As a kid, Alex Tami spent a lot of time in his Nonna’s kitchen and learned valuable lessons that he would carry through adulthood. Lessons like, how to embrace the joy that comes from sharing food with those around you. And, how to make a really, really good sauce.
Alex always knew that he wanted to own a restaurant and after spending a decade managing local establishments, he brought that dream to life in 2018. Sugo on Surrey is a ‘casual-fine dining restaurant with Italian influence’, located in a warm and charming 150-year old heritage home on Surrey Street East. Alex works alongside executive Chef Brian Baxendale who, as luck would have it, also earned a good portion of his cooking chops by spending time in his own Nonna’s kitchen. The authenticity of those family recipes pair beautifully with Brian’s flair for marrying flavours, evident in menu favourites like their Beet & Goat Cheese Salad, Cajun Asiago Crab Dip, Seafood Pan Roast and unique hand-made pizzas.
The focus is on fresh at Sugo on Surrey, and sourcing food and beverages locally is a key component. "We try to get as local as possible”, Tami explains. “We buy a lot of our produce from Heritage House Farms in Puslinch. All of our beers on tap and in cans, we try to keep as local as possible. If not Guelph, we stick closer to home – within 50 kilometres.” Even the restaurant’s décor is locally sourced, with artwork by Guelph area artists gracing the dining room walls.
While supporting local business is a priority, helping neighbours in need is equally important. Since the restaurant opened, Sugo on Surrey has maintained a close relationship with the Drop-In Centre, a community space in downtown Guelph that offers a multitude of services, especially for those living on a limited income. It provides a place to meet with friends and have a meal, access shelter if needed, and connect with support services to improve quality of life. For Alex Tami, it’s a chance to share a good meal with their neighbours. “We have a strong connection and donate to them as much as possible.” Sugo on Surrey provides lunches for the Tuesday meal program (currently on hiatus pending covid-19 closures) and supported the Drop-In Centre’s annual Holiday Gala in 2019, which provided those less fortunate with an evening of celebration complete with live music, festive cheer and a chef-prepared meal courtesy of Sugo on Surrey.
Currently, the restaurant is a contributing partner in the Hope in the Stream Experience Box, which offers purchasers a selection of goodies including food and beverages from local purveyors. Upcoming HITS Experience Boxes will be available on September 25 and October 8th and can be ordered here. Proceeds benefit Lakeside Hope House.
So, what about that other important lesson? The really, really good sauce? For Alex, success is all in the name. “Sugo means sauce. It can be a red tomato sauce, a gravy, pesto, Alfredo – all encompassed by the word ‘sugo’. Everything is made in house, all fresh with mostly local ingredients.”
And with so much heart in this kitchen, you know it’s going to be really, really good.
The Sugo on Surrey dining room is open Tuesday-Saturday and with reduced seating measures in place, reservations are recommended. A reduced-price takeout and delivery menu is also available.