WESTBROOK – Ask anyone why Profenno’s Restaurant has been such a success over the years, or why they keep coming back to the popular downtown eatery, and you’ll get a lot of answers, but one remains consistent: “The food.”

After all, no restaurant will last for one year, let alone 50, without good food backing it up, and almost from the beginning, Peter Profenno wanted to offer good food.

Old pictures of Cardamone’s Restaurant at 920 Main St. clearly show it once offered “Pizza” and “Spaghetti,” but when Profenno first bought the place in 1962, he opened it as a bar.

It took a few years to expand beyond just cocktails, but by 1970, Profenno’s was offering food. It was a humble beginning at first, with bar food and an all-you-can-eat buffet. Profenno said he had an appreciation for good food, but he didn’t cook himself. He did, however, have fond memories of spending time in the kitchen as a child.

“I used to watch my mother cook,” he said. “She cooked for six of us.”

Part of what helped the menu along was the addition of Albert LaChance, whom Profenno convinced to quit working at another restaurant in town and come to work for him in 1970.

LaChance did have ideas, Profenno said, from chicken croquettes to clam dishes to soups, all homemade.

“Everything he made was delicious, and the price was right,” Profenno said.

Before long, Profenno figured out he could make good money offering good food, and he hasn’t looked back. He has continued to expand his offerings, today having a full menu, either for take-out or dining in.

“I gradually grew into it,” he said.

Famous in town for its pizza, Profenno’s has all sizes, with 22 different toppings ranging from traditional pepperoni and mushrooms to broccoli and jalapeno peppers. There are also the traditional lunchtime favorites like hot dogs, burgers and BLTs, but patrons can also get steak on a regular basis, and a specials board always offers something different.

One day, the board’s specials offered grilled ham steak with pineapple sauce and mashed potatoes, cheese ravioli with meatballs, fried haddock, and a ham-and-cheese-club wrap. Profenno prefers to keep the good stuff cheap, too, bragging that he can offer a special that amounts to a full meal for the same price that some places charge for just a sandwich.

And the locals appreciate it. Mark Lewis, who works at Jotul North America in Gorham, said he comes in at least twice a week for lunch. He typically gets a pizza or one of the specials, and said he loves the homemade soups and chowders.

“The food’s good, and it’s reasonable,” he said.

Tim Layne, another lunchtime regular, said he didn’t have a favorite item on the menu he likes it all.

“I really haven’t had anything bad here,” he said.

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