It was tough — enjoying a spectacular dinner at the Samoset’s La Bella Vita on a Saturday night, and finding room to eat our way around Rockland the next afternoon at Pies on Parade. But we did it!

Linda

Our late dinner on a frigid January evening at La Bella Vita was a peaceful way to end a busy day. Tables are beautifully decorated with white linens and candlelight. From my seat in the upper tier of the restaurant, I could watch chefs preparing food and tossing pizza dough in the air in the Samoset’s beautiful Enoteca Lounge. We could also enjoy the live saxophone and piano music in the Lounge. Lovely.

This is not a stuffy restaurant, despite its elegance. You may order pizza, an array of cheeses or a dinner. Our waiter, Ryan, pointed out specialties from each category, and thoughtfully informed us that the salad I was interested in was big enough for two.

Thin fried onions sat atop a bed of mixed greens, salty olives and gorgonzola. They’d split our salad in the kitchen — and it was still two good-sized servings. Their reduced balsamic dressing made the salad perfect.

For the next course, primi selections come in large or small portions. We learned our lesson last time we dined here, so this time we ordered two small plates of the fabulous papparadelle pasta.

The last time we were here I ordered the papparadelle and George ordered something else, but he grabbed most of my dish. So this time we each ordered our own. You really can’t beat their homemade pasta and ragu of beef short ribs. The sauce is so delicious. My leftovers provided a lunch serving for both of us. A small serving was more than plenty!

We knew we had found the best crème brule here, so it was a given that we would share one. La Bella Vita’s version includes chocolate, vanilla and espresso. When a waitress delivered our dessert, George was deep in conversation with the people sitting next to us. She leaned in and said to me, “You really should start in on the one with the raspberry while he’s distracted.” I am a wonderful wife. I resisted temptation.

Locals and visitors are taking advantage of the fact that La Bella Vita and the Enoteca Bar are now open all year. You will be delighted with the food here, any time of the year.

George

There’s something about candlelight, good music and tasty Italian food, all enjoyed while gazing at a huge map of Tuscany — our favorite part of Italy. Looking at the map, I started planning our next trip!

The wine list is extensive. We selected a Chianti Classico from Rocca Delle Macie, a winery we’ve visited in Italy.

Taking photos before sitting, I spotted Gordon Page and his wife and friends enjoying dinner. Gordon is in charge of the railroad from Brunswick to Rockland — a favorite ride for us. Seeing him there reminded me of what a small state Maine is. Friends are spotted wherever we go.

We’ve also discovered that Maine diners are very friendly. On this evening, we really enjoyed talking with a couple from southern Maine who were seated at the next table. They make an annual three-day winter visit to the Samoset and love the resort and the restaurant.

Walking through the lounge to the restaurant, I overheard a patron say, “This pizza is amazing.” While that was tempting, I stuck to my plan and ordered my favorite dish from our last visit — the Pappardelle Farnese. There are so many tantalizing dishes on the menu that we’ve got to break out of this Papperdelle Predilection next time!

Prices are very reasonable. With a bottle of wine, salad, two primis and dessert, our bill was less than $100. Buon appetito!

 

Pies on Parade — Linda

There is a lot to be said for a community that pulls together. The fact that Rockland pulls together for the benefit of the local food pantry with their annual Pies on Parade fundraiser says even more. Originally there were 400 tickets available. But with overwhelming ticket sales, organizers added another 100 tickets shortly before the big event — and sold them all at $25 each.

If any of the venues providing food (at their own cost) were unhappy about the increase of numbers, you never would have known it by the smiles on their faces as we entered in search of pie and conversation.

One of my favorite things about Pies on Parade is getting to know the business people of Rockland. They are committed to their community, support each other 100 percent and promote all their city has to offer.

Just before the event started our daughter Rebekah decided that she and grandson Vishal would love to go with us. When we got to the Lighthouse to pick up our tickets, we noticed “Sold Out” signs posted. Miraculously, someone had just canceled and freed up one ticket which Becky was allowed to purchase. Vishal got to go for free.

Now imagine you are a 6-year-old allowed to have pie for lunch. Vishal was starving after an active morning in the Samoset’s pool, and he downed the first piece of lemon meringue pie shortly after we picked up our tickets. He scraped all the white stuff off in his first bite and popped it into his mouth. The look on his face was precious. He thought it was whipped cream!

He ate savory and sweet pies until he hit the wall and succumbed to a pie coma a couple of hours into our afternoon. He was done (we thought), and George and I bid V and Becky goodbye and continued up Main Street to our next stop.

Shortly after, we looked up to see V headed our way, to tell us we had to go see all the “puffins” at the Puffin Project across the street. And he was right! We were amazed at the hundreds of tiny puffin shaped cream puffs complete with painted cookie heads. A lady there had made 475 of these adorable birds! I had mine for lunch the next day.

It was very cold for their event this year, but that didn’t deter young and old from walking around the city. There were a lot more savory pies this year, which I really appreciated. My lunch consisted of many small slices of creative pizzas and quiches. But that one piece of “Key Lime Rock” pie at the Lime Rock Inn was my sweet for the day. Delish.

George

Pies on Parade is my favorite annual event, for obvious reasons! After trying for the last two years to hit all 20 venues, this year I focused on my favorite restaurants and inns. Here they are, in order.

Sweets and Meats: yummy chicken pot pie. Brick’s Pizza: delicious thin-crust pizza and peanut butter pie. Café Miranda: amazing roasted apple, cheddar, garlic, black pepper and thyme foccacia. Lime Rock Inn: Key Lime Rock pie (of course). Berry Manor Inn: two kinds of quiche, plus blueberry and raspberry pie (yes, I tried them all).

I could have spent the entire day dining at Berry Manor. And what a delight it was to see old friend Charlie Mann of Winthrop, sitting in the living room at Lime Rock Inn, his favorite home away from home. Charlie is one of the state’s best fly tyers, and he tied a Lime Rock Fly for the inn that is framed at the entrance.

Yes, Maine is a small state. And judging by the turnout at Pies on Parade, a generous state, too.

Visit George’s website: www.georgesmithmaine.com for travel tips, book reviews, outdoor news and more.