25 years of excellence - Sutton's Il Duetto Restaurant
By M. Helmuth Starhemberg
"May we have the table next to the Madonna" is an often heard plea at Sutton's Il Duetto italian restaurant. The place is at 25 years of operation, the second oldest family owned restaurant in this bucolic town. Situated on a dirt road next to a horse training facility, it is about four kilometers outside of the village center but is surrounded by rolling hills, beautiful gardens and lots of quite which people truly appreciate.
Owner Sando Meffe' muses upon the recollection of his life: "I travelled, my father was a chef but I studied architecture, did art graphics and really did not have a good focus of where I was going to do". So, the Montreal native fellin love with Sutton, rented an old farmhouse which he later purchased and started his little italian restaurant which now has seven people working full time. "We raised our own vegetables, goats, chickens and herbs" he explains, "but with the incredible quality of local product now available we gave this up and focussed on the cuisine". His wife Mary Hastings handles the staff, a brother in law is the chef and the staff are either family or friends. "You have to love what you are doing, love the people you are doing it with and make every day as great as it can be, for yourself, youir family and your customers".
At 56, Sandro sometimes wonders what the future may hold. "Sometimes I get scared, I did not even realize until we just talked that it has been 25 years. The years run into each other, but we have so many loyal regular customers that it is still a joy to open up every afternoon at 4:30 in the knowledge that we know almost 75 percent of our guests by first name. I now serve the children and sometimes the grandchildren of my first patrons. They have favorite seats, they might not even use the menu but rather tell me 'you know what we like, feed us"
And feeding them they do. There is a devine Osso Bucco with figs and citrus fruit, a far cry from the boring tomato sauce, there is black pasta which gets its color by beeing cooked in squid ink. There are duck livers sauteed and deglazed in balsamic vinaigrette which can be an appetizer or are served with salad as a main dish.
The other menu items are more traditional italian fare but always with a "twist" and inspired by a long tradition of good home cooking. The Salmon Gravlax is devine, the boneless quail and duck breast in a balsamic bittersweet sauce should win awards and the Piedmont lamb shank in tomato, garlic and rosemary sauce is memorable, as are the pork scallopini with cream and gorgonzola sauce or the spaghettinis with the baby clams.
The "carte" is fixed but has daily specials added on so there is a rich variety of dishes to choose from.
The decor of the place is possibly a bit overwhelming with art, statuary, flowers, mirrors and knicknacks galore but for every European who ever had a grandmother, it feels like home and this is what Sanrdo and his family want the place to be like.