KITTERY, Maine — At 1 Government St., diners will soon “make haste slowly.” And they will do so with flounder crudo, buccatini and clams, and Maine scallop risotto.
The classic adage in Latin is “Festina Lente,” also the name of Kittery’s newest eatery, an intimate, rustic Italian restaurant with 26 seats. Owner Sam Ostrow is a familiar face in Seacoast cuisine, beginning as the chef at 3S Artspace’s former Block Six, and spending time at Black Trumpet, Black Birch and Joinery. He moved to Maine from Cambridge, Massachusetts, where his family settled in a farmhouse in Eliot.
Festina Lente’s location was once an ice cream shop and then Bill’s Original Kitchen. It sat vacant for quite some time, until Ostrow came along and decided to make a place of his own.
“Once the design got put together, I got really excited,” Ostrow said. “Italian was always close to my heart. In my early 20s, I took a trip to Italy and it’s what changed me from liking to make food to wanting to do this as a career. I suddenly wanted to take it serious. So I kind of always had a root in Italian food.”
Ostrow believes in “few ingredients and the absolute best ingredients.” The restaurant will focus on local elements and “let them shine.” Some of those will come from Ostrow’s garden, Lil’s Cafe, local farmers and the VF Finlander, which docks in Eliot.
“Italian cuisine is the perfect vehicle for that,” he said. “It’s not going to be just mom and pop red sauce. We do have spaghetti and meatballs, though, the hamburger of my restaurant.”
Ostrow said while the restaurant has a classy feel, and his cooking tends to be fancy, “you can come in and wear sandals and a T-shirt.” The menu is vegetable-forward, Ostrow said, but “very starch heavy,” the kitchen making handmade pasta as often as possible.
There will be an eight-seat bar and an all-Italian wine list. Ostrow said he’s had fun partnering with wine vendors and importers.
″(Kittery) has fantastic beer and cocktails, but I feel like we’re lacking a little bit in wine,” he said. “People like wine with a story.”
Ostrow said the Foreside neighborhood “feels like home,” and he already knows all of its restaurateurs. Festina Lente’s logo and layout was even designed by Winter Holben Architecture and Design, located in the Foreside.
“Everybody screams about location, location, location for a restaurant, and I think this is the perfect location,” Ostrow said. “We’re small, so I’m hoping we’ll be nice and busy. The attitude of everyone has been so positive, everyone’s excited.”
The restaurant will be open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Ostrow said he’s aiming for an opening sometime next week.
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