It was the owners of Arethusa al tavolo, a dairy farm-to-table restaurant in northwest Connecticut, who first intrigued me. George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis are the president and vice-president respectively of Manolo Blahnik in the US. But after being tempted to try out this rural trattoria in the bucolic town of Bantam by its somewhat unusual management team, it is for chef Dan Magill’s creative, seasonally driven dishes that I will return.
Arethusa al tavolo (third picture) is a warm, cosy space in muted, earthy tones, accented with enormous Majolica plates. Our late lunch, accompanied by a bright and bustling atmosphere, began with a quartet of devilled eggs ($13, second picture) – a new take on the classic recipe, filled with pickled onion, potato, bacon and crab meat. The perfectly paced plates of shrimp and avocado salad ($18, first picture) – embellished with ruby grapefruit, micro-greens and a scrumptious miso and ginger dressing – and yellowtail tuna tartare with tobiko wasabi ($19) that followed were both equally tasty.
The dairy products at Arethusa al tavolo are all sourced from the duo’s 325-acre cattle farm down the road and are a real highlight. (Arethusa is the name of the farm, and “al tavolo” means “to the table” in Italian.) The cheese and charcuterie plates ($17 each) we shared featuredthe farm’s signature Bella Bantam cheese, a slightly sweet Camembert and a slab of tangy Rotondo, alongside creamy duck, pork belly and foie gras pâté and soppressata. And dessert? Of course, the honey-roasted peaches with blackberry compote and luscious ice cream was the perfect sweet ending.
If I needed another reason to head to this beautiful part of New England, other than the scenery and antiques shops, this is it. Next time I’ll go for dinner and the decadent deluxe burger ($18), garnished with speck, blue cheese and locally foraged mushrooms, washed down with a Birch Old Fashioned ($14) – a signature cocktail comprising Litchfield Distilleries bourbon, birch cordial and orange bitters.