Iconic Mississauga Restaurant Offers Exciting New Menus Throughout the Year
If there's one business that's notoriously difficult to survive—let alone thrive in—it's the restaurant business. Long hours, hot kitchens and high expectations make the environment a challenging one, so it's extra impressive when a restaurant not only stands the test of time, but remains one of the most popular go-to spots in the city it calls home.
Michael's Back Door, an upscale Italian restaurant that has called Mississauga's Clarkson neighbourhood home for well over three decades, is one of those restaurants.
So, why has the restaurant remained so incredibly popular after 36 years in the business?
"There's a few different reasons," says owner Michael Morra. "The first one is hard work and persistence and the family-like attention we give to our customers."
Morra's father, also named Michael Morra, founded the restaurant in 1981. Emigrating from Italy to Canada when he was just 16-years-old, Morra Sr. washed dishes, shined shoes (believe it or not, in a barbershop that was in the modern-day Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto) and eventually became a hair stylist himself.
"My father started in Clarkson in 1959," says Morra. "He opened a beauty salon in the village and that's how he started. Eventually he bought some of the buildings around him and he founded the Clarkson Galleria, a small indoor mall. In the back of the mall, there was some restaurant space and that's how we got started."
Now, Morra Jr. operates the restaurant, along with partner, general manager Anthony Coffa.
The restaurant is known for offering classic Italian and continental fare prepared by Chefs Joe Rago and Mark D'Souza and is beloved for such dishes as its lobster tagliolini, gnocchi, risotto and vast selection of savoury meat entrees.
It's also well-known for its seasonal and celebratory events and special menus.
"We offer different promotional menus throughout the year. We usually do something for our anniversary in October and in January we do Taste of Clarkson with other restos in the village."
The Taste of Clarkson, which runs in both the winter and summer (and can be compared to Toronto's Winter and Summerlicious dining events), allows local restaurants such as Michael's Back Door to offer diners special prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus for an exceptionally reasonable price.
Michael's Back Door has participated in Taste of Clarkson for close to 10 years and has no plans to stop participating any time soon.
After Taste of Clarkson wraps up, the restaurant offers diners an array of special menus celebrating everything from lobster to wild game.
"In February, we have our Pasta Festival and that carries over into March," says Morra. "In June, we do a lobster festival. That one is quite popular and we have a wild game feature menu in September."
The promotional menus, of course, keep people coming back to see how the chefs will wow them.
"The whole team comes together for special menus and promos," Morra says.
But while the food is special, Morra says he thinks it's the resto's personal touch that keeps regulars coming back to celebrate everything from special nights out to birthdays and holiday parties and corporate functions.
"We're always here, a family member is almost always here—my father, my mother or myself. A familiar face is always here and over the years we built a clientele based on that," he says. "To let people know that you know who they are, to make them comfortable coming back."
Morra also says that his staff is willing to go above and beyond to make each diner's meal a memorable one.
"We are very accommodating to guest's special requests, whether it be modifications or making something they love that they had before. Some people remember something they loved 25 years ago, so we'll make it for them if we have the ingredients on hand."
Morra and his team are also involved in charitable endeavours and host a golf tournament every year that raises money for important organizations. This year, the team golfed at BraeBen Golf Course and raised $6,500 for the Trillium Health Foundation Pediatric Diabetes Camp Fund.
And while the resto is ideal for an upscale date night or a birthday dinner, it also offers a range of options for people looking to host private functions.
"We have three private rooms for meetings, sales presentations, family events," says Morra, adding that the restaurant is also a popular spot for Christmas and other holiday parties.
Diners who wish to host private events in the space can also get a menu customized for them, adding a little personal touch to their gathering.
All in all, it's the personal connection that keeps the restaurant thriving after all these years. That and the delicious food, of course.
For more info on Michael's Back Door, click here.