When it comes to restaurants, Sault Ste. Marie has many good choices, and a lot of them are Italian because of the significant Italian population. A mainstay of the Italian scene is Cesira's Italian Cuisine, 133 Spring St. (tel. 705/949-0600; www.cesiras.com) which was established in 1972 by Cesira and Bruno Auidi in their small home and has slowly expanded to accommodate their growing clientele over the years. The affordable, casual restaurant is regarded for its handmade, homemade pasta and sauces, including pesto. Their prix-fixe "dine all the time" special -- a bargain at $9.99 -- includes soup or salad and a main entree choice that rotates. Varied preparations of pastas, chicken, veal, steak and seafood dominate the menu. They also have a gluten-free menu, unusual for Italian restaurants, but which the community has very well received. Co-owners Vicki and Frank Auidi also do a brisk takeaway business with lasagna and gnocchi. Homemade pies tempt for dessert, but the tiramisu is reportedly to die for. Main courses cost $9.95 to $26.95. Another local favorite is Giovanni's Italian Restaurant, 516 Great Northern Rd. (tel. 705/942-3980; http://giovannisfamilyrestaurant.com), owned by brothers John and Gino Cavaliere since 1978. The look is more upscale since the owners renovated the place in 2004 with warm earthtones, subtle lighting and pastoral artwork. The food, however, is family friendly and unfussy. In fact, their family style menu, suitable for 10 people or more, is a big draw, with penne, meatballs, roasted potatoes, antipasto, bruschetta and spumoni as options. Oddly, they're known for their very good barbecue ribs, but in general, the menu is inspired by the brothers' native southern Italy -- chicken piccatta, veal parmigiana, gnocci, lasagna, and baked tortellini are staples, and all sauces and pastas are made from scratch. Main courses cost $10 to $25.
A relative newcomer to the dining scene is Panna Bar & Grill, 427 Queen St. E. (tel. 705/949-8484), owned by chefs and Soo natives Annelise Wolfe and Erik Nowak. It too has an adventurous, creative Mediterranean-themed menu with touches of Asian fusion. You'll find calamari and Caesar salad on the starters menu, but also vegetable tempura and French bistro-inspired items such as Panna frites, served with a garlicky mayo. The friendly, intimate neighborhood cafe also does a thin crust pizza with the usual complement of Italian garnishes -- basil, olive, roasted peppers, and a spicy, left-of-center pizza with corn and jalapenos. Pork, risotto, curried coconut shrimp, steak, whitefish, and salmon dominate the entree menu; an extensive wine-by-the glass menu is. Save room for the rich, freshly baked chocolate Valhrona cake, accompanied by a Bailey's sauce. Main courses: $9.25-$33.95.
The Bistro at Crimson Ridge, 418 Fourth Line W. (tel. 705/254-4653; www.golfcrimsonridge.com) has the enviable position of being situated creekside on a golf course, but it's a serious dining destination for just for the country club-set that seats a cozy fifty. The vintage wine list in particular garners raves, and their food consistently wins local dining awards. The upscale crowd favors executive chef Paul Chiappetta's fusion-based signature dishes such the pistachio-encrusted pork tenderloin topped with gorgonzola cheese, and the grilled ocean scallops appetizer with spinach, capers and roasted tomatoes. The floating dessert menu -- they serve three items on a rotating basis -- includes the decadent B-52 cheesecake, with triple layers of Grand Marnier, Kahlua and Bailey's liquors, enrobed in dark chocolate. All bread is made on the premises. Open Wednesday through Sunday, all year round. Main courses cost $15.25 to $25.95.
A Thymely Manner, 531 Albert St. E. (tel. 705/759-3268; http://thymelymanner.com), is the standout darling of downtown's fine dining scene and was voted one of the best places to eat in Canada. The inventive Mediterranean menu (French and Italian flavors predominate) emphasizing fresh ingredients and "homestyle, peasant cooking" in the words of owner Rosetta Sicoli, whose own mother Maria is the chef. Sicoli bought an old 1922 home and tastefully renovated it and opened the business in 1984. They're best known for their rack of lamb and the award-winning Nonna's soup. It's regarded as the place for an anniversary, birthday, or special occasion dinner; reservations are recommended. The Manner, as it's referred to, is a go-to catering choice, and gourmet items are available from their retail store next door, A Thymely Affair. Main courses cost $16.95 to $38.95.
Sports fans can get their fix of good beer, excellent wings, and more televised sporting events on eight screens than you can handle at the West End's Sportscenter Bar & Grill (tel. 705/946-2826; 624 Wellington St. West). It's a large, no-frills space that takes sporting and finger food seriously, serving inexpensive, tasty bar fare (much of it fried) and pizza. A wildly popular, happy hour spot with the locals, it features three beers on tap, including Molson and Labatt Blue on tap and a selection of domestic and imported beers by the bottle. Their menu is appetizer heavy, but does include sandwiches. The most expensive appetizer, the combo platter, comes with mushroom caps, French fries, wings and zucchini sticks, serves up to four people, and is $15.50. Appetizers such as cheese sticks and snake bits -- that's their beloved version of spicy chicken fingers -- run from $5.25-$5.95. Open at 11am daily.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.