Pizzette, one of the menu items at the new Old Port restaurant Via Vecchia. Photo by Anthony DiBiase

After following a path as windy as an Italian country road, Joshua Miranda’s new Old Port restaurant, Via Vecchia, is set to open for both indoor and outdoor dining Friday.

Via Vecchia, which means “the old way” in Italian, is located at 10 Dana St. and will serve dinner from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. It will also be open for drinks and a late-night menu after 10 p.m. (Miranda, who also owns Blyth & Burrows, plans to add lunch and brunch later.) Reservations are required.

Via Vecchia is a modern take on a European bistro that serves small plates of Italian food, classic cocktails and Italian wines. Chef Mitch Ryan, a native Mainer who has traveled widely in Italy and was previously the executive chef at Vignola/Cinque Terre, has put together a dinner menu that features a variety of pasta dishes in two sizes; small plates ($11-14 each) such as tuna loin and Bangs Island mussels with pancetta, white wine and grilled sourdough; pizzette ($11-14); and large plates ($24-32) of chicken scarpariello, lobster gnocchi, crispy eggplant and beef sirloin.

A wrap-around marble bar fills the entire front portion of the restaurant, which features wooden tables and emerald green velvet booths. In the restaurant area, diners will eat under skylights and surrounded by greenery – an environment meant to echo an Italian courtyard.

If you’re depressed because you can’t travel – and Europe is temporarily banning most Americans, anyway – this place looks to be the perfect antidote.

Bucatini with clams and mussels at Via Vecchia, a new restaurant in the Old Port. Photo by Anthony DiBiase

JUST IN CASE YOU NEED SOME MORE PANDEMIC POUNDS …

After several delays, it looks as if the new Two Fat Cats bakery in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood will open Saturday.

The bakery, at 195 Lancaster St., will offer only takeout at first. Next week, customers will be able to pre-order – 48 hours in advance – pies, cakes, whoopie pies and other goodies for curbside pickup. The bakery’s regular hours will be 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

All bakery items will be pre-packaged, social distancing will be encouraged and masks will be required.

Two Fat Cats’ South Portland location remains open for takeout and pre-order for curbside pickup.

PRIMO IS PRIMO

Melissa Kelly, chef/owner of Primo in Rockland, is opening her restaurant for indoor dining Thursday. (She has been offering takeout throughout the pandemic and is still working on setting up outdoor dining.)

Primo’s housemade bread on sale at Primo Provisions. Photo courtesy of Primo Restaurant

What makes this opening different? Kelly has put together a short, clever instructional video, which you’ll find posted on the restaurant’s website, outlining the guidelines for dining there and explaining all of the safety precautions. The video is a combination of scenes from the restaurant (including mask-wearing staff preparing food) and cartoon-like illustrations. You can view the video at primorestaurant.com.

This is my pick for a fun weekend road trip: dinner and a leisurely stroll through the restaurant’s gardens and Kelly’s new barn market, Primo Provisions, filled with goodies like garam masala nuts, arancini, key lime cheesecake, Primo charcuterie (Beet-cured salmon! Duck prosciutto!), housemade baguettes with garden herb butter, and cannoli gelato. Seriously, who wants to go with me?

Housemade charcuterie is for sale in Primo Restaurant’s barn market. Photo courtesy of Primo

LISBON LOSING SAUSAGE KITCHEN, BUT MAY GAIN A FERMENTORY

Fans of Maurice Bonneau’s Sausage Kitchen in Lisbon Falls were so heartbroken to learn this week that the shop is closing that some of them cried at the counter, according to owner Andre Bonneau, who is retiring.

The shop may not be empty for long. One place that is at least considering moving into the sausage space is Urban Farm Fermentory, according to Chris Hallweaver, general manager at UFF. The kombuchery needs to move its production out of 200 Anderson St. in Portland, Hallweaver said, and a move would allow the company to expand into some other food-based fermented products. The fermentory would retain its Portland tasting room and open a second one in Lisbon. This is not a done deal yet, so keep your eyes here for updates.

A DIGITAL FUNDRAISER FOR RESTAURANTS

A digital cookbook is raising money for independent restaurants and local food banks. Photo courtesy of Nadia Mashar

 Two Portland restaurants are represented in a digital cookbook that is raising money for restaurants and food banks struggling during the pandemic.

A Texas woman who works in the financial services industry, Nadia Mashar, came up with the idea for “United We Cook,” which costs $30 and can be ordered online at unitedwecook.org. The book includes more than 180 recipes from 100 independent restaurants, from fine dining to casual cafes, in 24 states.

All of the proceeds go to the restaurants and local food banks. So far, Mashar says, sales of the cookbook have raised just over $6,000.

Chaval and Piccolo, both owned by married couple Ilma Lopez and Damian Sansonetti, are the two Maine restaurants represented in the book. The two recipes they submitted were Coq Au Vin Lyonnaise (Red Wine Braised Chicken) and Chocolate Budino & Black Pepper Meringues.

BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL

While restaurants and breweries around the country face their own challenges, they’re also finding ways to support other causes.

Fourteen Maine breweries have signed onto a new fundraising effort called Black is Beautiful, a national, collaborative effort to “raise money for the injustices people of color face daily and raise funds for police brutality reform and legal defenses for those who have been wronged.”

Weathered Souls Brewing Co. in San Antonio, Texas, has created a recipe for a moderately high ABV stout, and asks that breweries around the country add their own twists to create something unique. Local breweries will donate proceeds to organizations that support the cause.

So far, 913 breweries in 50 states and 17 countries have signed on. If you want to support them by buying a Black is Beautiful beer, go to blackisbeautiful.beer. Participating Portland breweries are Allagash Brewing Co., Bissell Brothers, Shipyard Brewing Co., Austin Street Brewery and Definitive Brewing Co.

This story was updated at 10:36 a.m. Wednesday to reflect a change in the opening date of Two Fat Cats.


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