Damian Sansonetti at Blue Rooster Food Co./Press Herald file photo
UPDATE, AUGUST 5 — Tonight, the Portland City Council will hear the beer and wine license application (note, no liquor) submitted by chef Damian Sansonetti and his wife Ilma Lopez for their restaurant Piccolo. Since last month, when Sansonetti announced his plan to open an Italian restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Bresca, Lopez left her job as the pastry chef at Grace to join him.
According to the application, Piccolo will have 18 seats with an addtional 6 outside; hours will be 5 to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Here is the sample menu included with the application:
ORIGINAL POST, JULY 18 — To say it’s been a busy year for chef Damian Sansonetti would be an understatement. Last September, he left his post as executive chef at Bar Boulud in NYC to come to Portland, where a month later he started doing pop-up dinners under the moniker Sonnet. In March, he opened Blue Rooster Food Co., a pork-centric, creative sandwich shop in the Old Port. Five weeks ago, he and wife Ilma Lopez, the pastry chef at Grace, had a baby girl. And just this week, he signed a lease on the restaurant space at 111 Middle St. and shared his plans to open up an Italian restaurant, Piccolo, in early September.
“It’s small and tiny and we just had this beautiful baby — she’s small and tiny — so we came up with the name Piccolo” (which means little in Italian), Sansonetti said. The menu will be based on the chef’s family background, “Abruzzi and Calabrian country-style cooking … rustic preparations using pork and chiles and mint and lamb … cooking from my heart,” he said. He plans to use some products imported from Italy, but much of the food will be locally sourced.
The space that Piccolo will occupy is the former home of Bresca, which closed in late May, to the surprise of chef Krista Kern Desjarlais’ many fans in Portland. Sansonetti said he learned that it would be available through his friendship with Desjarlais and her husband, Erik, who now operate Bresca and the Honey Bee at Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester.
“It’s nice that we can continue on to make a great place where a great place already exisited,” Sansonetti said. “The bones of the building are pretty good; we’re just doing paint and fixture-y things … talking to people at City Hall about outside dining in the future.”
At the beginning, Piccolo will offer dinner five nights a week and Sansonetti will continue to be a presence at Blue Rooster during the day. As for his original plan, to open Sonnet, a fine dining restaurant, that “is on hold for now.”