George

As my October birthday approached, Linda knew just where to take me for a celebratory dinner: Calzolaio, in Wilton, which has been a favorite of ours since before we began writing this column seven years ago.

Tom and Roccell Marcellino’s awesome restaurant is always packed, so you must get a reservation. And even on that Sunday night, every table was full. We got the last available table in the beautiful brick-walled back room.

For my entree, I thoroughly enjoyed the chicken carbonnara, a boneless chicken breast, pancetta and cracked black pepper tossed in a rich cream sauce with tri-colored tortellini ($19.95). This was a new choice for me (and at the age of 69 it’s time to try new things!) I will definitely have it again. It was delicious.

We also want to tell you about a few places where we’ve enjoyed lunch lately, including Close to Home, in Rockland, and Amatos. We love the original Italian sandwich at Amato’s, and while I have eaten other sandwiches there, I almost always have the original.

Linda and I often have lunch at Amato’s in Augusta, and were delighted when a new Amato’s opened at the J&S gas station in Manchester. We’ve picked up sandwiches there twice recently to take home for lunch.

We were overnight in Portland recently and hungry after an evening event. On the way back to our hotel, we discovered an Amato’s just off Congress Street. We purchased an original Italian sandwich, which is big enough for us to share, along with two beers. The total price was less than $10 — an amazing bargain.

We love the Home Kitchen Cafe, on Main Street in Rockland, and were delighted when they opened Close to Home just up the street which includes an ice cream shop and a bakery.

Close To Home makes wonderful subs and burritos along with pot pies, kids’ lunches and other items. I usually have the fantastic El Cubano, but on this trip I branched out and enjoyed the barbecued pulled pork sandwich with Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce on their housemade brioche bun ($8.99). Linda enjoyed a turkey sandwich ($7.99) with avocado, crispy prosciutto and provolone. She ordered a small, and it was jammed with turkey and very filling.

Linda

Finding ourselves on the go seems to be a theme for us this fall. But while we have been traveling there has been a huge perk — we’ve turned up near some of our favorite spots when it is nearing mealtime.

George made it clear that he didn’t want any gifts for his birthday, saying that he has everything he needs. But he dropped pointed hints at the idea of going out to eat at Calzolaio, our favorite local restaurant. So I reserved a table for a Sunday night, and it’s a good thing I did. Great food and reasonable prices for home cooked meals have others loving this spot as much as we do.

I was craving Tom’s marinara sauce, so I ordered the linguini pasta with one sausage. I got mine with a side salad that was pretty large, so I was happy to share it with George. Perfectly cooked pasta topped with freshly grated parmesan was delicious, and I couldn’t believe I’d never ordered it before. Of course, I indulged in the warm baguettes with an herbed dipping sauce. I could only eat about half of the pasta bowl, but it was just as good eaten as leftovers.

For my birthday, our daughter and her family took us out to one of their favorite pizza places: Flatbread in Rockport. Their thin-crust wood-fired pizza is the boys’ favorite, and I can see why. Two large pizzas and a salad fed all of us amply. I realized shortly after sitting down that we had done a travel column at Portland’s Flatbread. The Rockport location is relatively new. We were at an event at Maine Audubon, in Falmouth, a few weeks later to find that Flatbread was catering the event by bringing their portable oven. Many different types were served, and all were excellent.

About two weeks ago, we went to one of our grandson’s soccer playoff games at Point Lookout, in Northport. As we were leaving right around noon, George asked if I would like to drive up to Belfast for lunch at Chase’s Daily. Would I? I’d already been thinking about it! This vegetarian restaurant bakes their own bread and has wonderful soups, creative salads, sandwiches and pizzas.

George fell in love with the spicy tofu sandwich when I ordered it on our first visit here. It is superb. I had a margherita pizza — a simple cheese and tomato topping with fresh basil. Cut into fourths, one slice is huge. Because the crust is thin, you can eat a lot of it. And I did.

Get out and travel, and by all means take advantage of some of the great eateries out there.

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.