May 2004 Edition
Flavour of Canada

Joanne Gow

Manager - Vice President

Colasanti's Tropical Gardens

Ruthven, Ontario

Cactus gardens, plants, flowers, exotic birds, a zoo and reptiles, crafts and an 18-hole indoor miniature golf course, plus so much more! Colasanti's Tropical Gardens is a real down-home, fun family destination.

Established in 1942 by Joe Colasanti, Colasanti's Tropical Gardens is a tropical wonderland situated on 35 acres, including 3.5 acres of indoor greenhouses which are temperature controlled, ensuring year-round comfort.

"Some restaurants have to worry about their location - whether or not they are near tourist attractions or provincial attractions for instance. But for us, Colasanti's is the destination." Says Joanne Gow, Manager -Vice President of Colasanti's. "People travel from all over to visit Colasanti's, and we welcome many bus tours, and school groups."

And a destination it is! Visitors from out of town and locals alike enjoy Colasanti's. It offers a full day of family fun, and people of all ages enjoy strolling through the gardens which house just about every kind of plant, both indoor and outdoor. Colasanti's sells a wide range of plant products and accessories and boasts a wholesale plant catalogue.

But Colasanti's is so much more than plants! They also offer an indoor Little Tykesâ playground, hayrides, pony rides, animal talks and a petting farm. In addition they host many community events such as the Ruthven Apple Festival.

"We have many special events planned throughout the year at Colasanti's." Says Gow. "We run March Break programs, Easter and Thanksgiving celebrations and at Halloween we host an annual Horror Hayride. At Christmas our Breakfast with Santa celebration puts everyone in a holiday mood."

Colasanti's miniature golf complex is a unique indoor collection of 18 realistic holes that are designed to challenge and tone any putting stroke. Most holes have been laid out to present the same subtle breaks one might find on an average twenty footer, and sand bunkers and water hazards are found on several holes with putting surfaces that provide a true roll. The course includes waterfalls, and is set in a beautiful botanical garden.

Of course it wouldn’t be a true family getaway without superb food. Colasanti's delivers by serving up home-style fare in The Restaurant Café, an inviting casual and comfortable environment where visitors can dine on such favourites as the specialty of the house - broasted chicken. Locals come back time and again to enjoy the popular all-you-can-eat buffet lunches that take place on Wednesdays and Fridays, or the popular soup and salad bars offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and of course Sunday Brunch is a mainstay.

Head Cook, Aldina Rodrigues, and Assistant Cooks, Yvonne Goodison and Donny Rodrigues, possess a love of cooking and enjoy experimenting to bring their customers the best home-made recipes.

Visitors shouldn't leave without sampling one of their homemade doughnuts, fresh apple cider or their famous fudge.

The Restaurant Café can accommodate up to 400 people and is a fully licensed facility which by day serves the numerous tourists, bus groups and students who visit Colasanti's. At night the restaurant is open for private parties and often hosts wedding receptions and banquets.

They also run a thriving catering business for weddings and parties, and can handle large volume deliveries in these cases.

Colasanti's has been relying on Sysco for several years to provide solutions, reliable service, menu help and a wide variety of products including Sysco Brand products. "We strive to give our customers quality service so we expect the same from our food supplier." says Gow.

When it comes to providing good food and good fun, Colasanti's is looking to the future. "We're always coming up with new ideas and we continue to add new attractions to keep our regular customers entertained." Says Gow. "Joe Colasanti, my dad and the owner of Colasanti's would love to build a hotel one day!" ¨


Flavour of Canada

Bob and Hilda Banerd, Owners

Jackie Boyd, Kitchen Manager

Dinghy Dock Pub

by Sarah Phillips

Known as the "Barefoot Bar" for its casual dress code and fun dining atmosphere, the Dinghy Dock Pub on Protection Island, British Columbia; is a one-of-a-kind find. It is literally a pub that floats on water! Owners Bob Banerd, a retired sea skipper, and his wife Hilda founded the pub in the late 1970's. The Dinghy Dock is situated on a floating dock, and customers must take a small passenger ferry - The Island Mist - from the mainland to get to it, or they dock at the pub, arriving via sailboat after a day of racing or touring.

Open daily from April to October, the sailing races in the Straights provide the Dinghy Dock with a regular customer base of hungry sailors, and having 'no dress code' ensures that tourists and locals alike can enjoy themselves while they're out on the water.

The restaurant itself resembles a nautical museum with beautifully carved helms, Japanese glass balls hanging in fish nets, and large anchors. There's even a shining brass deep sea helmet. The walls are decorated with all things nautical - photographs, boating paraphernalia and mementos - each spot displaying a treasure from voyages past.

The pub also offers live entertainment on weekends featuring bands from the area, and is a favourite spot for Nanaimo locals. It’s an ideal tourist destination and word-of-mouth alone has been so favourable that they don’t need to rely on advertising to grow their business!

Jackie Boyd, Kitchen Manager, has been with the Dinghy Dock Pub for thirteen years. In this busy restaurant she works hard to manage labour costs, order food, and schedule efficiently. On any given Friday or Saturday night Jackie manages a kitchen staff of at least twelve. Luckily most of them are long-term employees who are dedicated to the pub.

"Our kitchen staff run the food out to the tables which makes for a very friendly and casual atmosphere," Jackie says.

The menu at the Dinghy Dock was developed by both Jackie and Bob, who has also piloted a very successful pizza program that is extremely popular with boaters. With seven fryers, the bulk of the menu is deep-fried. Favourites include Fish and Chips, Friday Pizza Day, Wild Salmon BBQ and Calamari. And, Bob's outdoor barbecue grill is the place to be for grilling up wild salmon, burgers and hot dogs for large parties. Volumes are large at the restaurant, and a typical weekly order might include 600 lbs of halibut, as portions are a healthy size to satisfy hungry boaters.

"Sysco North Douglas has been super," says Jackie. "It has been our main supplier since we opened, and the customer service has been exceptional. We can count on timely deliveries and our Marketing Associate Barb Bell has always been there with pricing, and great advice on how to improve our business. It was Barb who suggested that we add Poppers and Munchers to one of our more popular dishes - the Treasure Chest".

And, with such high volumes of fried food being served, Barb's advice to switch to Fry-On was appreciated. It has improved the taste of the fried foods the Dingy Dock serves and it has helped the bottom line - due to the longevity of the oil.

The Dinghy Dock provides customers with a unique and fun experience and they plan to continue to expand and evolve. The addition of the pizza business is one example, and the unique location and the great food will continue to set the Dingy Dock apart from other pubs. Its festive atmosphere makes it a truly wonderful place to celebrate. ¨