Exploring Paris, Pewter Art & Great Hospitality in St. George
Surrounded by an elevated ½ acre garden and a scenic view, the Two Roses B&B was originally a mansion that was built in 1880 by a certain Mr. Thompson, a brickmaster from Scotland. Jose, an engineer who came to Canada from Cuba many years ago, and his wife Rene, who hails from Serbia, had always dreamed of owning and operating a bed and breakfast. So after finishing their earlier careers they embarked on a search for a suitable property a few years ago and purchased this house in 2008.
Rene & Jose and their gorgeously renovated mansion
Renovations started on April 1, 2008 and after working for many weeks almost around the clock on the restoration, the Two Roses B&B opened its doors in July of 2008. Jose was primarily in charge of construction and technical issues while Rene focused on interior décor, often attending auctions and antique shops to create an authentic period property with a real Victorian touch.
The Ladies’ tea room at the Two Roses B&B
Much had to be done on the property: plasterwork, woodwork and floors had to be restored; four bathrooms had to be installed; some of the rooms did not even have electrical outlets for ceiling lights; ceilings were falling down and had to be reconstructed. Rene and Jose wanted to restore their heritage property back to its original splendour without destroying what was there. They made sure that nothing was torn down.
The Gentlemen’s Room
Rene spent lots of time researching authentic Victorian decorating and colour schemes to create an authentic environment. She gave me a tour of the property whose main floor includes the dining room, a gentlemen’s room and a ladies tea room in addition to the kitchen. Outside the kitchen is an attractive patio where guests can enjoy breakfast outdoors during the warmer months. Upstairs are three guest bedrooms with three luxurious bathrooms so all the guests can enjoy their privacy. The Victorian decorating theme visually ties the entire property together.
Sitting area in one of the upstairs bedrooms
Back downstairs in the kitchen, Rene and Jose indicated that their bed and breakfast guests are welcome everywhere including the kitchen. Rene is in charge of the breakfast which could include a hearty Canadian breakfast, various egg dishes, omelettes, fresh fruit and baked goods. Special dietary needs are taken into consideration and Rene will try to accommodate special requests. Special events are also frequently hosted at the Two Roses B&B: from Christmas dinners to birthday parties for up to 25 people to hosting the local bridge club a couple of times a month. It is evident that this couple thoroughly enjoys the bed and breakfast hospitality experience.
Dining Room at the Two Roses B&B
To cap off this amazing action packed day we had dinner at La Cantinella, an Italian restaurant on St. George’s main street, housed in a historic 1850s former inn. We enjoyed a tasty combination of “linguini alla puttanesca” and “gamberi al pesto”. The hosts Renato and Susanna Reale provided us with an excellent dining experience and a truly welcoming atmosphere.
Main dining room at La Cantinella
Renato actually owns a car repair business while Susanna’s original background is in the arts. Years ago they walked by the building, which was a fitness studio at the time with apartments above, and Susanna fell in love with it. She was intrigued by the building and just felt that this would be a great place for a restaurant. But the building needed a lot of work and it took the couple six years to renovate it.
La Cantinella on St. George’s main street
Today it houses their restaurant on the main floor with two large guest rooms and a spacious patio while the couple turned the upstairs, which had consisted of 19 small rooms, into their private living quarters. Renato handmade the countertop for the bar from a large piece of walnut wood. With a modest smile he added that he just used a lathe, some woodworking tools and lots of elbow grease.
The Reale family: Renato, Susanna, Domenic and Alex
The entire building had to be rewired and lots of work had to be done to modernize the infrastructure of the building, including new heating and plumbing throughout. The second guestroom just opened this past week, added an extra 40 seats to the restaurant and will feature live music on a regular basis.
The new dining room at La Cantinella
Susanna is a passionate cook and very customer-oriented. She loves it when her guests have a great experience. All the pasta is made on site by Susanna and she even sells it to other restaurants. Susanna and her daughter Alex even took me a tour of the kitchen where I found out that this is truly a family business: the owners Susanna and Renato get reinforcement from daughter Alex and son Domenic, while Susanna’s mother and aunt work in the kitchen as well. Despite the hectic demands of the restaurant and the hard work, it seemed that everyone was having a great time and enjoying the hospitality experience.
Delicious food at La Cantinella
At about 11:30 pm I finally fell into my plush bed at the Two Roses B&B, absolutely exhausted from an awesome day of experiences. I reflected back on the day, hardly able to believe how much I had seen and how much I enjoyed all the places I saw and the people I met in and around Brantford. I drifted off into some much-needed sleep for another interesting day in Brantford.