Pizzeria de Battures is open for the season in Notre-Dame-du-Portage.
This interview originally appeared in issue Snowboard Magazine 18.2 last fall. Now that it’s spring in Quebec, Frank April’s restaurant, Pizzeria des Battures is open for the season, so we thought it was the perfect time to share this interview with Big Frank online. Check out their website for menu and reservations, and follow Pizzeria des Battures on Instagram for updates and hours.
About two hours east of Quebec City in the town of Notre-Dame-du-Portage, on the bank of the Saint Lawrence River, is Pizzeria des Battures, a Neapolitan pizzeria owned and operated by Frank April. A year ago, Frank and his wife, Sabrina, moved back to the 1,000-person town where they grew up in order to raise their family and in June of 2021, opened the pizzeria. Over the past season, it has been a bustling hub of crispy crust and melted cheese, working harmoniously with the community by supporting area farmers and utilizing local ingredients and creating jobs. Frank has long been a force in the streets, and now he’s applying the same dedication to the art of pizza-making and entrepreneurialism. But while Frank now spends his summers in the kitchen, Notre-Dame-du-Portage is a seasonal town, so come winter, the pizzeria will close its doors for winter and Frank will have plenty of time to keep doing the other thing he does best. – Mary T. Walsh
How has business been since you opened?
It’s been non-stop. I have been working a lot, but it’s been fun because the customers are really happy to come by. I have a good team working with me. We had a lot of high school-aged kids working during their summer vacation, and a bunch of friends of mine work in the kitchen and as servers. It was a good summer.
Where did the idea to open the restaurant come from and how did it all come together?
It started while ago. When I was young, I was working at the Auberge sur Mer, a little hotel with 55 rooms and a restaurant. I worked in the restaurant there in between the seasons when I started snowboarding, pretty much from the age of 12 to when I was 22. I worked there in the summer, so I would be able to go snowboard in the winter. I knew that in some point in my life I would buy the Auberge. I really like the way there was a bunch of rooms on the river and it used to be my grand uncle’s back in the day. But over the past seven or eight years, I was trying to buy the place, and the owner he always would say, “Yes, I’m ready to sell,” but then he always had good summers and he wouldn’t sell it. It was fine because he can do whatever he wants, but eventually I was like, “I really want to do something in that area,” so I bought the presbytery, which is an old priest’s house, about two kilometers from the Auberge.
So, the pizzeria used to be a presbytery?
Yeah. So, I bought the presbytery a bit over a year ago. Two summers ago, to make sure I really wanted to open a Neopolitan pizzeria, I decided to go work at Bleuetière Marland, a pizzeria in Saint-Marie, for Stéphane Fortier. Stéphane is a snowboarding photographer and a friend of mine. I worked a full summer with him, learned a bunch, and I knew that was what I wanted to do. I rebuilt the inside of the presbytery building because it’s from 1852, so it’s 170 years old. Now, I have an ice cream bar and the pizza restaurant. Oh also, at the same time I bought the presbytery, the owner of the Auberge told me that he was ready to sell. So, I bought the Auberge and the pizzeria, ha. My sister runs the Auberge. I help her a little bit, but mostly I run the pizzeria.
So basically, in one summer, you kind of made an empire.
Ha, kind of. I started two businesses, but there were only two businesses in the town, so…ha.
So now, you’re kind of the mayor.
No, I will not do that. It is election time these days and I will not do that. Ha.
There are many ways to make pizza, of course. Why did you decide to make Neapolitan style?
I have been many times to Italy and that’s my favorite type of pizza. It’s an art. It is wood fired. I have an oven from Naples, Italy. It’s really hard to make the dough—it takes 60 hours. I use a poolish process, which is a type of prefermentation, and it’s made with good ingredients, only water, yeast, salt and flour. There’s a lot of love that goes into the dough. That’s what I was trying to bring into town.
What are some unique pizzas on the menu?
The salmon gravlax would be one I have never seen before. The smoked meat pizza is good, and I have one with bacon and quail eggs.
What’s your favorite pizza at the restaurant?
The cheese pizza. It’s a four-cheese pizza. It’s fior di latte, aged cheddar, parmesan, and bleu. It’s a classic one. It’s the least selling I have, but it’s my favorite so it’s going to stay on the menu, ha.
This may be a little bit of a leap, but is there anything from snowboarding that has helped you when it comes to being a restauranter?
Actually, I did realize a thing. People from the city asked me to do a conference about buying the Auberge and the pizza place. And I was like, “Woah, I really never studied it or worked in a restaurant when I was young.” I talked to one of my friends who owns businesses and he said, “Frank you do exactly what you were doing when you were snowboarding.” And the more I think about it, it is very much the same, ha. Opening a business, it’s like preparing for a rail session. If you think about it, you are looking for the best location. I found the presbytery. When you find the location of a rail or restaurant, you negotiate—with the restaurant, to buy it. It’s the same if you want to do a rail. You ask for permission, and if you get it, you can do whatever you want, you know? So, I bought that place and then I was like, “Okay, what trick should I do?” And one trick I knew how to do well was making pizzas. So I decided, “I’m going to make pizza.” I think that’s like a front two, you know? A front two is not too hard, ha. After that, the more you do a front two, the better it’s going to go. So you practice and you practice and when it’s time to film or take a photo, you are ready for that front two and the better it’s going to go. Maybe it’s a little cheesy, but also, if you are with the right people, it’s going to go better—the employees, whoever you ride with, the filmer you’re with—and if you are surrounded with good people, it’s going to go better.
Exactly. Your crew’s important, too.
Are there any street spots nearby?
Ha, there is kind of a spot. There is something for sure, ha.
So hypothetically, people could go hit a spot and then go to the pizza place after?
Maybe not though, because I’m closing in the winter. The Auberge is open from mid-May to mid-October and the pizzeria is open from May till December. So, I’m always going to have my winter off.
Last question. You have a pizza where a portion of every sale is donated to the Dillon Ojo Lifeline Foundation?
Yeah, so the pepperoni and cheese. I have already sold a few thousand of the peperoni and cheese since we opened and a portion of each pizza is going to go to the Dillon Ojo Foundation. When I called his mom to tell her I was opening a pizzeria, she was like, “Oh my god, he would be so proud.” I wanted the pepperoni and cheese to be special, because I know he really liked that pizza, so that’s why I’m working with a local farmer on the Angus AAA beef pepperoni. It’s usually pork pepperoni, but this one is beef. I put a chili honey on top and it’s insanely good. It’s a good seller and I’m really proud to have something I can do for Dillon and his foundation.