The Lobby is making way for the Arcadian Restaurant

MIDDLEBURY — Matt and Caroline Corrente had always fantasized about running their own restaurant in Middlebury. It would be a place with character, located in a soothing setting and possess a big enough kitchen to allow Matt — a seasoned chef who most recently headed up the kitchen at Two Brothers Tavern — to showcase his culinary skills and for Caroline to ramp up production of her delectable Haymaker-brand buns.

Their dream is about to become a reality.

The Correntes have closed on a deal to buy the former Lobby Restaurant at 7 Bakery Lane, a space that’s currently being renovated to accommodate — as soon as this November — Haymaker Bun Co. and The Arcadian Restaurant, which will specialize in Italian cuisine.

“This was at the top of our list,” Caroline said of The Lobby space, which borders the Otter Creek in downtown Middlebury.

“It really fits what we were looking for,” added Matt, while contractors were hauling out tables, blackboards and other Lobby accoutrements in order to make way for new interior flourishes that will create the brighter, family-style ambiance The Arcadian will impart.

Caroline and Matt already know the lay of the land and their customer base in Addison County.

Matt attended Middlebury College (class of 2006), and was en route to becoming a physician. He had also picked up a studio art major while on his pre-med track at the college.

Ultimately, Matt eschewed the scalpel for a carving knife.

“Further down the line, I realized that medical school probably wasn’t for me, and that the mixture of art and science was actually cooking food,” Matt said. “I had worked at restaurants since I was 15, so hospitality was kind of baked in.”

So instead of medical school, he attended the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan, N.Y.

“That was a great springboard for me to launch my career,” he recalled.

He studied under Daniel Boulud, a renowned, award-winning chef with many restaurants in North America, Europe and Asia. Matt cooked at restaurants in New York, Rhode Island, Boston and then in Burlington — at Pistou, which had been started by some fellow Middlebury College alums.

It was at Pistou that Matt met Caroline, who had been a server and aspiring pastry chef.

Caroline is a University of Vermont graduate who had majored in Anthropology and African Studies. She worked for several nonprofits after leaving UVM, including at the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program. It was while there that Caroline worked with refugees to create a cookbook.

That experience, coupled with her love for baking, prompted her to enroll at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu school in Paris. It was there she mastered the art of making brioche, a classic French yeast bread rich in butter and eggs.

Like Matt, Caroline knew she wanted to return to Vermont. And after meeting at Pistou, they dated and later married. Caroline gave birth to son Casey around 18 months ago.

“Once I had (Casey), I was trying to figure it all out,” she said of balancing motherhood with career ambitions.

She reasoned she could take care of Casey while baking out of their home. This is how Haymaker buns were born. The buns, with a brioche dough base, are currently available in around 10 stores, most notably the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op.

Her products have gained a nice following, and her small kitchen can no longer keep pace.

“I’ve outgrown my kitchen,” she said. “I find myself most days trying to bake 10-dozen buns in an oven that allows me to do two-dozen at a time, with a toddler pulling on my pants and a dog barking.”

By this point, Matt had become firmly established as executive chef at Two Brothers, where he used to work part-time while at Middlebury College. He enjoyed the job, but was looking for a chance to strike out on his own.

ON THE MARKET

And that chance came earlier this year, when Matt received a mysterious tip from a cooking friend that a local restaurant was going to come on the market.

“You know (the restaurant) and you’re going to like it,” the friend told Matt.

When the couple learned it was The Lobby, they were thrilled, and quickly checked it out to see if it would fit the bill for their vision: A permanent home for Matt’s The Arcadian restaurant and Caroline’s growing Haymaker venture.

“We came in a few times, assessed everything that was here, and made an offer,” Caroline said.

Matt had fond memories of the space, then known as Tully & Marie’s, when he was a Middlebury student.

“It used to be my favorite place to go,” he said.

And now he gets to co-own the spot and cook there.

“Arcadia,” per Greek mythology, is the home of the of “Pan,” the god of the fields and wild places. To Matt, Acadia represents “a utopian place,” characterized by a “simple, untroubled lifestyle.”

Matt is still finalizing a menu for The Arcadian, which he said will feature Italian dishes — including fresh pastas — that will satisfy a wide range of palates and price points. In addition to having Italian heritage, he has past experience cooking Italian cuisine. He wants his menu to emphasize fresh seafood, though other Italian staples will also be available.

“Italian food is probably my favorite to cook, and certainly to eat,” Matt said. “So it was an easy decision.”

Caroline and Matt also believe The Arcadian will complement the current local restaurant scene.

“We feel really lucky to be filling a gap and providing the people of Middlebury with something that doesn’t currently exist,” Matt said. “That was certainly part of the decision-making process.”

In addition to making desserts, Caroline is looking forward to having access to the large restaurant oven that will allow her to export her Haymaker products beyond Vermont. And people will be able to see her in action at The Arcadian, which will feature a 6-foot-long wrap-around counter at which she’ll occasionally be seen working dough. Haymaker will be open Tuesday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., offering coffee, espresso and morning fare — including sweet chocolate buns, savory buns, and breakfast sandwiches built on brioche.

The Arcadian will open for dinner, beginning at 4:30 p.m.

The couple will join forces for Sunday brunch, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Correntes will keep the bar, and the menu will include an extensive wine list, local beers and craft cocktails.

More information about the venture can be found at thearcadianvt.com. The website will soon tout a program through which customers will be able to pre-buy meals at a discount.

Caroline and Matt are changing the lighting, color scheme, some of the furnishings and other aspects of the former Lobby in anticipation of their November opening.

“It’ll feel like our own space,” Matt said.

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.


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