Damian Sansonetti and his wife, Ilma Lopez, are opening a “rustic Italian” restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Bresca at 111 Middle St. next month. Sansonetti, who left his post as executive chef at Bar Boulud in New York City to come to Portland last September, owns Blue Rooster Food Co. in the Old Port, which he opened in March. Lopez was until recently the pastry chef at Grace. She gave birth to the couple’s first child in late June.

“It’s small and tiny and we just had this beautiful baby — she’s small and tiny — so we came up with the name Piccolo” (which means “little” in Italian), Sansonetti said. The menu will be based on the chef’s family background, “Abruzzi and Calabrian country-style cooking … rustic preparations using pork and chiles and mint and lamb … cooking from my heart,” he said. He plans to use some products imported from Italy, but much of the food will be locally sourced.

Sansonsetti said he learned that the location would be available through his friendship with chef Krista Kern Desjarlais, who closed the celebrated Bresca in May, to the surprise of her many Portland fans. She and her husband, Erik, operate Bresca and the Honey Bee at Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester.

“It’s nice that we can continue on to make a great place where a great place already exisited,” Sansonetti said. “The bones of the building are pretty good; we’re just doing paint and fixture-y things.” There will be 18 seats inside and 6 outside. The restaurant will serve beer and wine, no hard liquor.

Piccolo will offer dinner from 5 to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; Sansonetti said he will continue to be a presence at Blue Rooster during the day.

 

Susan Axelrod can be reached at 791-6310 or at [email protected]