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Sarducci’s Celebrates 25 Years in Montpelier

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By Tim Simard

Photo by Paul Contino

On a recent sunny and chilly January afternoon, Sarducci’s Restaurant founder and co-owner Carol Paquette relaxed by a front table and looked back on 25 years. Sitting alongside head chef and new co-owner Jeff Butterfield, Paquette marveled at surviving two-and-a-half decades in the restaurant business—a momentous achievement. This past weekend, the Montpelier institution quietly celebrated the milestone birthday.

Paquette can remember Sarducci’s first day quite clearly—Jan. 19, 1994. It was a Wednesday.

“We opened at 4 pm. It was freezing outside. Dorothy Korshak [founder and former business partner] and I had no idea who might or how many people might stop in. We really hadn’t done any advertising to let people know we were opening,” she said.

But people knew. Oh, they knew. Within the first hour of business, it was clear that Montpelier was ready for Sarducci’s.

“The doors opened and people just kept coming in. We hadn’t planned on so many that night, but by the end we had served close to 200 people,” Paquette said, still in awe of that first night’s success.

Paquette attributes Sarducci’s early success to a lack of restaurants in Montpelier at that time. She said locals were “desperate” for a place where families could sit down in a cozy atmosphere with the whole family and have an amazing, authentic Italian dinner.

The signature wood-fired oven was also a unique feature for a Montpelier restaurant. Paquette and Korshak—who started their partnership as coworkers at Julio’s—researched Italian restaurants in Boston, New York, and Chicago and noted the popularity of these ovens.

“We saw the restaurants that had the wood-fired ovens were becoming more and more popular,” Paquette said.

Since those first days, Sarducci’s has become a go-to dining spot in the Capital City. In its 25 years, the restaurant has renovated its space, added a deck overlooking the Winooski River, and doubled its seating capacity, all while keeping its menu remarkably consistent. Today, Sarducci’s enters a new chapter as it celebrates a quarter century.

At end of 2018, Butterfield bought in to the business and is now a co-owner alongside Paquette. Butterfield, an East Montpelier native and graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, has been with Sarducci’s for nearly seven years. His experience pre-Sarducci’s included running kitchens in tourist locales from Charleston, S.C. to Stowe.

“When a sous chef position opened [in 2012], I jumped at the chance. I was ready to move back home, and I fell in love with this place on day one,” Butterfield said.

Butterfield said that Sarducci’s has a family atmosphere amongst its employees that’s unique to other places he’s worked. Paquette added that several employees have been with the restaurant for years and even decades.

Butterfield was promoted to head chef in 2014; around the same time Korshak decided to retire, leaving Paquette as sole owner. But the demands of running one of the city’s most popular restaurants became challenging for one person. Butterfield pitched himself to be Sarducci’s next co-owner. Paquette knew it would be the right fit.

“He’s so good at what he does, he’s super smart, and his ego doesn’t get in the way. That last part is very important,” she said.

Sarducci’s 25-year story is one of growth and consistency. Customers know what they’ll get each time they walk through the doors. The pollo al marsala and salmone cucina remain the most popular menu items, as they have since the first year.

“Montpelier has changed a lot, but we’re still here. We’re still serving great Italian food that’s affordable, fresh, and locally sourced,” Butterfield said.

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