoning.