The Wrap: Italian seafood coming to Kennebunk, a new vegan-friendly brunch menu in Portland

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Linguine alle Vongole (with clams) from Via Sophia in Washington, D.C., which is opening Via Sophia by the Sea in Kennebunk this May. Photo credit: Via Sophia

The Washington D.C. upscale osteria Via Sophia will expand into Maine this May when it opens Italian seafood restaurant Via Sophia by the Sea in Kennebunk.

The Via Sophia spinoff will be open year-round at 27 Western Ave., a space formerly occupied by Grissini Italian Bistro. The building has been vacant since last fall.

The restaurant is part of the Kennebunkport Resort Collection, which owns and manages nine boutique hotels and six restaurants in Kennebunkport and Kennebunk. Via Sophia by the Sea will be the group’s first stand-alone restaurant property.

Kristie Sibley, senior food and beverage director for the Kennebunkport Resort Collection, said Via Sophia by the Sea aims to fill an Italian food void in town. “We’ll be offering a sophisticated, but easy and approachable dining experience,” Sibley said.

The new restaurant will seat 130, including some outdoor patio seats, and also plans to offer live entertainment at night in the building’s lower-level space.

Maine native Luke Sibley – formerly of Varano’s Ristorante Italiano in Wells – will head the kitchen as executive chef. Luke Sibley will partner with Kennebunkport Resort Collection culinary director Joe Schafer and Via Sophia executive chef Colin Clark. Luke and Kristie Silbey are married.

“From whole fish to handmade pasta to beautiful crudos, Via Sophia will honor its Italian heritage while paying homage to Coastal New England,” Clark said in a prepared statement.

Dutch’s to reopen this week

Dutch’s, the scratch-made breakfast and lunch restaurant on 28 Preble St. in Portland, expects to reopen this Thursday, following the completion of a two-month dining room renovation project.

Owner Lucy Dutch said while cleanup work remains to be done, contractors have assured her it will be ready to relaunch this week. The restaurant will be open Wednesdays though Sundays, from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Dutch’s closed on Christmas for cosmetic upgrades to the dining room, including new floors, lighting and seating. Dutch said the makeover will also allow for better customer flow inside.

“We’re very excited to open back up,” Dutch said. “We really miss our customers. They’re our buddies. We’re looking forward to getting cooking again.”

Bird & Co. now serving brunch 

The gourmet Portland taco shop, Bird & Co., 539 Deering Ave., had a soft opening for its new brunch menu last weekend.

“It went great, and we got some good feedback,” owner Wills Dowd said, adding that Bird & Co. will now make brunch a permanent feature, available going forward on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. until noon.

The Bird & Co. brunch centers on four dishes: chilaquiles, with sautéed tortilla chips, cheese and egg; avocado toast with mango salsa; churro French toast, and huevos rancheros with house-made chorizo. Dowd said while the brunch is omnivore-friendly, the plant-based dishes are either vegan or can be easily converted with simple substitutions.

“We’re really focusing on accommodating vegans,” Dowd said. “We’re getting known as a vegan/vegetarian place. And there seemed to be a hole in the market in town for good vegan brunch.”

Bird & Co. gets bread from Big Sky Bread Bakery, which is just across the street, for the Texas-toast thick slices in the avocado toast. “The bread makes that dish,” he said. They also use Big Sky’s cinnamon swirl bread for their churros French toast, which gets topped with vegan coffee brandy whipped cream.

The brunch dishes sell for $13-$15, and breakfast tacos cost $5.

Portland’s LB Kitchen will relocate from 249 Congress St. to the corner of Congress and Smith streets later this year. Bryna Gootkind photo

LB Kitchen expanding

Owners of Portland’s health-minded breakfast, brunch and lunch spot, LB Kitchen, closed this week on the purchase of a building at 251-255 Congress St. that will allow the restaurant to double in size later this year.

LB Kitchen has been operating in a 950-square-foot space at 249 Congress St. for five years now. The restaurant will relocate to next door, the corner properties of 253-255 Congress St., co-owner Bryna Gootkind said, where they will have nearly 2,000 square feet. She said this will allow for 21 seats inside, and the restaurant is applying for up to 20 sidewalk seats.

Since the start of the pandemic, LB Kitchen has been open for takeout only. “The new model for us is that we will still offer takeout,” Gootkind said. “It’s something we’ve made work very well for us.”

Gootkind said she expects LB Kitchen to open in its new space by September. The current location will continue to offer takeout service in the meantime.

Several months after the pandemic began, LB Kitchen West, which was on York Street in Portland, closed after less than a year. “The real reason is COVID,” the owners posted on social media at the time.


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