Finding Italy in Rockport, Maine

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            For great Italian food, you’d look for someone who grew up in Italy, wouldn’t you? Well, let us introduce you to Sara Jenkins, who was born in Camden but raised in Italy, Spain, and Lebanon, the daughter of a foreign correspondent and a food writer.

            Sara ate her way through all of those Mediterranean cultures and started her cooking career in Boston before moving to Florence, Italy, finally returning to the United States to open two restaurants in New York City. She’s drawn a lot of attention there, including from famous chef and TV star Mario Batali, who said, “She’s one of the few chefs in America who understands Italy and how Italians eat.”

            Well, that quote was all we needed to schedule a visit to Sara’s new restaurant in Rockport, and I can tell you we are very lucky to have her here in Maine. Mario Batali is right!

            While the harbor view out the windows of her Rockport restaurant is beautiful, I found myself in the hills of Tuscany as I enjoyed Sara’s very creative and authentic Italian cuisine, using lots of Maine grown produce.

            Our server, Margaret, was very friendly and helpful, a Camden girl working here to pay off her college loans. The wine and beer list is fairly short, but features plenty of great choices. We, or course, selected an Italian wine.

            I started with fried smelts ($12), taking me back to childhood when Dad and I would go smelting and Mom would fry them up. Well, no disrespect for Mom, but these were the best fried smelts I’ve ever had, very crispy with a delicious house-made tartar sauce.

            My entre was Chitarra ($22), one of the few things that is always on Sara’s menu which she changes every week. This is a house-made fresh egg pasta, “butcher’s ragu” of beef, veal and pork, parmigiano, sage, and rosemary. I’ve had a similar dish in Italy and always loved it, but I loved this dish even more. The sauce had a real depth of flavor. And the very generous portion allowed me to enjoy it again when we got home.


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