When well-known Farmington Valley restaurateur Anthony Giraulo and his wife moved their Grist Mill Restaurant from Farmington to Avon, they knew they had inherited a vibe that was not quite right. The Mill moved into the space that was formerly occupied by the high-end steak and fish house Carmen Anthony's. It was dark, formal and reflective of a style of dining that many in the business insist has become outdated.
But the couple have remodeled their restaurant in the upscale shopping center on busy Route 44 into a clean, light, hip place that continues its signature reputation for fine dining but offers it in a spacious, less stuffy dining room as well as and its sister space "One Up Bar."
"People are looking to have really good food without having to feel uncomfortable, without having to get dressed up and without having to rush," said Anthony Giraulo. "We have always been committed to fine food, here and in Farmington. That hasn't changed.
What has is an expanded menu that includes foods that can be shared and enjoyed, and the feel you get when you walk in. We want you to sit back and relax."
The dining room now boasts a trendy deep seafoam and black décor, including paisley-style printed shades on the huge windows that overlook the nearby pretty valley scene, light painted walls, and a stylish combination of table linens that are clean, minimalistic and sophisticated.
Looking for something more spontaneous? Go up that one step when you walk inside the second floor restaurant to find yourself in the restaurant's "One Up Bar."
Gone are the dark booths and dim lighting, replaced with high top tables, several televisions and a neighborhood bar/café style feel that has turned it into the "happy hour" place to go.
"We spent the last couple of years here listening to what people wanted before we decided what we wanted to do here," said Giraulo, who also brought on veteran restaurateur Barry Arpaia (of Barb's Pizza fame) as general manager to help with the transformation. "The trend is not to dress up and sit through a formal dinner anymore. People work hard. When they go out they want to sit back and relax. They still want superior food but they want it in a more comfortable environment."
Aware that more casual dining also means a demand for a more contemporary menu, Giraulo and executive chef Chris Rackliffe have added tapas and happy-hour menus. Tapas included fire-grilled chicken wings, chilled black lentil salad, baked lobster mac n cheese and herbed focaccia bread sticks. The happy-hour menu includes fresh chicken salad sliders and a sweet vegetable spring rolls. There are also beer, wine and cocktail specials. An Express Lunch, 10 items served in 10 minutes all under $10 is also featured for the noontime crowd.
Special dinners and wine tastings will also continue, including a spring wine tasting with Super Cellar Warehouse Liquors on May 7.
Grist Mill standards include freshly baked bread and entrees including the Carpetbagger lobster/steak combo, its homemade orcchiette pasta and kale-parmesan sausage and Dover sole. There are also sandwiches including an oven-baked Reuben melt, the signature salmon burger and spinach vegetarian wrap. Daily specials include brunch on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., family-style dinners on Monday, prime rib on Saturday and zuppa de pesce on Wednesday also continue.
>>The Grist Mill and One Up Bar, 51 E. Main St., Route 44, Avon, are open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday evening is also pegged as "professional service night" with evening specials. Information: 860-676-8855 or the gristmill.net