George and Patrizia Simone established the restaurant in 1986 as part of the Ovens Valley Motor Inn, and Simone's has since become representative of the culinary scene in Bright. Roughly ten years ago, George and Patrizia left the inn behind to focus on the restaurant. Today, housed in the 150-year-old Victorian cottage in central Bright, Simone's offers refined food in a rustic dining atmosphere.
From the beginning, Patrizia worked as head chef and George managed the front of house as well as sommelier. Patrizia’s family comes from Umbria, Italy, and she built her reputation by cooking uncomplicated, yet, modern dishes. “Our kitchen has two hearts: the old and the new,” said Patrizia. “Those two hearts beat as one when we apply modern methods to old flavours that have been passed from mother to children. They help us to understand who we are and remind us where we come from.” Anthony and his wife Hope have joined Simone’s after working in Melbourne and overseas as a chef and sommelier.
The menu at Simone’s changes seasonally. From the family’s perspective, summer means bottling and drying tomatoes and foraging for elderberries to flavour vinegar and ice cream. Hops is also used to make sorbets. In the autumn, the family makes vincotto (cooked wine), and the restaurant serves the region’s delicate, new extra virgin olive oil. Cured meats, such as goat prosciutto and salami, are produced during the cold winter months, when the many hands of family and friends turn the kitchen into a community. When spring arrives with its warm, relieving breeze, the restaurant fills with roses and violets, and the menu prominently features fresh vegetables such as broadbeans and asparagus.
The family views Simone’s as a way of introducing travellers to the local world of the High Country. Its dishes have included Gnocchi with Smoked Oxheart Tomatoes, Florentine Tagliata with Pork from the High Country, and Fresh-Baked Peaches from Buckland. A degustation menu is also regularly featured. “I have discovered this region through its produce,” says Patrizia, “and through my food others can share my experience, too.”
The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival has recognised Patrizia for the role she has played in shaping the culinary reputation of North East Victoria, and, in 2009, it named her a Legend of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. The award celebrates leaders, ground-breakers, and visionaries of Victoria’s food and wine industry.
Continuing to celebrate Victoria’s culinary lifestyle, Patrizia has written a cookbook and offers culinary tours of the region. Most recently, in 2013, Patrizia opened the Patrizia Simone Country Cooking School. She has taught classes in Italy and Bright before, and now this new school offers a purpose-built space complete with all the cooking gadgets necessary to construct traditional Italian meals.