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On Instagram, Risposta Bistro posts beautifully-plated food with appetizing descriptions, yet I wasn’t sure what to expect. Their website menu ranged from takeout pizza to an upscale dinner menu listing no prices.
These days, diners want/need to know if a dining experience will be a good match with their budget.
Correctly assuming that “bistro” implied a casual dress code, we headed to Campbellville. Nearby conservation areas such as Crawford Lake, Glen Eden, Kelso and the Bruce Trail, along with antique and furniture stores and a casino serve to make it a tourist destination.
Risposta Bistro undoubtedly helps make the drive worthwhile for day-trippers.
No one was dining inside so we sat in one of the seven gazebos built to accommodate outdoor dining. These solid structures, named for Italian cities such as Roma, Modena, vary in capacity and can be rented for groups.
Presented with an appealing menu we began with a non-Italian appetizer — Confit Duck Fat Fries — described as Yukon gold fries, Québec duck fat, rock salt, shaved Parmesan and black truffle aioli. These turned out to be no ordinary fries.
Chef Patrick Beatty, who is also operations manager and has been with Risposta since it opened, described the multi-step process behind the “crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside” chunks of potato. Suffice to say there is more going on than tossing sliced potatoes into a deep fryer. There’s herb-infused water, salt water rinses, blast chillers and a low-temperature confit process. I would have been content to have these alone, happily dipping them into delicately flavoured aioli.
Beatty, who has years of hospitality training and experience, seems to apply complex processes to preparing all dishes, but the payoff is worth it. He even brings poetry to the Vegetable and Grain Salad which sounded somewhat boring until I noticed that the grain was one of my favourites — Farro, a rustic staple in Italy that has a nutty texture and taste. Beatty plated the Farro to resemble a forest floor with vegetables growing out of it. A highlight of this complex preparation was the limoncello vinaigrette.
It should not be surprising that they make their own pasta using double zero flour, free-range eggs and filtered spring water. Served perfectly al dente, the Spaghetti Bolognese combined top-grade, Canadian, ground-in-house veal, pork and beef and San Marzano tomatoes. Beatty explained that they opt for a thicker ragù-style which delivered on texture and flavour.
Our other main was the B.C. Sockeye Salmon served on a board with grilled vegetables. The charred cherry tomatoes packed a flavour punch and the fingerling potatoes, cooked in vegetable stock that included lemon peel paid homage to Sicilian lemons. The plating included delicious dots of puréed yellow carrot with maple syrup — syrup they make by tapping the trees on their 15-acre property. Also on site is a greenhouse producing ingredients such as tomatoes and herbs.
Service was pleasant and attentive, but only by asking did we learn that there was a special — a Veal Chop that looked appetizing on their Instagram — cooked sous vide with an espresso crust, fermented cherry purée and morel mushrooms.
From the dessert menu, we chose the classic homemade tiramisu. With artful plating, this delivered the classic coffee flavour but a soggy texture.
The interior decor is quirky in its use of sepia-toned charred newspaper clippings. A quick internet search of local papers tells the story of a fire in 2010 that damaged the restaurant that had been on the site. It was called the San Antonio Bistro and is referenced in signage that remains on the property. Owned by the Cortese family, the rebuild marked a transition to more active involvement by the adult children who, in 2015, opened Risposta — literally the “response” to San Antonio.
The “response” also includes a second-floor banquet space that switches the ambience from the rustic patio and semi-formal ground floor to a bright classy space for weddings and events — a space also used for cooking classes.
The new brand came with a vision to embrace more “nouveau” cuisine and upscale dining vs. what Beatty described as the previous “totally Nonna style.” Yet, elements of the Risposta experience bring to mind a visit to a nonna — earthy welcoming touches like a vintage VW Beetle with flowers growing from the trunk space. Almost like a “nonno,” general manager Dmitry Podobedov offered a tour of the greenhouse and chicken coop (though the chickens are currently off-site). Beatty, also like a nonno, shows off their glorious wheel of Parmesan and talks enthusiastically of their cured meat project (making prosciutto, pancetta, capocollo, soppressata and sausage) and foraging events gathering spring fiddleheads, wild leeks and asparagus.
Noteworthy that eating at a Nonna’s is free. Risposta pricing covers a range that some may find unaffordable at the top end.
Beatty explains that Risposta aims to use “sustainable, modern techniques to showcase Italian roots mixed with an evolving Canadian landscape.” This manifests in a la carte dining and their many “experiences” such as tasting menus, Wagyu feasts, personalized prix-fixe menus and vegan/vegetarian specialties. Off the beaten path, they know that some patrons are making a special journey. They say they want to meet expectations using the language of food.
June was Italian Heritage Month but you don’t need that excuse to enjoy all that Risposta offers.
24 Crawford Cres., Campbellville
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; closed Monday
What I paid: Confit Fries $15; Farro Vegetable Salad $22; Salmon $48; Spaghetti Bolognese $26; Tiramisu $14
Wheelchair access: Yes
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