Deepthi Pelenage serves up some bananas flambé at his restaurant on 100 avenue.
by Stephen Dafoe
Bistro di Madre Piccola will be celebrating its first anniversary serving fine food to Morinvillians Aug. 10. The restaurant opened on that date last summer, almost two months after Don’s Bar and Bistro, which had been at the same location for nearly three years, suddenly closed. Although Bistro di Madre Piccola proprietors Christine Pereira and Deepthi Pelenage were first time restaurant owners, their faces were familiar to those who tried out the new establishment because they had been employees of Don’s Bistro since it opened in 2010. When the former establishment closed, Pelenage and Pereira decided to take the plunge on their lifelong dream to open a restaurant of their own.
With 35 years combined experience working in restaurants around the world, the business owners partnered with Chef Gayan Ediweera, who has cooked in Sri Lanka, Dubai, Italy and Canada.
A year later, the restaurateurs are pleased they made the choice to go into business. “People are really, really talking very good things about us, and what we do,” Pelenage said, adding reviews of the restaurant on social media sites have been positive. “We are very passionate about what we do. The taste is most important. You don’t just feed the people and get their money. What we do, we do with great pride. That is our thing.”
Looking back over the first year, Pelenage recalls the first month in business was tough because the restaurant had been closed for a while and it took time to let regulars and newcomers know it had re-opened for business. After that it was getting Canadian palates accustomed to some of the offerings on the menu. Pelenage said some menu items, including risotto and gnocchi, were not as familiar to local diners as other items. But by encouraging guests to sample some of the lesser-known items, the restaurant quickly made some culinary converts. The bistro had a strong fall and winter serving their specialty fare, international food with an Italian flare. “Where we used to work before, Italian food is very popular among people,” Pelenage said, adding the restaurant has become known for its high quality food and service. “My main thing is paying attention to little details. We kill with kindness. When they come here the expectations are high, and we always exceed their expectations.”
It is a philosophy business partner Christine Pereira agrees with. As head of front of house, Pereira is keenly focused on making sure customers are well taken care of. “That’s my passion, serving people,” she said. “I like this town because in this town the people are really good. In my three years here in Morinville serving, I really like it. The people are very nice.”
While the restaurateurs have developed a taste for Morinville and its residents, it is Chef Gayan Ediweera who provides the majority of the tastes Bistro di Madre Piccola offers its guests. Ediweera started his career in Sri Lanka working in restaurants before taking the bulk of his training in three restaurants in Italy. Not only is Chef Ediweera fluent with Italian cuisine; he is also fluent in the language. Though trained by some of the best in the business, Ediweera feels his grandmother also trained him, at least philosophically. “We are not coming from very wealthy families,” he said. “I remember my grandmother – she’s the cook. When she cooks, she always seeks the availability of what’s in the house. Ingredients are what somebody wrote in a book. She makes [dishes] with what she has. That is my philosophy. There is no law you must put these things. As long as the taste is good, and you like [it] … you are good to go.” Combining his humble beginnings with classical training, Ediweera puts his passion on the plate at the bistro. He says his specialty is risotto, or Italian rice, as well as gnocchi. He said he is anxiously awaiting the fall so he can make pumpkin gnocchi and pumpkin risotto.
Like Pereira and Pelenage, Ediweera enjoys the friendliness of the community. All three owners are looking to grow the business in the coming months and years. They are hoping regular customers will continue to support them and that those who have yet to try them out will do so. The Bistro Di Madre Piccola is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner.