Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Boston Globe


Here, dining is the families' business



Joyce Pellino Crane

Globe Correspondent


TYNGSBOROUGH - It's not easy stepping into someone else's kitchen.

But Kathleen Delpero is certain she can simmer Giorgio Vestri's sauces with the same Etruscan flair he and his family demonstrated at Caffe il Cipresso for the past 12 years.

The 10-table restaurant, started in 1995, feels like a cozy dining corner off your mother's kitchen. The only sign of change, other than a new wait staff, is new scenic wallpaper on the back wall. "Everything will stay the same," says Delpero, standing inside the tiny eatery that she had purchased from Vestri this fall. Sandra Lindenfelzer, one of the restaurant's most devoted customers, isn't sure anyone can pull off this change. "I think it's pretty difficult to copy perfection," she says.

It isn't only patrons who doubt that the restaurant can stay the same without Vestri, his wife, Rotilia, and their three daughters, who were waitresses there. "I don't think you can go into another place and imitate exactly what someone else has been doing," says Richard Barron, co-owner and chef of Il Capriccio in Waltham. "You have to develop your own style."

Now 60, Giorgio Vestri decided to let go of the restaurant he and his family built up together while they were at the top of their game. His short-term plans include an extended vacation in Italy. Of the demanding restaurant business, he says, "I don't think I can keep it up anymore."

Giorgio and Rotilia Vestri created the establishment out of what they knew best - the food and culture of their native Tuscany. Their signature dishes were lasagne Toscana and pollo al verdicchio. On homemade pasta, they offered a carbonara sauce smoky with pancetta; another simple topping of garlic and hot peppers; and a house specialty - "Giorgio," in which tomato sauce was blended with a cream sauce.

Giorgio Vestri (left), the former owner of family-run Caffe Il Cipresso in Tyngsboro, helps new chef Devin Rogers. Rogers has kept many of Vestri's signature dishes on the menu.

Giorgio Vestri (left), the former owner of family-run Caffe Il Cipresso in Tyngsboro, helps new chef Devin Rogers. Rogers has kept many of Vestri's signature dishes on the menu. (Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)

Located near other Italian spots, the Middlesex Road business survived despite the competition in the region. After helping Delpero through the transition, Vestri is gone and Delpero and her business partner, Charlene Dutney, are on their own.

The two were looking for a place to buy together when they discovered Caffe il Cipresso. The new chef is Delpero's son, Devin Rogers, who is also Dutney's fiance.

Delpero says that restaurants are "in our blood." A second-generation restaurateur, she once owned a sandwich shop in Hampton, N.H., and was part-owner of a Lowell pizzeria. Rogers was most recently kitchen manager of the Blue Angus Cafe in Dracut. Only Dutney is a newcomer to the industry.

Part of the previous owners' success was the familiarity of the Vestri family members. Three of their five children, Michela, 31, Alberta, 29, and Adriana, 27, were always around. Lindenfelzer, the regular customer, who is a descendant of northern Italians, thought that going to Vestri's was similar to visiting a friend at home. "When I walked in, they knew what I wanted," she says.

Giorgio Vestri says the business grew by word-of-mouth. Initially, he and Rotilia had planned to launch a small cafe for coffee and dessert, but customers began asking for entrees.

Rogers is continuing the Vestri tradition. Pavarotti's voice can be heard in the dining room, and many of the signature dishes are still in place. The new crew doesn't consider the other restaurants in the area to be real competition. Their establishment still offers the same mom-and-pop quality that made the Vestri family popular.

"We're not worried about Olive Garden and Carrabba's," says Rogers, "because they're franchised restaurants and we think a lot of people like the comfortable, family-owned, cozy restaurant that makes everything from scratch.

"We think that's our staple."



Caffe il Cipresso, 130 Middlesex Rd., Tyngsborough, 978-649-3128.




Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.



Pollo al verdicchio

Serves 4

1-1/2 pounds boneless chicken cutlets

1/2 cup flour

salt and pepper, to taste

4 Tablespoons olive oil

1/4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup white wine

1 jar or can roasted red peppers (about 16 ounces)

1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts in water, drained and quartered

1 cup chicken stock

juice of 1 lemon

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


1. Place the cutlets between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. On a cutting board with a mallet or the bottom of a heavy skillet, pound the cutlets until they are quite thin. Dust them with flour, salt, and pepper.

2. In 2 large skillets, heat 2 tablespoons oil in each until hot. Add 2 tablespoons butter to each. When it foams, divide the cutlets between the pans. Cook them over medium-high heat for a few minutes on each side or until they are golden brown. Remove them from the skillets and transfer to a platter.

3. Add the mushrooms to one of the skillets. Cook, stirring, for 4 minutes or until the mushrooms release their liquid. Pour the wine into the mushrooms. Cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, for 2 minutes. Tip the mushroom mixture into the second skillet and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, for 2 minutes more.

4. Return the cutlets to the skillet of sauce. Add the roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, chicken stock, and lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for 10 minutes or until the sauce is well flavored.

5. Transfer the chicken to a platter. Leave the lid off the pan. Let the sauce simmer steadily for 5 minutes or until it reduces slightly. Spoon the sauce over the cutlets and sprinkle with parsley.

Adapted from Caffe il Cipresso