Angelo Capponi says there's always an accent at Pane e Bene.
"Not just when we speak," he says, in a pronounced Italian accent, "It's in every ingredient."
After running Tarantino's in Westport for 13 years, "taking care of the restaurant like it was my own," Capponi opened Pane e Bene, which means bread and goodness, in Westport three years ago. Many customers followed him — for his fabled hospitality, the big smile and buongiorno designed to make every customer feel welcome and important, as well as the food.
The menu, which changes with the season, is designed to be "as close as what you would get in Italy," Capponi says. Guests do well putting themselves in Angelo's hands.
Capponi and chef Claudio Lia have Italy covered. Capponi is from La Spezia, on the northern coast, but his mother is from Sicily and grandmother is from the mountains near Lucca in Tuscany. Chef Lia was born in the center of Italy near Rome.
They've done a good job at turning an awkward narrow space in a strip mall into an attractive restaurant with a bar. A single fresh rose decorates each table, set with white tablecloths over a lavender cloth.
Our server immediately brought a basket of warm bread, sliced white and wheat, crusty and soft, and a bottle of fruity olive oil. My friend had been raving to me about the ravioli with limoncello cream sauce. It was a decadent dish, plump ravioli, obviously house-made (irregularly cut, which I loved to see), with that wonderful al dente texture you'd get in Italy. Soft ricotta and spinach filled the pasta, coated in the thick, lemony sauce, whose flavor was brightened by the alcohol in the limoncello. The final decadent touch, amaretto cookies, crisp, sweet, almond-flavored, were crumbled over the top. This dish is on the summer menu, so I recommend getting there soon.
Signature dishes always on the menu are the house-made fettuccine con sugo di carne e funghi, meat sauce and porcini mushrooms, and the pollo di porchetta. This roasted half chicken is a Tuscan dish, and despite its name, it has no pork. Instead, "we are trying to bring those flavors in the chicken without using any pork," Capponi says. "We use herbs to bring a Tuscan flavor to the chicken."
It's not every day I find myself raving about a simple soup. But the L'uovo in brodo, egg drop soup, featured a glorious, clear chicken broth, spinach, tortellini and scrambled egg. It's a dish for days when you need to be comforted.
Yet there's something for every mood here. At Pane e Bene, the accent is on hospitality.
>>Pane e Bene, 1620 Post Road, Westport, is open Tuesday through Thursday, 12 to 10 p.m. (bar closes at 1 a.m.); Friday 12 to 11 p.m.; and Sunday 5 to 9 p.m. Bar closes at 1 a.m. Tuesday through Friday, and at 11 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday. Information: 203-292-9584 and paneebene.comCopyright © 2015, CT Now