WOODSTOCK - The six weeks between Bentley's Restaurant closing
and finding new owners seemed like a long time to customers and
"The customers are happy we're open again," said Pomfret
resident and longtime Bentley's employee Andrew Schain. "The new
owners have great energy, and they're a little bit more
Maria Freddure and John Ruggeri are the new owners of the corner
restaurant downtown. They now divide their time between Vermont and
Cambridge, Mass., where Freddure also runs a fish market. That's
enabled Bentley's to add seafood to the menu, and plans are in the
works to offer dishes like lobster and clam rolls during the summer
"The previous menu was not as diverse," Freddure said. "We're
taking the opportunity to work with the staff and take advantage of
their institutional memory. We'll be offering vegetarian options,
and some gluten-free choices. We'll be adding two new salads. We've
met with a Vermont cheese company, and a tomato company. It's
difficult to do local produce in the winter; that's mostly root
vegetables, but they're good in stews."
Freddure said she and Ruggeri took Bentley's on for the
challenge and they have many new ideas.
"We're creating a vigorous entertainment schedule," Freddue
said. "We had (musician) Jim Yeager in here on opening night. He
had a great reception." They last Saturday they hosted a
1970s-themed dance party for the Kentucky Derby Day, the reason
being that Bentley's opened in the 70, Freddue explained. "We have
live music, and we're thinking about getting a three-person jazz
combo to play for Sunday brunch. That would be nice for the summer.
I'm not sure about the fall."
Freddure said she hopes to build a good relationship with the
"We're committed to being community partners, and we're open for
suggestions from the public," she said. "My sleeves are rolled
As if one restaurant weren't enough, Freddure and Ruggeri have
also taken on a second challenge: reviving Riverstone's in
"We've given it a new coat of paint and we're bringing in new
barstools," she said. "We're currently accepting applications for
chef. As it happens, Riverstone's was owned by the same company
that had Bentley's. A lot of people who work here have worked there
over the years, and vice versa. In fact, whenever I go out, it
seems as though I meet someone who once worked here."
Unlike Bentley's, which Freddure and Ruggeri are keeping pretty
much the way it's always been (with some décor changes to enhance
the restaurant's ambience,) Riverstone's is getting a thorough
"There will be brighter colors," Freddure said. "We'll have a
bar menu, open Lucille's café, and we plan to create a bandstand.
The dining room is in for a complete overhaul."
There will be seafood, of course, Feddure said, "and we'll have
a pasta machine to offer homemade pasta. Maybe a table where you
could build your own dish… You'll be able to get oysters and more
at the raw bar."
Restaurant ventures are notoriously hard to make successful, but
Freddure is confident.
"To succeed, you have to work hard, and you have to work smart,"
she said. "You need to focus, harness your energy, and have a
positive working team. Make everyone here is part of one team with