A Carleton Place culinary landmark that served classic Italian food since 2005 has pulled up stakes and relocated in Perth’s Best Western Plus hotel as Slackoni’s Parkside Bistro.
“We became an institution, and people came from all over to eat there, but as a chef and owner, I like to try new things,” says Rob Slack. “Eleven years in any location is a long time,” and when Best Western reached out to him, he decided to make the change. “We had long-term clientele from Carleton Place who were sad to see us go, but we’re seeing them here, so the short drive to Perth has not been a deterrent.”
With an indoor seating capacity of 100 and an expected 90 seats on the Best Western patio grounds overlooking Stewart Park and the Tay River Basin, Slack anticipates offering visitors a fully-rounded dining experience featuring an outdoor stage hosting rock, country, blues and jazz bands, as well as theatrical performances, during the summer months. Slackoni’s also expects to be contributing its varied menu to the many wedding receptions that Perth hosts each summer too.
Currently open for breakfast at 6 a.m., Slackoni’s also provides lunch and dinner for what Slack says “is a very different clientele in Perth,” one he likens to the palette of Montrealers.
“The response has been just phenomenal,” Slack says. “We’re still on our honeymoon, but we’re getting great reviews.”
While Slack majored in psychology and criminology and pursued a career at Atomic Energy of Canada, he eventually took a buyout that allowed him to focus on his passion for food, an obsession he traces to learning to cook at the age of five due to his parents not being particularly adept in the kitchen.
His first restaurant experience was Cabotto’s in Kanata, where his Italian business partner, Vince Pucci “was embarrassed he didn’t have an Italian chef [Slack is Irish]. When we won the best fining dining establishment award in Ottawa, all his Italian buddies came by to meet the new Italian chef, so he introduced me to them as Roberto Slackoni.”
With a wide-ranging menu that includes salmone alla griglia, veal marsala, vitello involtini portabello, stuffed pork tenderloin, marinated sirloin, escargot, and a variety of anti-pasti, insalata, pesce, pollo, pasta al forno, vitello, and mazo, maiale and agnello options, Slack notes, “Italian cuisine depends on the region you’re cooking from. From tomato sauces to pasta dishes, they can be made completely different from within a 50 mile drive in Italy.”
Stressing a keep it simple approach to cooking with a focus on quality over quantity, has been the key to Slackoni’s success. He looks forward to sourcing local foods, from maple syrup to the 20 pounds of peeled garlic he goes through on a weekly basis.
Meanwhile, for those planning a trip to Slackoni’s should prepare for a more relaxed, European style of dining. “When I make reservations for people, we book them in for two hours,” he says. “We’re not about turning over volume, it’s about having an experience.