“Diners really seem to love our rustic home-cooked southern Italian food,” said chef and owner Francesco Petrusa.

Located in downtown Barrie, the 50-seat eatery prides itself on making everything from scratch, including its own pasta.
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“My cooking philosophy is that everything has to be fresh and locally sourced, when possible,” said the trained chef who was born in Sicily and raised in Toronto.

After receiving culinary training in Toronto, he returned to his homeland to further hone his cooking skills by working as a chef in southern Italy.

The menu serves up plenty of authentic Italian flavours with various daily specials. “Some of our top sellers include osso buco, pizza, chicken marsala, penne alla vodka, handmade gnocchi with a smoked salmon and cognac sauce and lasagna, which we make twice a week. Guests also go crazy for our rice balls and cannoli,” he said.

“But everything sells really well because it’s all made in our kitchen.”

The local bistro is also well known for its porchetta, a savoury and moist boneless Italian pork roast. “We slow roast it for eight hours, and come in every day at two or three in the morning to get it started,” he said. “It’s so tender that you don’t even need a knife to cut it.” The savoury meat is used in pasta sauces and paninis.

As for opening a restaurant with a Barrie address, Petrusa said he moved to the city to be closer to his parents who reside locally. “I just love it up here, and couldn’t imagine opening a restaurant anywhere else,” he said.

The skilled chef has been noticed by his peers and has been invited to compete on two Food Network shows in the coming months — Chopped Canada and Fire Masters.

Limoncello’s tempting menu also serves up gluten-free and vegan choices. “Since we make everything in-house, we can accommodate most dietary needs,” he said.

Along with daily specials, reduced wine prices are on offer on Tuesdays and Thursdays. For the lunch crowd, the popular bistro serves up a chicken or veal Parmesan sandwich (with a soda or bottled water) for $10. In house and offsite catering is also available.

Why the name Limoncello?

“We thought it was kind of catchy,” said the 36-year-old chef. “Limoncello means baby lemons in Italian, and since I’m from Sicily where lemons are a big part of the local food culture, we decided it was a fitting name for our restaurant.”

For the record, Limoncello is also the name of a popular Italian lemon liqueur mainly produced in southern Italy.