Caiola’s, a popular neighborhood restaurant in Portland’s West End, has been sold to Damian Sansonetti and Ilma Lopez, the owners of Piccolo on Middle Street.

Lisa Vaccaro, who co-owns Caiola’s with the restaurant’s chef, Abby Harmon, confirmed Wednesday that the restaurant has been sold after a short time on the market, although the closing won’t happen until next week.

Vaccaro said they received several offers, including some from potential owners from Boston who made it clear they would close the restaurant immediately and start from scratch. Vaccaro said she and Harmon turned down all of those offers out of respect for their staff. The restaurant has 30 employees.

She said that the new owners are “keeping everybody. They’re crazy not to.”

Customers probably won’t see any dramatic changes in the menu, at least initially. Although the menu contains some staples and customer favorites, Harmon changes it every day, making it “very easy for Damian to put his own stamp on it,” Vaccaro said. “He’s not going to change any of that right away.”

Vaccaro and Harmon aren’t entirely sure what’s next for them. They decided to sell the restaurant because they are exhausted and want to spend more time with their families. Both women have close relatives who are ill, and running a busy restaurant has made it more difficult to be supportive.


“We need a break,” Vaccaro said. “Every time we make plans to go see our families, something happens and we can’t go.”

Vaccaro said that, long term, she would probably focus on her other business building custom furniture. Harmon, who typically does not speak to the press, may help with the transition of Caiola’s to the new owners, if they need it, Vaccaro said, but after that “she doesn’t know what she’s going to do, and she doesn’t have to know.”

Harmon worked in the health and fitness industry before becoming a chef. She made a name for herself cooking stunning seafood dishes at Street & Co., a well-known Old Port restaurant owned by Dana Street, who also co-owns Fore Street and Scales. She struck out on her own in 2005 when she and Vaccaro opened Caiola’s, which was named after Vaccaro’s great grandfather.

“We love our customers,” Vaccaro said. “They’ve been so loyal and so supportive. And our staff is like a second family. That’s hard to say bye to because we’ve taken care of these kids for so long. We’re going to miss a lot of that part of it.”

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