Wine glasses, plates and napkins as seen through the window of the closed Piccolo restaurant on Middle Street in Portland on April 28. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The owners of one of Portland’s most intimate and romantic restaurants announced Sunday that it is closing permanently.

Ilma Lopez and Damian Sansonetti confirmed Sunday evening that they have decided to close Piccolo, an Italian restaurant on Middle Street that opened more than six years ago. But the couple, who have a 7-year-old daughter, also said they plan to reopen their other restaurant, Chaval, for curbside delivery and pickup on Wednesday.

Lopez explained that Chaval, which closed temporarily last month, will reopen in phases with the ultimate goal of offering indoor dining.

Located on Pine Street in Portland’s West End, Chaval, which features French and Spanish cuisine, closed for a short period as the owners told followers on Facebook they needed time off to recharge and reassess the changes to their personal life and businesses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These times have been so tough for everyone,” Lopez, who has earned recognition for her skills as a pastry chef, said in a telephone interview. “Closing Piccolo is super hard for us.”

Piccolo received national recognition in 2014 for being one of the best new romantic restaurants in the United States by Travel and Leisure. According to the editors of the magazine, Piccolo and the other restaurants on their list offered a seductive setting and intimate service that featured mouthwatering cuisine.

In 2014, Lopez earned a StarChefs Coastal New England Rising Star Pastry Chef Award, and in 2018 she was chosen as a James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef semifinalist for the second year in a row. Sansonetti is an Italian-American chef whose family is from the Abruzzi region of central and southern Italy.

Lopez and Sansonetti said the pause in their lives that resulted from the pandemic has given them a chance to spend more time with their daughter and to reflect on their aspirations as co-owners of two successful restaurants. Their decision to close Piccolo was not an easy one to make, but necessary given all the factors they had to consider, from working 12- to 14-hour days and dealing with the challenges posed by the virus.

The couple urged their followers to pay close attention to Chaval’s Facebook page, which will be updated from time to time with their phased reopening plans. Chaval is located at 58 Pine St. in Portland’s West End.

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