The celebrated restaurateur and executive chef Chris Prosperi has a stellar reputation for good food, with such offerings as crispy duck and vegetable wontons, Thai Spring rolls, grilled gorgonzola-crusted flat iron steak and pan-seared Maryland lump crab cakes.
Prosperi and his wife, Courtney Febbroriello, have moved their Metro Bis to the Simsbury 1820 House, and it appears to be the perfect place for Prosperi to continue his culinary success and breathe life into one of the town's prettiest spots.
"I'm a guy from Queens; I didn't know anything about old buildings," says Prosperi as he begins a tour of the handsome historic home, originally built by Elisha Phelps as a 10-room summer home for Antoinette Eno Wood. The house was expanded to 30 rooms in 1890 and then has had a couple of different owners, including the town which sold it to the Brighenti family almost 20 years ago. In recent years it has been used primarily as a hotel and banquet facility.
Prosperi admits the move was done by the seat of his pants, noting that karma seemed to have had a hand in his decisions to relocate to 928 Hopmeadow St.
"Our lease was almost up and the Brighenti's were looking to lease the restaurant space," says Prosperi about the place that continues to be a hotel as well. "We took a look and decided why not."
For someone who admits he doesn't know much about old buildings, Prosperi has become an enthusiastic student. He proudly shows off the aesthetic update that includes painting, decorating and carefully cleaning handcrafted crown moldings, intricate dentil work around the fireplaces and medallions around the windows, rich golden hardwood floors, a welcoming front porch and lace curtains in the windows. Prosperi has moved things around a bit, making the main floor the dining room and moving the banquet facility downstairs. Febbroriello has managed to maintain the integrity of the historic elements of each of the dining and banquet rooms by preserving the impressive brick work, stone columns, archways and architectural elements, while updating the place with soft neutral colors and clearing away clutter to give each room a clean, sharp, soothing appeal.
Then there is the kitchen.
"I love this kitchen," Prosperi says as he continues the tour, noting that it is one-third larger than the former space he leased just down the street on Route 10. The precious additional space means more equipment and the chance to add to his well-known menu.
"It's like beginning a new life every day here," says Prosperi, clearly proud to be the guy bringing new life to the town's cherished landmark.
Among the menu offerings is grilled beef tenderloin with olive oil-sea salt potatoes, grilled Long Island sword fish with corn and clam chowder, and Metro Bis standards including pan-seared organic black pearl salmon and slow roasted all natural chicken.
Prosperi is still committed to sourcing his food from local purveyors and that means his menu notes such places as Young's Farm and Holcomb Farm, his "go to" places when it comes to stocking his pantry.
Prosperi is still in the midst of some renovations, including a cozy tavern and bar and adjacent sitting area featuring a handsome bar made from reclaimed woods and fallen branches, including some from the property's famed Pincho Sycamore tree, Connecticut's largest tree.
"We are still a laid back restaurant, it's about casual comfort able dining, nothing upscale," said Prosperi who wants customers to know that the new digs might be more impressive but the vibe is the same, 'come and enjoy some good food.' "This is the final home for Metro Bis," he said. "And we don't want to change who we are."
>>Metro Bis serves lunch Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Information: 860-651-1908 or metrobis.com.
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