WATERVILLE – Walk into Holy Cannoli on Main Street downtown and you might as well be stepping into an eatery in Tuscany.
The aroma of steaming hot meatballs and chicken Parmesan wafts through the Italian bakery as patrons salivate over pasticotti, biscotti, pignoli and other cookies displayed behind glass.
Andrea Bocelli’s voice is belting out Giacomo Puccini’s aria “Nessun dorma” as cooks prepare pastries and other treats.
The walls, painted to reflect the colors of Tuscany — mustard, green and rust — are peppered with old black-and-white framed photos of Tom Savinelli’s Sicilian family.
In the entrepreneurial spirit, Savinelli and his wife, Candace, are taking a risk. They’re enlarging their business, offering more menu items and creating a warm, comfortable atmosphere for patrons.
At the Hathaway Creative Center, the new Button-Down Cafe is set to open this month, and another entrepreneurial venture, Downtown Smoothies, will open in the former Holy Cannoli space.
The Savinellis moved their bakery last week from their previous location to the former Adams & Worth space at 72 Main St.
The larger, 1,800-square-foot bakery with high tin ceilings and seating for 30 features a wood bar with stools looking out onto Castonguay Square in the city’s center.
Sandwiched between Barrel’s Community Market and KFS Bank, Holy Cannoli offers soup, stromboli, cannoli, cheesecake, lobster tails and elegant sfogliatelle pastry filled with Italian vanilla cream and whipped cream.
Candace Savinelli learned to make Italian food from her mother-in-law, Lil Savinelli. Her father-in-law, Louis, had an Italian deli in West Haven, Conn.
“Food was their life. It was an art form to them,” she said. “I took anything Lil did or said, and I just paid attention.”
The love of food and culture is also echoed in Maureen Kibler’s new eatery at the Hathaway Creative Center south of the downtown at 10 Water St.
The Button-Down Cafe, named for a popular shirt once manufactured in the former C.F. Hathaway Co. mill, recently expanded its hours to include 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.
“Our first Saturday was last Saturday, and it was busier than the weekdays,” Kibler said when interviewed April 8 at the restaurant.
The eatery, which seats 28, opened recently in the former Maynard’s Chocolates space on the center’s first floor. Patrons included people who live and work on the center’s upper floors and residents of the city’s South End and beyond.
One woman came in for breakfast recently and loved it so much she went back home, rousted her family and brought them in for lunch, according to Kibler.
“We’ve had a blast,” Kibler said. “We’re having so much fun here. I have a fabulous staff, a crackerjack staff.”
The cafe’s red-and-white walls sport a display of Kibler’s collection of hammered aluminum dishes, interspersed with old advertisements of the Hathaway shirt man wearing an eye patch. Daily lunch specials include chicken stew and dynamites, chicken pot pies, and cranberry chicken salad.
Soups, vegetarian meals, salads and quiche always are on the menu, as are breakfast foods including bagels, egg sandwiches, muffins and other baked goods.
Kara Kugelmeyer popped in late one morning last week for a salad and quiche to take up to her office, Thorndike Press/Cengage Learning, which is in the center.
A product strategy manager, Kugelmeyer said the cafe’s food is excellent and the staff is friendly.
Beyond that, Kugelmeyer praised Kibler, the Savinellis and others who, despite a struggling economy, take risks and open businesses into which they pour their hearts and souls.
“They’re creative entrepreneurs, and we want to support them,” she said.
In the former Holy Cannoli shop downtown, Bobby McGee was busy April 8, renovating the space to make way for Downtown Smoothies, which he and his wife, Rachel, will own and operate.
The couple owns Selah Tea Cafe, farther north on Main Street, and are branching out to offer smoothies made with fruit and vegetables, as well as frappes, frozen yogurt and acai bowls.
“It’s basically a blend of acai, which is a superfood, with different fruits and organic granola,” Bobby McGee said.
Wheat grass shots, or wheat grass put through a juicer, also will be featured. A typical serving is about 1 ounce a day, he said.
“It’s pretty much all the nutrients and vitamins and minerals you need,” he said.
McGee said he hoped to have a soft opening for a couple of weeks, then host a grand opening near the end of the month.
Holy Cannoli, The Button-Down Cafe and Selah Tea all have pages on Facebook.
Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at: