This is a culinary obituary I hoped I’d never have to write.
After 18 years of serving some of the best food in town, Tre Sorelle will close.
The idea of Tre Sorelle — so named for sisters Carla Paluzzi, Lisa Particelli and Gina White — was born at the Orillia Farmers’ Market. A persistent customer told the sisters they should open a restaurant.
Eventually, they did, setting up shop at what is now Rustica Pizza Vino. They relocated to a space on Peter Street South before moving into their current location at 133 Mississaga St. E.
For years, Tre Sorelle has served as a staple at that spot on the busiest block in downtown Orillia.
Now, they’ve decided to pack it in.
“We’ve been doing it a long time,” White said.
It’s important to note they are closing on their own terms. Some customers have asked if the COVID-19 pandemic was a factor in their decision. It wasn’t. In fact, business was brisk.
“COVID made us see that we can do a lot of this ourselves,” White said.
However, it has been demanding. Finding balance with feeding diners inside, preparing take-home food for the freezer, and some catering hasn’t been easy.
The sisters also realized they have more space than they need.
It seemed logical to call it a day. That doesn’t make it easy to say goodbye, though.
They’re not just saying goodbye to customers; it’s also a bittersweet farewell to what has become an important part of their family.
Their nephew — Paluzzi’s son, Phoenix Leach — has been a fixture at Tre Sorelle. He is an eager, young helper who loves spending time in the kitchen with his aunts.
Their father, Domenic Paluzzi, is also heavily involved, putting his pasta-making skills to use.
Their mother, Diane, who died three years ago, was a major influence. Many of the recipes used at Tre Sorelle came from her. The tags still say “Mama’s biscotti” and “Mama’s cream puff squares.”
Other recipes, such as the meatballs, antipasto and ravioli, have been in the family for decades.
So, Tre Sorelle is much more than an 18-year tradition. It’s a decades-long appreciation of family and food.
That’s what Particelli and White will miss most.
“There have been so many memories and fun times,” White said.
“Letting go of the business — for me, anyway — is not that hard,” Particelli added. “It’s that stuff. We come here every day. This is our comfort zone.”
It’s mine, too. Tre Sorelle is my most frequented lunch spot. I usually don’t know what I’m going to order when I walk in, but I know it will be good. That’s a credit to the sisters’ consistency — not only as it relates to the quality of the food, but also the menu. It rarely changes. It doesn’t need to.
The sign outside says, “Italian food made simple,” and that’s when Italian food is at its best. Sure, there is fine-dining Italian cuisine, but simplicity reigns. Tre Sorelle lets the ingredients speak for themselves.
“We should both be proud of the fact that our quality has never, never changed,” White said.
“We never veered from what we do,” Particelli added. “We didn’t say, ‘We’re not making enough money. Let’s make chocolate.’”
They know what they do well and they stick to the plan.
Now — unfortunately for us, but in the best interests of the sisters — the plan is to close.
It hasn’t been easy for customers to swallow.
A woman who has a cottage in the area was particularly concerned. The longtime customer is there every Saturday when she’s in town. When she learned Tre Sorelle would be closing, she said, “Well, I don’t see a reason to keep that cottage now.”
A bit dramatic, maybe, but a testament to the Tre Sorelle customer base.
“If you don’t have loyal customers, you don’t have anything. I saw that through COVID. We were very fortunate to have so many supportive customers,” White said.
Whatever moves into 133 Mississaga St. E. next will not be called Tre Sorelle. The sisters are taking the name with them.
White plans to continue with the business in some form. She hopes to be a vendor at farmers’ markets — going full circle — and prepare food at home for online sales. Stay tuned to Tre Sorelle’s social media accounts.
For now, customers should take advantage of the time that’s left and enjoy the fantastic food Tre Sorelle has to offer.
“We’re still here and people are still loving what we do, so until we get a buyer, we’ll continue doing what we do,” White said.
To the sisters, on behalf of your customers and community, grazie.
Nathan Taylor is the central news desk editor for Village Media. He writes a local food and drink column for OrilliaMatters.