The Mountain Times

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Bentley’s, now open, plans to build on past successes

WOODSTOCK - The six weeks between Bentley's Restaurant closing and finding new owners seemed like a long time to customers and staff alike.

"The customers are happy we're open again," said Pomfret resident and longtime Bentley's employee Andrew Schain. "The new owners have great energy, and they're a little bit more organized."

Maria Freddure and John Ruggeri are the new owners of the corner restaurant downtown. They now divide their time between Vermont and Cambridge, Mass., where Freddure also runs a fish market. That's enabled Bentley's to add seafood to the menu, and plans are in the works to offer dishes like lobster and clam rolls during the summer months.

"The previous menu was not as diverse," Freddure said. "We're taking the opportunity to work with the staff and take advantage of their institutional memory. We'll be offering vegetarian options, and some gluten-free choices. We'll be adding two new salads. We've met with a Vermont cheese company, and a tomato company. It's difficult to do local produce in the winter; that's mostly root vegetables, but they're good in stews."

Freddure said she and Ruggeri took Bentley's on for the challenge and they have many new ideas.

"We're creating a vigorous entertainment schedule," Freddue said. "We had (musician) Jim Yeager in here on opening night. He had a great reception." They last Saturday they hosted a 1970s-themed dance party for the Kentucky Derby Day, the reason being that Bentley's opened in the 70, Freddue explained. "We have live music, and we're thinking about getting a three-person jazz combo to play for Sunday brunch. That would be nice for the summer. I'm not sure about the fall."

Freddure said she hopes to build a good relationship with the Woodstock community.

"We're committed to being community partners, and we're open for suggestions from the public," she said. "My sleeves are rolled up."

As if one restaurant weren't enough, Freddure and Ruggeri have also taken on a second challenge: reviving Riverstone's in Quechee.

"We've given it a new coat of paint and we're bringing in new barstools," she said. "We're currently accepting applications for chef. As it happens, Riverstone's was owned by the same company that had Bentley's. A lot of people who work here have worked there over the years, and vice versa. In fact, whenever I go out, it seems as though I meet someone who once worked here."

Unlike Bentley's, which Freddure and Ruggeri are keeping pretty much the way it's always been (with some décor changes to enhance the restaurant's ambience,) Riverstone's is getting a thorough makeover.

"There will be brighter colors," Freddure said. "We'll have a bar menu, open Lucille's café, and we plan to create a bandstand. The dining room is in for a complete overhaul."

There will be seafood, of course, Feddure said, "and we'll have a pasta machine to offer homemade pasta. Maybe a table where you could build your own dish… You'll be able to get oysters and more at the raw bar."

Restaurant ventures are notoriously hard to make successful, but Freddure is confident.

"To succeed, you have to work hard, and you have to work smart," she said. "You need to focus, harness your energy, and have a positive working team. Make everyone here is part of one team with one goal."