September 29, 2010

Soup to Nuts: Midcoast has
appetite for good food

Head up Route 1 and discover what lots of diners already know: Good things are happening at restaurants along the corridor, such as Paolina's Way in Camden.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

SEARSMONT — On a steamy summer day, Christina Sidoti turned her white Jeep down Christina's Way, a dirt road several miles from the coast.

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Paolina's Way in Camden is named for owner Christina Sidoti's Italian grandmother.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette

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Christina Sidoti, owner of Paolina’s Way in Camden, tends her Well Fed Farm in Searsmont. The farm provides much of the produce for the restaurant’s menu.

Meredith Goad/Staff Writer

Additional Photos Below

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WHERE: 7 Public Landing, Camden, ME 04843

INFO: (207) 230-0555

She pulled up to a wooden gate with a sign that said Well Fed Farm, then walked onto about an acre of organic vegetables destined for her Camden restaurant, Paolina's Way. Her little dog, a cottony-white Coton de Tulear named Cannoli, frolicked at her feet before running off in search of adventure.

Fay Strongin, one of four women who worked the farm this year, pointed out the things that were ready or nearly so – spinach, parsley, onions, leeks, carrots, peppers, celery.

Sidoti decides that the evening's menu, in addition to a lobster pizza special and a spinach lasagna, will include a beet and haricot vert salad over mixed greens. Turnips will be mashed and served alongside whole sea perch seasoned with coarse salt, stuffed with herbs and roasted in the restaurant's wood-fired oven.

"We feel very personally attached to all of the vegetables that come from the ground," Sidoti said. "If I look in the refrigerator and I see things wilting and the staff hasn't started to cook it off, I don't raise my voice, but I'll say, 'This beautiful rainbow chard – it's going to wilt! Cook it!' "

Sidoti could be channeling the spirit of her Italian grandmother, Paolina Rella, whose devotion to fresh, delicious ingredients helped inspire Sidoti to open her own restaurant.

Paolina's Way has been open just shy of two years, but thanks to all the rain the state received last summer, this was the first year Sidoti was able to truly realize her vision of starting a farm and using its all-organic harvest to share her grandmother's passion for food.


Primo, chef Melissa Kelly's culinary temple to fresh, local cuisine just down the road in Rockland, has been doing this kind of thing for years. But Sidoti's restaurant represents one of the newer dining ventures that are building on the midcoast's growing reputation as a great place to eat.

The midcoast's appetite for good food seems insatiable, with choices ranging from a five-course tasting menu at Natalie's, the restaurant at the Camden Harbour Inn, to grabbing a Reuben at Farmers Fare made with house-corned natural beef and Morse's Sauerkraut.

Chef Brian Hill is building on the success of Francine Bistro, his well-regarded restaurant in Camden, with Shepherd's Pie, a new pub-style place in Rockport that seems constantly packed with customers.

Annemarie Ahearn's new cooking school in Lincolnville, Saltwater Farm, holds "Full Moon Suppers" and other feasts created with ingredients grown right on the premises.

Sidoti thinks the midcoast palate is growing more sophisticated in part due to the influx of people who come for events such as the PopTech conference and the Camden International Film Festival.

"These conferences and think tanks and festivals drive so many people to our area, a lot of whom fall in love with this area and relocate, and most are foodies," Sidoti said. "And like me, most of us have left cities. We're looking for a place that will keep us intellectually stimulated but also speak to the quality of life."

Sidoti spent her childhood summers in Maine, but grew up in New York and first learned about food in her grandmother's kitchen in Queens.

"There was never a day she didn't have a fresh, beautiful meal on the table, and a smile on her face when she did it," Sidoti said. "It was done completely and utterly with love, all the time. I don't know how someone does that, but I aspire to be like that. And that's what I want the restaurant to feel like."

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Beets, carrots and celery from Well Fed Farm are prepped for dinner at Paolina's Way.

Meredith Goad/Staff Writer

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Well Fed Farm in Searsmont provides much of the produce for the menu at Paolina’s Way in Camden.

Meredith Goad/Staff Writer

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Mihai Dobre and Gabor Gergely make pizzas in the kitchen of Paolina's Way.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Holly Toothacker serves a pizza at Paolina's Way.


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