Restaurant opens in revamped Dante Club

Dante Club VP Anthony Iafrate, left, and general manager Giuliano Parete with antipasto boards at the new Amici restaurant. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

New management, renovations and some innovative ideas have reinvigorated the 58-year-old Dante Club, improved finances and added 175 new members in the past year.

At a time when cultural clubs in Sarnia are dwindling, the growth of the Dante Club is staggering.

Catering sales in the last year have jumped 500%, says board vice president Anthony Iafrate.

“A year ago, we realized we needed to modernize and it’s really working.”

The Dante Club at 1330 London Rd. has historically banked on weddings, but couples are having smaller receptions and spending less than they did even five years ago, said Iafrate.

“We felt we needed to do something to offer more to our members and our community,” he said. “We don’t want to be pigeonholed as just a place for weddings. Of course, we’re still known for weddings but we have a lot more to offer.”

At the centre of the Dante Club’s transformation is the new Amici restaurant, open to members and non-members. Each Friday night, Amici offers a single entree choice for $17.95 that changes each week.  This Friday, beef medallions, garlic mashed potatoes and vegetables are on the menu.

Appetizers, desserts and the chef’s special pasta dish are also available at an additional cost.

Most menu items are traditional Italian fare. An antipasto board includes cured meats, marinated vegetables and imported cheeses for $18. Other starters include avocado caprese salad ($9), mussels ($12) and calamari ($12).

Desserts range in price from $5 for a gelato affogato (vanilla gelato smothered in hot espresso) to $8 for a cherry whiskey brownie or tiramisu.

The Dante Club, which has three banquet halls of varying sizes, had a $275,000 renovation this past year. It included a new elevator, washrooms, accessibility features, and the conversion of an underutilized banquet room for the new restaurant on the ground floor in the building’s north end.

Windows were added, the space for Amici was expanded to accommodate 105 diners, and a new bar was built, said general manager Giuliano Parete.

“The restaurant will eventually be open longer hours and be a place where people can drop in for a meal or a drink.”

The concept for Amici is based on a larger-scale restaurant operation at the Ciociaro Club in Windsor that’s been running successfully for 15 years.

Amici’s opening night was three weeks ago and happened to be Good Friday.  It was a sell-out, said Iafrate. “Word of mouth really worked well and we had big parties coming in for dinner the past two Fridays.”

Amici is currently open for Friday night dinners only. However, Sunday brunches and Wednesday night pasta bars will soon be introduced.

“And we’re already working on a luncheon menu for the summer,” said Parete.

Amici is open Friday nights from 4:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. Walk-ins welcome but reservations preferred. Call 519-542-9311.

NEW LAWNCARE BIZ

Joe Guertin and his wife Jennifer are launching Sarnia Lawncare and Landscaping, a new business that he says is competitively priced and more environmentally friendly.

“We’re not spraying at all,” said Joe. “We’ll be using granular weed and feed and traditional fertilizer.”

At age 32, he has 17 years’ experience working for local lawncare companies and wants to be his own boss.

Sarnia Lawncare and Landscaping (www.sarnialawns.com) can be reached at 519-330-6880.

Got an interesting business story?  Contact Cathy Dobson at cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca or 226-932-0985.