Full disclosure: I have history with Santini's long, long before this Italian-menu restaurant opened its doors in Downtown Collingwood recently.
Flashback to the mid-1970s when this Hurontario Street property housed the best Chinese food restaurant in Collingwood: the Bamboo Terrace.
Back then, working in Collingwood and the Georgian Triangle area I often ate Chinese there, or got take-outs; as well as taking our taste buds to try other restaurants in Collingwood and district. Once, as tourism continued to grow as an industry (thanks in particular to nearby Blue Mountain Resorts) I counted 108 restaurants in Collingwood and area.
There are more restaurants per-capita in this town of 19,500 population than in comparable-sized municipalities.
So the competition for a diner's loyalty and her, or his, meal purchasing has been very stiff for about 30 years in this town on the shore of beautiful Georgian Bay.
Tourism growth continues hand in hand with this area's reputation as a four-season's destination and we continue to see new restaurants opening in Collingwood and area.
Enter Santini's Ristorante.
The owners started with a very small restaurant in a separate location in Downtown Collingwood where Zencha Tea Room once served customers. Zencha's became Heron (I think Heron Gate), another tea room and that was replaced by new owners who started a small restaurant there. In summer, that restaurant was a joy because they had a delightful, small sidewalk patio outside for patrons.
Then came the big move and the bigger Santini's restaurant.
Santini's Ristorante opened north of the smaller restaurant and now Santini's has two locations.
The larger, most-recently-opened, is across from Collingwood's former Post Office building, which still serves as a federal building and has amazing architecture (patterned after the state financial building in Havana, Cuba). That's just south of the Loblaw food store, on Hurontario Street.
One of my friends, Bill Nicholson, had raved about Santini's Ristorante and Nancy and I went there last weekend with a couple of friends.
Bill was correct. It was worth the visit.
I had dropped in earlier in the day of our visit to reserve a table and was impressed with the décor. I remember the flashing red-and-gold of the Chinese restaurant. All of that has been renovated to bold black-and-white, some might say avante-garde. (Or, is that avante-guard?).
Anyway, on with the food.
Kristina took my reservation for four and indicated that we would sit at the last-available table for a 6.30 p.m., sitting: a table for six. I did not mind and away I went.
The four of us arrived on time and the hostess ushered us to another table as Kristina welcomed us and indicated that she had found us a table for four. It was on the higher level where ample light from a west-facing window illuminates that part of the restaurant.
Lucy was our server and she was prompt and professional at every turn.
Santini's Ristorante offers a vast menu as well as specials.
We had "mix bruschetta" which at $9.00 for the order provided three bread slices, each topped with a different item. I cut them all in half and that went quickly. Tasty!
Bar drinks for my wife Nancy and one of our friends added $6.50 each to the bill and glasses of for my friend's wife and me added another $6.50 each.
One of my friends has a generous cesare salad and that was $9.00.
Then came Penne Arrabbiata - black olives, chicken, tomato sauce and a touch of chili - for one of my friends. I know that he likes sausage in his pasta.
"Does that have sausage in it?" I asked well within earshot of the server Lucy.
Quick as a wink, she pointed out that Penne Arrabbiata does not contain sausage. This lady knows her menu, I thought.
My friend stayed with that order and that added $14.50 to the bill.
Our other friend ordered Penne Apollo. It sounded out of this world with penne pasta with chicken in cream and arugula pesto sauce. Our other friend enjoyed every bit of it and that added $16.00 to the bill.
I ordered Tagliatelle, that day's special. That pasta arrived with scallops in a tasty sauce. I enjoyed every bite and that added $17.00 to the bill.
My wife ordered a meat special, stuffed chicken. When it arrived it looked delicious and there I was without a camera! She enjoyed every bite and offered me the last bit of a very generous portion. I wolfed it down, unashamed, and her order added $28.00 to the bill.
I provide the prices because everybody wants to know what things cost.
Our total bill was $151.30, not including tax. We don't dine like this every day, but when we do we like to know that things were perfect from surroundings to service, food to being made welcome.
Happily, I can say that it was all worth it. We passed on dessert, but there were some lovely offerings.
Surprisingly, this restaurant doesn't rush you. We arrived at 6.30 p.m., chatted over drinks until our meals arrived. Chatted some more and then as we considered dessert, Lucy our server said "don't rush". We were made welcome to stay. We left about an hour and a half after we arrived. Thanks Lucy!
During our visit I noticed that every table was full and some changed customers while we were there. We'll go back another time to try other things. I noticed that at the front of the restaurant there's a seating area with armchairs - sort of coffee shop-ish - and some people were having their dinner there. I prefer the higher tables and the straight-back chairs. But all who visit Santini's might agree with my friend Bill and now me: It's well worth the visit.
Santini's offers lunches, dinners, take-outs and the owner also does catering; the latter, he has been doing in the area for years. They can handle a group too in a private room.
The number of restaurants in Collingwood continues to grow. Just today, I saw that another breakfast place is promoting its opening. Elsewhere, south of Santini's, an old building is facing renovation to house - you guessed it - another restaurant; one with some affinity for the community's history.
In a tourist-oriented town, where it's also important to build a base with local residents, Santini's Ristorante is a credit to Collingwood and delighting our taste buds. I predict Santini's will continue to attract a following from near and far.
Soon, they might be delighting your taste buds as this downtown building continues to provide accommodation to a history of restaurant excellence.
Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.