Salt & Pepper and Sugar Too resides in a low-slung, unassuming former Greek-pizza joint in rural Wilton, among a patch of roadside shopping plazas along Route 2. It’d be easy to whiz right past without registering, though that would be a shame. Inside, the dining room has a serene sort of diner-meets-farmhouse vibe: rows of mod-ish, slate-gray banquettes, white shiplap walls, a sliding barn door to the kitchen, and freshly cut flowers throughout. There’s neither a trace of road noise nor a whiff of old pizza. On a recent evening, my family and I were seated near a group of chatty older women finishing their desserts. They told us we were in for a treat, and they weren’t wrong.
Salt & Pepper and Sugar Too
843 Rte. 2, Wilton. 207-645-7035
Appetizers $4–$13. Entrées $15–$38.
Drafts feature a selection from nearby Ambition Brewing, plus other Maine breweries. The prosecco split, with a house-made popsicle in sparkling wine, is a fun mimosa riff at breakfast (which is served Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings).
The Beanes turned a patch of parking lot into a lovely patio — lush planters, tables shaded by birches and umbrellas, and a high wooden fence strung with bistro lights.
We started out with a mushroom crespelle, an Italian version of a crepe, that expertly played the earthiness of aged Gruyère and mushrooms against the sweetness of caramelized onions. Since grilled cheese gets dunked in tomato soup all the time, our server suggested we try dipping bites of crespelle in a bright, creamy asparagus soup, which turned out to be an excellent idea. Rounding out appetizers was the fried calamari, both tender and crunchy and served with a tangy Asian-style dipping sauce.
It came as no surprise to later learn that owners Don and Mary Beane first bonded over food. “We met 35 years ago or somewhere around there,” Don recalls. “She was a pastry chef and a waitress at a friend’s restaurant, and I fell in love instantly.” Mary, with a laugh, disputed some of the details of the story, but agreed that they’ve been inventing recipes together and aspiring to open their own restaurant ever since. Over the years, Mary ran a catering business, Don cooked in the dining hall at the University of Maine at Farmington, and they jointly managed an island resort in Belgrade Lakes. When Don saw a for-sale sign outside the old pizza place on his daily commute, they put in an offer, did a complete remodel, and finally opened their dreamed-about restaurant three years ago.
Mary heads up the front-of-house and the kitchen and likes to make recipes she and Don have honed at home, while Don manages operations and mans the grill and fry station. Mary does most everything from scratch, from pasta to pastries to scallion mousse (the latter goes with ham, asparagus, and cheddar for a grown-up spin on grilled cheese, a rotating offering). And while some customers call ahead and reserve her often-sold-out beef, pork, and veal meatloaf, the dinner menu goes beyond upscale homestyle. Green-chili barbecue pork, with fire-roasted peppers, is heaped over a griddled masa corn cake. Vegans, meanwhile, might opt for the cauliflower puttanesca or the “zoodles” — zucchini noodles tossed with sesame peanut dressing and bell peppers, carrots, scallions, and pea pods. The local duck breast, smothered in a sauce of wild blueberries and balsamic vinegar, was accompanied by a comforting mound of creamy mashed potatoes — typical of the way Mary and Don balance heartiness and finesse.
The couple also has a knack for hospitality, and their restaurant has a “when you’re here, you’re family” spirit about it (nothing else about it brings the Olive Garden to mind). “They really nurture the people they hire,” one waitress said to me, unsolicited. “Everybody flourishes just knowing the Beanes.” I certainly felt better off for having met their cooking, and as I put my blinker on and turned back onto Route 2, I hung onto the memory of the light-as-air caramel cream puff I had for dessert.