Extend patio season with these local pod-equipped restaurants

Restaurant pod at Casa Toscana Owner Luca Vitali shows off a restaurant dining pod at Casa Toscana in Grimsby. Photo credit Emma Woolfrey:

As patio season comes to a close and the second wave of COVID-19 forces restrictions on indoor gatherings, two local restaurants are bringing inside, outside.

Grimsby’s popular Italian restaurant Casa Toscana and Beamsville’s Fielding Estates Winery are offering dining pods as a way for customers to have a safe and fun dining experience. Located just off their respective patios, the pods are enclosed and heated shelters that allow customers to eat outside, while enjoying the comforts of inside.

Chianti-born Luca Vitali, the owner of Casa Toscana, has called his greenhouse-style pods the “Chianti Villages” to celebrate his heritage. Each of the five pods is named after one of the five main villages in the Chianti region of Italy. Four of the pods are designed to seat between two to four people, and are available to rent over the phone for a $25 non-refundable reservation fee.

The fourth pod can seat up to six and is priced at $35. Vitali encourages all guests coming to eat in the Villages to bring their own blankets as it gets colder, as they can not supply them due to COVID health restrictions. They do, however, sell blankets for $7 in the restaurant shop that you can then take home if you forget to bring one along.

Vitali purchased the shelters from Canada Greenhouse, and each one is made in Canada. By renting the pods, part of the revenue goes to funding the project, while part of the funds will go to supporting various individuals in need in the area. This month’s proceeds will be donated to help pay for treatment of a Grimsby resident fighting cancer.

“We have to stay local, because we have to say thank you to our community and how they reacted and responded to us during this pandemic,” said Vitali. “Not only supporting us when we reopened, but also supporting us when we were closed by buying gift cards and ordering take out. It was overwhelming and very, very, nice, and this is our way of giving back.”

Casa Toscana had their grand opening of the “Chianti Villages” on last Friday. Every time slot has been reserved thus far. Those wishing to dine in the pods at Casa Toscana have the option to book either a 5 p.m. or 7 p.m. time slot, with an hour and a half time window for the 5 p.m. reservation in order to give the restaurant time to thoroughly sanitize the greenhouse for the next guests.

Book the later restaurant pod time slot for longer dining

If you are looking for a longer dining experience, Vitali encourages customers to book the later time. To book a spot, simply call the restaurant at 289-235-8888, as they do not take online reservations at this time.  

wine dome at Fielding Estates
Wine dome at Fielding Estates

Fielding Estates, however, is only taking online reservations for what they are calling their “wine pods.” Starting Nov. 15, there will be a $20 dome fee that applies to all dome bookings.

Each dome can seat up to six guests, with “Dome Policies” listed in each dome that the staff acknowledges. 

“We ask that guests refrain from touching the dome sides/zippers, no smoking or vaping inside the domes, no outside food or beverages are permitted, debit or credit is the preferred payment method, one payment per table, each reservation is a max of 1.5 hours to allow for a 30-minute window for our staff to clean and sanitize the domes,” said Elizabeth Libertini, Event Coordinator at Fielding Estate Winery.

Pods at Fielding Estates are called ‘wine domes’

Fielding’s wine domes are equipped with lights and heaters that can be adjusted by your server to a desired temperature. They are currently booking through to February 2021, but will most likely be using them through to the end of March. Guests can enjoy wine by the glass, flights, and cheese plates all while staying in their literal and figurative bubble.

“We have had a huge response from the public. Our social media posts have gained lots of traction, and we have been reading comments from all over North America. Our guests have been happily enjoying them and commending our staff and offering such a safe and fun experience for them to enjoy with their bubble,” said Libertini.

The pods not only offer a great experience for customers but allow for the restaurant and winery to serve at a greater capacity during the pandemic.

Casa Toscana is known for their stunning patio in the heart of Downtown Grimsby during the summer, but as the weather turns, they typically can seat up to 45 inside the restaurant. However, due to social distancing guidelines, they had to cut down that number to 26. The pods offer 22 more seats to the restaurant, allowing their business to continue as usual this winter. 

“COVID hit us hard in March when we were shut down. We really had to brainstorm and think about what we were going to do. We were blessed with the community helping. I am proud to give back to Grimsby and the community,” said Vitali.