By Roberta Avery - back to list

Simone Sterio Risk has the restaurant business in her blood.

With a grandfather who ran a Toronto tavern and parents who were among the first to bring fine dining to the Georgian Bay area in the 1970s, her life has been one long apprenticeship.

"I learned by osmosis," said Risk, 45, who began her restaurant career at the age of 15 serving tables at Sterio's - her parent's restaurant on Thornbury's main street.

In 1979, her parents Bob and Denyse Sterio sold Sterio's to the present owners who moved it around the corner to a location on Highway 26.

At first, Risk resisted the family hospitality tradition and tried her luck in the film industry, but it wasn't long before she was back in the fold running her own restaurant - Sisi Trattoria in Toronto.

That restaurant was successful beyond her wildest dreams, but feeling the pull of another family tradition - skiing - she was soon setting her sites on the Thornbury so that she could be close to the slopes of Blue Mountain.

Her father still owned the building where the original Sterio's had been located, but he refused to lease it to her.

"He said no because he knows how tough this business can be," she said.

Her father eventually relented and Risk opened Sisi on Main in 1994 and has since built up a reputation for first class food served in a sophisticated atmosphere.

My husband John and I had initially booked a table for two, but at the last minute we got a surprise call from some old friends whom we hadn't seen for years.

It was the International Plowing Match weekend and area restaurants were full to capacity, but Risk handled our last minute request for a table for four with grace and charm and showed us up three steps to a semi private back room overlooking the dining room.

Our table was the perfect place to view the charming dining room with its abstract paintings on bare brick walls and attractive lighting accents. There are booths for those looking for a cozy evening and a smart martini bar offers diners an opportunity to chat with fellow patrons.

There are some who say that you can judge a restaurant by its breadbasket and at Sisi on Main that was certainly true. The freshly baked bread, which had a fragrance of fresh thyme and was served with a selection of olives, was so good that we asked for more.

The food that followed was equally a delight.

From the special board, where seasonal fare is featured, I enjoyed a pear poached in a Riesling wine and topped with warms goat's cheese for $7.95.

As there were four of us, I had an opportunity to sample four main courses, which ranged in price from $19.95 to $29.95. First a chicken supreme served with a mixed mushroom fricassee, then a balsamic chicken with baby spinach and feta cheese, a very tender filet steak served with sautéed wild mushrooms in a Madeira and peppercorn demi glaze and a curried pork tenderloin.

All were perfectly cooked and served with a tasty medley of stir fried vegetables and even the curry dish, which is usually not my favourite, was a delightful blend of subtle flavours.

A selection of specialty items, makes dessert at Sisi on Main an occasion. Once again I was lucky enough to sample four items including a chocolate flavoured crème caramel, a flour less chocolate cake, a hazelnut gelato and the best apple crumble with caramel that I've ever tasted.

The sophisticated and knowledgeable wait staff overseen by Risk, who acted as hostess, were friendly without being intrusive and made a special evening memorable for all of us.

The house wines which are available by the glass are both Italian - Orvieto Classico White and Montepulciano Dragani Red, but other selections are offered based on availability.

Risk also search for special private stock selections such as a Santa Barbara Pinot Noir from California and a Kim Crawford unoaked Chardonnay from New Zealand.

In the early days Risk, found persuading chefs to move to the Georgian Bay area a challenge, but that changed as the area became renowned as a four-season resort destination.

"As the area grows, more and more talented chefs want to move here and enjoy all the wonderful things this area has to offer," said Risk who likes to hire graduates from culinary schools such as the Stratford Chef School and Niagara College.

A three-course dinner for two including a glass each of house wine runs around $125.

Sisi on Main, which is located on the east side of Bruce Street in Thornbury, is open six nights a week from 5 p.m. and is closed Tuesdays.


Reservations are recommended but not always required. Please contact 1-519-599-7769

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