Our favorite table at Wilton’s wonderful Calzolaio restaurant is in the far corner of the interior room, with stone walls on two sides of us. We’ve celebrated anniversaries and other special events at this table while enjoying our favorite dishes.
Calzolaio was our favorite restaurant before we began writing this column, and it still is. It’s been especially rewarding to have so many friends and readers of this column try Calzolaio and let us know that they loved it. There’s a lot to love here, with extensive menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And the location in the old Bass shoe mill is historic and beautiful.
For a recent dinner, we started out with a half carafe of the house Chianti ($10). We were a bit surprised that at 5:30 on a Wednesday night, the place was packed. Two tables near us included small kids, while upstairs the local ski team was enjoying a banquet with their families. This is a family-friendly place, and the owners, Tom and Rocell, are generous with donations to lots of local projects and programs.
Our server, Chase, a University of Maine at Farmington student, was attentive with a great sense of humor.
If you love seafood, there are lots of choices, from fish and chips to seafood arrabbiata. Are beef, veal, pork or chicken dishes your favorites? Or do you favor vegetarian dishes? Their menu has lots of choices for all of you. There’s also a huge array of pasta options.
For Linda and me, the Italian dishes are our favorites here, especially Roc’s eggplant Parmesan ($15.95), which I had on this night. It’s the best eggplant dish we’ve ever had, including in Italy. This is a recipe that spans three generations “with some compromises for keeping the peace.” It’s battered, fried, fresh eggplant layered with sauce and five cheeses and then baked. The portion is large and I only managed to eat half of it.
I did try something new for an appetizer, the cheesy garlic bread ($5.95) — rich garlic butter and spices on crusty Italian bread with melted mozzarella and an especially tasty marinara sauce for dipping. The portion is huge, and when it arrived, Linda proclaimed, “Seriously, that’s a meal.” And wow, was this great.
Let me count the ways I love this place. First of all there is the whiff of marinara sauce when you enter. There is the charming atmosphere of the back room with its brick walls, Bass Shoe memorabilia, and great aromas emanating from the kitchen in the next room.
Then there is the warm, crusty bread with an herb mixture that turns into a scrumptious dipping sauce when your server adds the olive oil.
The only tough thing about dining at Calzolaio is deciding what to order, for I have many favorites here. They have the most incredible antipasto platter for two. It puts those offered in the part of Italy we visit to shame. We have also tried (and loved) the bruschetta and salads as starters.
My all-time favorite dish is the eggplant Parmesan. Let it be said that I resisted ordering it this trip so that I could try something new. However I did not decline George’s offer to share a few bites. The cheese and the breading on the eggplant make this so hearty and comforting.
I love both the veal saltimbocca and the Porcini Sachetti, a pasta filled with mushrooms and surrounded by veggies and a delectable sauce.
This time, I branched out and tried the Shrimp Scampi ($16.95), a large bowl of linguini topped with lots of tender, garlic shrimp was indeed quite a meal. I think the light sauce on the pasta had white wine in it, in addition to herbs. I kept eating and eating but barely made a dent.
My side Caesar salad ($4.95) was the perfect accompaniment. Even a side salad is large enough to share. It comes with lots of creamy dressing and generous amounts of shaved Parmesan. Yum!
If you check out Calzolaio’s website, you will see that both the lunch and dinner menu is available all day, so this gives diners lots of choices. There should be something for whatever you are in the mood for. They have a large selection of burgers and sandwiches, and do not overlook the pizza. We fell in love with their version of a Margherita pizza years ago. Fresh tomatoes and basil are topped with four kinds of cheese, and their crust is fabulous.
This is a very popular place, so we recommend that you get a reservation before you go. Perhaps we’ll see you there. We’ll be in the far corner, at “our” table.
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.