Linda

Vittles Restaurant is a family run gem in Pittsfield. Bob and Kathy Phelan, the owners, are parents of the talented and inspired chef Richard LeRose, whose creative energy focuses on quality, fresh ingredients.

Dinners are served here on Friday and Saturday nights, featuring a menu of the day. Bob wanted to get us started with the specialty appetizers of the evening: tempura battered garlic scapes and fried calamari. Even though it was half portions of each, out came a rectangular plate heaped with curly garlic scapes, calamari and even some fried jalapeno peppers.

Chef Richard LeRose told us that he gets much of his fresh produce from Moodytown Gardens in Palmyra, and he features those ingredients in creative appetizers and entrees. He told me that he got an acre’s worth of garlic scapes from them. Now, most people might look at that as a nightmare, but Richard looked at it as though it was pure heaven.

Our tempura scapes were delicate and crunchy with a mild garlic flavor. These were drizzled with a honey Dijon mustard sauce. We saw a full portion go by ($6), and it was enough for a table of four. You certainly get your money’s worth here, as portions are large and prices are low. Incredible focaccia bread, freshly baked daily, is brought to your table right away. That night’s version was cheddar and chive. My, that was good. Fried jalapenos paired well with the calamari and were served with a marinara dipping sauce.

Their house-made soups are always great. We sampled the steak, mushroom and ale soup, with melt-in-your-mouth beef and a creamy base. Wow.

I was torn between the sweet pea pasta ($15) and the chicken picatta. I was happy with my chicken dish, and before it arrived, the kitchen sent out a small taste of the pea and pappardelle pasta. It tasted like summer — sweet, creamy and delectable. George went after it with his spoon.

My chicken picatta ($16) was lightly breaded and moist. The white wine sauce with lemon and fresh basil made this dish special. Again, the serving was ample and I brought home half of it. That evening’s vegetable dish of corn with red peppers and onions was sweet, with a crunchy fresh taste. It was every bit as delicious as the main star of the plate. Thyme-roasted Yukon potato wedges were yummy as well. Entrees ranging from $15 to $23 are a bargain.

They make their own ice cream so if you have any room left, you should give it a try. Their ice cream is so smooth and creamy that it reminds me of gelato.

George

Richard LeRose is an amazing chef, focused on fresh food — some of which he grows himself — and constantly changing the menu, making each trip to Vittles a real adventure. I’d drive up there just for his focaccia bread, made fresh every day. And, oh yeah, their wonderful ice cream.

LeRose is blessed with great parents. Bob Phelan makes the ice cream, and our chocolate toasted coconut almond ice cream was divine. Kathy, despite her regular job, which is managing a medical facility, makes the pastries here. Phelan, a friendly guy, is out front visiting with all the guests.

If you need more to entice you to drive to Pittsfield, let me tell you about my appetizer and entree. As Linda reported, we tried a variety of appetizers and I loved them all, the fried calamari being my favorite. They were nice and crispy, and the accompanying sauce was great.

Prepare for a difficult decision on your entree. While the fresh Maine haddock ($20), broiled with lemon, white wine and butter, set my mouth to watering, and the garlic pesto cornmeal crusted scallops ($23) were calling my name, I’d eaten lots of seafood lately and was hankering for a steak. It turned out to be a great choice.

LeRose’s beef tenderloin ($21) with shaved portobello mushrooms was perfectly tender, with a tasty sauce. They gave me a steak knife, but I didn’t need it. I also enjoyed the side of crunchy corn and fried potatoes.

Phelan told me the restaurant’s business has increased every year, no surprise to Linda and me, and that they believe in investing in their staff, with four cooks assisting LeRose in the kitchen. No wonder LeRose had so much time to visit with us.

I love their story. Bob and Kathy Phelan, both nurses, picked up a copy of Down East magazine while vacationing here, found the old post-and-beam schoolhouse of their dreams on 11 acres in St. Albans and bought it, anxious to leave the hectic life of Connecticut. And, lucky for us, they brought LeRose and his wife, Erin, with them, creating a small-town restaurant that has a strong local following.

Perusing the lunch menu, with an extensive list of creative sandwiches (all served with pickles and potato chips), both of which they make themselves, convinced us that we need to put Vittles on our list whenever we are passing through the area on Interstate 95.

Visit George’s website — georgesmithmaine.com — for book reviews, outdoor news and all Travelin’ Maine(rs) columns, found listed by town in the “Best of Maine” section.