Caiola’s regulars–especially those who live in the neighborhood and have made this for over a decade their long-time local haunt–are still packing the place nightly enjoying a menu that has some similarities to the old Caiola’s referring to chef and owner Abby Harmon’s cooking before the sale to Damian Sansonetti and his wife and partner, the pastry chef Illma Lopez who bought the restaurant early this summer.

caiola's front

One suspects that eventually there might be major changes to the restaurant: the menu, the décor and perhaps a name change.  After all, its new owners, two very accomplished chefs and restaurateurs, will want to put their own imprint on this vital West End establishment.

As it is the four of us went there late Thursday evening for dinner after attending a rousing party (Cinq à Sept) at the Cumberland Club that was sponsored by Bernstein Shur, Maine Magazine group (Maine Home + Design and Old Port Magazine and Portland ad agency behemoth, Garrand Partners.

Perfect veal Parm

Perfect veal Parm

We settled into our corner table by the window overlooking the street and repaired to a single-course dinner (too full for multiple courses after all those delicious hors d’oeuvres at the Club party) and ordered Sansonetti’s version of veal Parmesan and a beautifully prepared bistro steak-frites.

Bistro steak and frites

Bistro steak and frites

The classic Italian-American dish–veal Parm–has many mediocre interpretations around town at such stalwarts as Espo’s and Casa Novello; we all agreed that of the pack that still exists, Bruno’s offers the best version.

That is until we dug into Sansonetti’s veal Parm.  The veal was tender and buttery with a delicious crisp breading, a masterful Sunday sauce and—for once—pasta that was cooked perfectly al dente.

Caiola’s, 58 Pine St., Portland, ME 207-772-1110,

Rating: excellent

Ambiance: Neighborhood chic and comfy

Service: terrific from a staff who’ve served there for years

Parking: small parking lot adjacent to restaurant

$$$: moderately expensive