Ownership changes after more than three decades

Italian fine dining to take the Helm in Rockport

Thu, 03/28/2019 - 4:15pm

    ROCKPORT — A restaurant that has operated in much the same manner since the 1960s, the Helm, on Route 1 in Rockport, recently changed ownership and is headed in a new direction. Later this year, plans are in place for Ports of Italy, an Italian fine-dining restaurant with existing locations in Boothbay and Kennebunk, to open on site.

    Owner Sante Calandri confirmed March 28 that he purchased the Helm property, and the sale was finalized the previous day.

    Calandri owns the other two Ports of Italy locations and said he envisioned the Rockport location would offer similar cuisine and ambiance, but that unlike the Boothbay location, the Rockport restaurant would offer a lunch menu.

    The 141 Commercial St. (Route 1) property was listed last year through Camden Real Estate with an asking price of $595,000. The restaurant building and two outbuildings at the corner of Commercial and Main Street sit on 1.8 acres. It was owned and operated by Louise Grimmel for the past 33 years.

    “We want to offer the same good food and make sure we take care to provide excellent service,” said Calandri, adding that he expects the restaurant to open Sept. 1.

    Calandri said that prior to purchasing the Kennebunk property he had considered buying another restaurant in Rockport; he said the Rockport property appealed to him because of the number of people who traverse Route 1 each day.

    An individual involved in the new project, Elisabeth Wilde, recently inquired with Rockport’s Code Enforcement office about permits for the business, adding that there would be no change in use from that of a restaurant.

    Wilde, who runs Wilde Design Home, said that she wondered if an architectural rendering of changes to the structure would need to be provided to the town. Also involved in the project is Jeff Teel, who manages Ports of Italy’s Boothbay location.

    A dinner menu from Ports of Italy’s existing restaurants features homemade pasta dishes and entrees such as ink spaghetti with seafood and pork ossobuco with vegetables. 

    Reach Louis Bettcher at news@penbaypilot.com