by Bill More
I had the great good pleasure to speak with Stephanie Bernardi Brott to interview her regarding food trends in Central Illinois. Stephanie is now 42 and has been in the food business nearly all her life. She and her family own Mona’s and Capponi’s restaurants in Toluca, Illinois, for decades, and the Bernardi’s restaurants in Washington and Peoria, Illinois, and Stephanie owns Olio and Vino retail olive oils, vinegars, wines, and gifts in Peoria Heights. Fun, right? Yes, but lots of work. They may make it look easy, it’s not.
Their restaurants are award winning with her customers voting them “Favorite Pastas” and more over the years. When she first started nearly everyone went to their restaurants for chicken and pasta, and many, many, many customers still do just exactly that. Their restaurants’ menus are now evolving and Stephanie insists that the tried and true dishes their customers have come to love will remain but new and exciting menu options are coming by June or July of this year.
More customers have become more health conscious, with small plate options being popular. They want delicious foods --- should go without saying --- but they also want a fun and upbeat atmosphere, one where they feel welcomed and feel like part of the family. She notes that a number of their younger customers have become more knowledgeable about wines and are happy to enjoy the restaurant’s higher end selections. The gluten-free options, organic options and local based options may fade as time goes on. Stephanie insists that every day brings surprises and that if she has any disappointments it is when a customer is not happy with the food they received.
Bernardi’s is known for bending over backwards to make sure their customers are happy, and they really do put their hearts and souls into the quality of the food, their preparation, the presentation. She sends thanks from the family to their customers for all the support they have enjoyed over the last many decades. Stay tuned for exciting new ideas this summer.