EatDrinkShopCook: Big culinary dream, small Westport restaurant
Updated 7:48 am, Saturday, August 27, 2011
Located at 1620 Post Road East, Pane e Bene is a tiny treasure box of a restaurant, tucked in at the end of a strip of stores. To be honest, there have been more than a few restaurants in this spot, which some would say is a cursed location. The last restaurant to occupy the space was Vietnamese. Before that, Mexican. But Capponi and Lopez aren't daunted by the locale's past and are ready to breathe new life into the eastern end of Westport.
"We had the opportunity to bring our mark to this side of town," said Capponi. "This is a beautiful dream come true." Both men previously worked at Tarantino's, near the Westport Railroad Station, for over a decade.
The menu is home-style Italian, and follows a seasonal theme, which at the moment is lemon. For example, there are mussels in a limoncello sauce ($11), a salad of arugula, portobello mushroom, Parmesan cheese in a lemon vinaigrette ($10), and ricotta tortellini with lemon sauce and mint ($20). Yellow roses on every table further reflect the sunny summer feel.
"We don't have a big freezer, so everything is made from scratch," said Capponi. In fact, the freezer is household-sized, not an industrial giant.
More InformationTHE SCOOP Pane e Bene, 1620 Post Road East, Westport. 203-292-9584. Closed Mondays. Open Tuesday through Thursday, noon to 10 p.m.; Fridays from noon to 11 p.m.; Saturdays from 5 to 11 p.m.; Sundays from 5 to 9 p.m. What to try: Stuffed peppers, baked zucchini, fritto misto, homemade pastas, veal scallopine, potato-crusted branzino.
"We make and sell, make and sell," said Capponi.
The pastas and desserts are made on the premises, and bread is delivered daily from Isabelle et Vincent in Fairfield.
"We made the menu according to what people like," said Capponi. Some of the most popular dishes include peppers stuffed with Italian sausage ($10), baked zucchini ($8), veal scallopine ($24) and branzino ($23).
When Capponi describes his menu, it's clear that he's passionate about his job. "The branzino is fresh and the sliced potato is crusted over it to create a shield. It helps the fish stay moist," he said. "Food is not for people that are angry," he said. "This is not about wanting to get a quick bite to eat. Food should be like a beautiful song of an opera singer."
Quite a challenge, but the pair seems up to it. The dining room is small, with 12 tables, and the patio offers another four. The bar is cozy and a popular place to enjoy the restaurant's signature drink, an acai mojito made with fresh lemons and chocolate mint from Capponi's garden.
"The food here is better than what you can do at home," said Capponi.
That, and attentive service, are what he hopes will set them apart from other restaurants in the area. He jokes that they are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. "You will never find a clock in my restaurant," he said. "There is a sign in the kitchen that says, `The kitchen is open.' As long as Henry or I are here, we will cook for you. If it is after hours, that is breakfast. After all, what is carbonara, but bacon and eggs?"
Email Patti Woods at email@example.com.
Pane e Bene, 1620 Post Road East, Westport. 203-292-9584.
Closed Mondays. Open Tuesday through Thursday, noon to 10 p.m.; Fridays from noon to 11 p.m.; Saturdays from 5 to 11 p.m.; Sundays from 5 to 9 p.m.
What to try: Stuffed peppers, baked zucchini, fritto misto, homemade pastas, veal scallopine, potato-crusted branzino.