For the Santaguidas, cooking is a family affair. As a child, Carlo Santaguida spent a lot of time in the kitchen, watching his mother Vittoria prepare the family meals. He helped, tasted, honed his skills and memorized recipes and techniques. “A lot of this you can’t learn in school,” says his brother Marco. “It’s only by watching and doing that you learn to put this particular set of tastes together.”
Carlo is in charge of culinary operations at Santaguida Fine Foods, while his brother Marco is the business mind. Joanna deJager, Carlo’s wife, organizes and runs the daily logistics. Santaguida Fine Foods opened its doors on Bathurst Street, Toronto in 1998. It’s a catering kitchen that also rents out for receptions, cocktail parties and intimate dinner gatherings. In 2009, the Santaguidas opened Rapido a few doors up the street, at 1089 Bathurst street—part coffee bar, part restaurant. Both have by now become Toronto institutions.
When the pandemic came along, Marco saw another opportunity, 2 hours to the north. He had been coming up to Georgian Bay since he was young, for the beaches and to ski. In 2016, Marco and his wife Janelle purchased a property in Clarksburg on Grey Road 2. “We just love the time we spend up here,” says Marco. “When the pandemic hit, we saw that so did everybody else…and that’s where we got the idea for Venti Venti.”
Located on Louisa Street East, a side street in Thornbury, Venti Venti is artisanal Italian home cooking that you can take home. The shop concentrates on fresh meals like meat lasagne, chicken parmigiana, salads, various pasta dishes as well as frozen items like homemade scones, pastries, sausages and burgers—and lots more. Venti Venti also sells pasta sauces, olive oils, preserves, and an assortment of kitchen supplies, from corkscrews to handcrafted cutting boards. Look out for Joanna’s artisanal baking fare when you stop by.
It’s a hit!
The Santaguidas’ vision for prepared foods in Thornbury was 20/20, because it took off like a rocket. “Anyone in hospitality and food took a hit during the pandemic,” comments Marco. “So we took our business sense and turned it into Venti Venti.”
People couldn’t go to restaurants, but they still wanted to eat well. And more and more people were arriving in The Blue Mountains seemingly every day. “I asked ‘how can I insert myself into that and create something that people need, and fast?’” says Marco. The Thornbury shop was a saving grace. Because 2020 is a year that the Santaguidas, like many hospitality-oriented business owners, will never forget for reasons they would rather forget, they chose a play on the year (venti =20) for the name.
There are many other talented chefs in The Blue Mountains area, but the Santaguidas strive to bring their own flare to the scene. “This is unique, real homestyle Italian fine food,” says Marco. “It gives visitors and locals a choice and fills a gap. You don’t have to think about what to do, what groceries to buy. Take it home, warm it up and enjoy.”
Santaguida Fine Foods secured a lease on the Louisa Street shop and turned renovations around in record time. Venti Venti first got going in December 2020 and celebrated its official opening in January 2021. Now, you can come in and pick up a grilled panino, a sweet treat and lunch or dinner. You might want to phone ahead, though, to put your favourite items on hold. Only so much is prepared, and it usually sells out.
A warm local reception
Marco counts a lot of local business owners as Venti Venti customers. His family makes a point of shopping in the area, as well. “These are all independent businesses that fill customer needs through distinct offerings,” he says. “We love the stuff going on up here, everyone’s friendly. There is a strong sense of community among the local businesses and there are great initiatives like the Grilled Cheese Competition—a brilliant idea.”
Marco is referring to the grilled-cheese challenge, The Grilled Cheese Smackdown, an idea cooked up by Thornbury’s Cheese Gallery for the month of April 2022. 16 local restaurants took up the challenge, offering their own take on the classic grilled cheese. Venti Venti’s grilled-cheese sandwich consists of egg-dipped thick-cut brioche, mozzarella, provolone and basil pesto, served with a tomato & onion jam. “When we were young, Mamma often made this when we got home from school,” says Marco.
As far as local support goes, the Santaguidas feel they have gotten their share. “Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon has been helpful,” says Marco. “We’re off on a side street and he has been great at getting the word out and, of course, being a customer. Everyone’s very approachable. The Town cares about the success of businesses here.”
Since opening in Thornbury, Venti Venti has booked some catering for the summer, including a couple of weddings. Local resident Chris Sue runs Venti Venti at the moment and the brothers are looking to staff up as they expand and grow.
To find out more about Venti Venti, visit www.santaguidafinefoods.com.