Dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Calzolaio Pasta Company, followed by an amazing concert at one of Maine’s hidden (literally) gems, Skye Theater — both a short drive from home — made for a splendid mid-week escape.

George

We owe Sen. Tom Saviello a favor. He’s been urging us to visit Skye Theater for the last year, and we finally got there on Sept. 12. It’s not easy to find, off U.S. Route 2 between Wilton and Dixfield, up the steep gravel Winter Hill Road to the top of a hill.

And when we got there, the ugly industrial building gave us pause. But we opened the side door to a stunningly beautiful concert hall — really, it took our breath away. I could not put the camera down. And this came right after I photographed a gorgeous sunset over the western mountains from the parking lot.

This is down-home entertainment — a very comfortable, relaxed, fun environment — music the Maine way,  with a bit more than 100 people in an audience that sang along with gusto, stomped, whistled and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. We joined in.

Ticket prices of only $15 were supplemented at intermission when they literally passed a hat to aid the concert hall. Cold drinks and an array of desserts were offered for whatever donation you cared to make. Laid-back owner Phil presided, and when he asked how many were first-time visitors, only about 10 of us raised our hands.

It was clear that there’s a Skye Theater family and members don’t miss a single event. Indeed, many volunteer in various capacities, including feeding the guest musicians and singers who stay in an apartment upstairs in the concert hall.

This performing arts center features Celtic music, and the three Celtic musicians from Cape Breton on hand the night we visited were incredibly talented. Rachel Davis, Carmel Mikol and Darren McMullen played in a special Roots to the Future performance, during which young musicians interpret old Gaelic and other songs and present their own compositions. They were absolutely fantastic. I practically wore a hole in the floor tapping my foot to the music.

We’ve enjoyed a summer of music from Stone Mountain Arts Center in western Maine to the Bangor Folk Festival to Summer Keys in Lubec. And the Skye Theater kicked off our fall music schedule in a big way. Plus, it’s only 30 minutes from home. We already feel like regulars!

Having made the decision to visit Skye Theater, dinner at the nearby Calzolaio Pasta Company was an easy choice. Despite the fact it’s one of our favorite restaurants, we’d been unable to get there for about a year, given the need to visit other restaurants for this column.

Our experienced, knowledgeable and friendly server, Rachel, had thoughtfully re-read our 2011 Calzolaio column so she could remind us of what we’d eaten. Very helpful!

Rachel started us off with a very tasty bread, dipped in oil and an amazing balsamic vinegar that had been aged 10 years. Holy Cow!

While their wine list is excellent, we enjoy their house Chianti, very reasonably priced at $4.95 a glass.
My favorite dish here is the Veal Saltimbocca, but it was time to try something else, so I went with a recommendation from Rachel. Here’s how it’s described in the menu: “Cappesante e Tortellini — Fresh sea scallops sautéed with Prosciutto garlic, leeks, tender peas and spinach in a lemon cream sauce over tri-colored cheese tortellini.”

How could you not order this! The scent of the scallops hit me first — wow! The presentation was gorgeous, the dish was nicely salted, the scallops not overdone, the cream sauce superb. It was amazing. And the huge portion allowed me to enjoy it again the next day for lunch.

So now I have a new Calzolaio favorite, although Linda was heard to say, “Your heart doctor might not approve the cream sauce!” What a party pooper she is!

Tom and Rocell Marcellino have created a wonderful restaurant with very reasonable prices, ranging from inexpensive pasta dishes and pizza for just $9.95, to entrees between $14.95 and $24.95. We’ve sent a lot of people here, and all of them went away raving about their meals and dining experiences.
Tom’s very creative Bruschetta pizza hooked us during our first visit here. While I can’t imagine not ordering an Italian dish at Calzolaio, we did spot a diner clearly enjoying a steak with corn on the cob. So you don’t have to go Italian here — but why not?

My last dish here always seems to become my new favorite — but I’ve got to say the Eggplant Parmigiana is always our first choice. Linda refuses to order anything else, so I have to be the adventurous one.

It’s always nice to return to a restaurant after a year away, and find out it is just as good as we remembered. And next time, Linda promises to order something new. We’ll see!

Linda

I so look forward to any meal at Calzolaio, and often find myself thinking about what I might order well before the day we go. That’s how special this restaurant is. They have outstanding pizza and their pasta entrees are amazing.

This is the place to go to in the fall. The chef takes advantage of prime tomato season, serving many dishes with the freshest tomatoes. We tried the bruschetta on our recent visit. It comes in a crock, chock full of fresh tomatoes, garlic, balsamic vinegar (mmmm), and fresh basil and oregano. But it’s the three-cheese topping that makes their bruschetta different than all others. They serve it with grilled kalmata olive crostini. This appetizer is plenty enough for two and we had some leftover to bring home.

Ever since the first time I tried the Eggplant Parmigiana here, I find myself craving it. I make this dish at home, but mine can’t come close to the perfection of theirs. George was giving me a hard time for “being in a rut,” because I once again ordered the Eggplant Parmigiana.

The fact is that this dish has been in their family for three generations (with a few compromises on the recipe for peace), so they’ve worked on it for a while. Incredible marinara sauce and a thick blanket of cheese topping are part of their secret.

Your eggplant arrives topped with bubbling cheese. Beware before you dig in — it comes piping hot! It’s a hearty dish served with perfectly cooked pasta. Of course, I said I’d order something new next time. We’ll see.

This is the restaurant for you if you want creative cooking and the taste of authentic Italian flavors.

As we continued our trip, I got a little concerned. The paved road turned into dirt and we twisted and turned our way upward. Thankful for good signage, we pulled into Skye Theater’s parking lot, already filled with cars. We couldn’t believe the spectacular view of hills and valleys to the west, where the sun was setting.

Whoever designed the inside of this theater made nature the theme. Beautiful pine boards enclose the space and a stunning rock hearth sits in a corner of the stage. The most amazing part is the twisting wood railings on either side of the stage.

I found myself going up on stage to touch them at intermission. As I was describing the beauty of the Skye Theater’s interior the next day at school, my co-worker, teacher Deb Dubord, said that her brother made those railings!

Apparently John Brown, who lives in Wilton, gathers invasive wild vines found in Maine and turns them into a thing of beauty — Maine ingenuity at its best.

IF YOU GO . . .

WHERE: Skye Theater
ON THE WEB: www.necelticarts.com
PHONE: 562-4445
Performances are on Wednesday nights at 7, with workshops and other special events on other days. All tickets are just $15, an amazing bargain.    Come prepared to sing, stomp and whoop it up!

WHERE: Calzolaio Pasta Company
ON THE WEB: www.calzolaiopasta.com
WHERE: G.H. Bass Building
284 Main St., Wilton
PHONE: 645-9500
Open daily. Lunch 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dinner 4 to 9 p.m. (10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday). If you go soon, there’s still time to dine outside on the deck, next to the fast-flowing brook. Inside, ask for the interior room. It’s gorgeous.

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

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