ROCKPORT, Maine — When it came to starting a major renovation at the Samoset Resort this January, the owners thought big, putting an emphasis on luxury and comfort.
Six months and $2 million later, the landmark midcoast hotel now boasts brand-new Italian eatery La Bella Vita Ristorante, Enoteca Lounge and a tranquil seaside spa, along with three new high-end guest cottages adjacent to Penobscot Bay and the Rockland Breakwater.
Other changes include a renovation to 28 rooms in the deluxe wing, alterations to the resort lobby and upgrades to some oceanfront meeting rooms in the main building.
“We’re committed to this area and we’re committed to this state,” General Manager Connie Russell said Thursday. “The Samoset has a reputation to uphold.”
He said that many of the changes were driven by the resort’s clientele.
“Our guests recognized that it was time for the Samoset to upgrade,” he said. “We listened to them, and delivered.”
The renovations are just the most recent at the resort, which has had a total of $5 million worth of renovations over the past three years made by parent company Ocean Properties, based in Portsmouth, N.H., and owned by hotelier and Bangor native Thomas Walsh.
The resort traces its roots to a hotel built on the site in 1889, and was sold to the Ricker family, who also operated the Poland Spring House, in 1902. It was improved
All 178 hotel rooms have been upgraded and feature granite counters in the bathrooms, marble baths and flat-screen televisions.
In 2009, the Samoset put in a family-friendly outdoor pool with a full-service pool bar and cafe, hot tub and firepit.
The following year, 18 suites were completely refurbished and the Flume Cottage was renovated to include a new kitchen, bathrooms and more.
According to Russell, even though the luxury cottage is not for the budget-minded, with prices per night topping $1,000 in the summer season, it was an instant success.
“It took off,” he said, adding that the Great Recession appeared to negatively impact bookings in 2009 but not the following year.
That’s one reason why resort officials decided to add the three new one- and two-bedroom cottages to the Samoset’s roster.
Russell said that they’ve so far been very popular.
“We’re excited to show all of our improvements to our guests and the community,” he said.
As he spoke, a small army of workers were putting finishing touches on the renovated spaces and landscaping, as resort guests enjoyed a pre-lunch round of golf, a dip in the “zero-entry” outdoor pool or a bite to eat on the patio of La Bella Vita.
This new restaurant already has proved a hit with the locals, Russell said. It is the third La Bella Vita Ristorante opened by Ocean Properties.
At the Samoset, the restaurant replaces gourmet French eatery Marcel’s.
“Our guests weren’t patronizing Marcel’s,” Russell said. “It was too formal. No one wants to dress up anymore.”
La Bella Vita and the Enoteca Lounge share a wood-burning oven, bay views and an open and airy feel. Each table in the restaurant boasts a metal pot of live rosemary and two glass-enclosed banquet rooms are designed to allow privacy while still letting diners enjoy the scenery.
Signature menu offerings include the brick-oven pizzas which cook at 600 degrees, pasta dishes such as orecchiette with “blistered tomatoes,” country fennel sausage, broccoli rabe and sheep’s milk cheese and antipasti.
The open patio and the wine bar are designed to give diners a space to linger over a glass of wine and a small plate of food, Russell said.
“We wanted to update it and modernize,” he said. “This is a significant improvement.”
He said the new Spa at Samoset was a crucial addition to the resort’s offerings, and likely will make it more of a destination for national-level meetings and conferences.
It features several tranquil treatment rooms where patrons can go for manicures, pedicures, facials, massages and body treatments. Some of the more exotic offerings include a warm oil scalp massage, a “blissful stone retreat,” a “coastal sugar rub” and a “bayside island wrap.”
Dan Bookham, head of the Camden-Rockport-Lincolnville Chamber of Commerce, said Friday that the renovations look beautiful.
“They’ve done an incredible job, they really have,” he said. “I think it’s wonderful to see the parent company, Ocean Properties, investing with confidence in this area.”