2011-06-09 / News

Trat looks forward to another summer of welcomed guests

By Ken Shane

When it comes to restaurant management, Phyllis Bedard knows that her customers, or as she calls them her guests, come first. Bedard is the owner of Trattoria Simpatico, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in Jamestown next year.

“I created the restaurant. It was a potter’s shop and a real estate office,” Bedard said. “We started out with two little rooms, then we expanded to the outside.”

One of the unique features of Trattoria Simpatico is that the restaurant offers outdoor dining all year round. “We go up with the tents, and we use a heating system that blows the heat into the tent,” she said. “It’s amazing that people would rather sit out, even in a blizzard.”

Although her restaurant is known as a destination spot, Bedard is proud of her local customer base. “We have quite a local following, even during the summer,” she said. “We do a lot for our regulars. We discount food during the winter, and we’ll be going to a rewards program shortly. We do make sure that there’s something for everybody, especially our regulars.”

Trattoria Simpatico is always focused on the guests. Bedard said her background is in human services.

“It really is about the people,” she said. “This is a people business. I think of them as coming into my home, not a restaurant.”

Although Bedard was an experienced restaurant worker prior to opening Trattoria, her other training has also served her well. “I managed restaurants; I worked behind the bar; I waitressed. I thought I knew it all, until I became an owner,” Bedard laughed. “But my background prior to that was counseling and program development. It’s all stress-related.”

Bedard is particularly proud of her staff, and she relies on them to provide that first-class experience to her guests. “I have a remarkable team,” she said. She says that a lot of them have been with her for almost 20 year. Chris Carubba has been the executive chef at Trattoria for six years.

Recent years have brought an emphasis on using local products to Trattoria. “We have really gone local. We use the farms here. We consider local Rhode Island. It’s all specialty foods here. Our meats are antibiotic and hormone-free. We’re putting our organic products, fresh products, and it really makes a difference. We prefer to pay the extra price to bring in something that’s natural.”

Although Trattoria Simpatico started out as a restaurant serving Italian peasant food, the menu has expanded significantly over the years. “It’s basically a mix,” Bedard said. “As we grew, because we’re near the water, we began to feature a lot of fresh fish, a raw bar, and really light cooking. We’re pretty much all over the board at this point.”

The restaurant is also known for off-site and special event catering, and a number of fundraising efforts that take place throughout the year. “I love doing fundraising. It makes a difference. It’s about community.”

Even well-established restaurants like Trattoria Simpatico have to be creative to find their way through these difficult economic times, but Bedard said that her establishment is holding its own. “Our figures are pretty close to last year,” she said. “I think we’ve generated a lot of good will. This is a very friendly, warm restaurant. People know that we really try to please. If something isn’t right we’re going to take care of it immediately. The guest is always right here.”

Price also has a lot to do with the success of Trattoria. “What we’re serving here, if you go into Newport, that same entree is going to be $5 or $6 more, and we’re using a high-quality product. We try to keep a little bit of the cafe menu on during the summer. They can get pizza, burgers, chicken marsala, and other things that are less expensive. I encourage people to come here and have a good time. They’re not pressured to have to be at a certain level of dining.”

It always comes back to the human touch for Bedard, along with her commitment to the local community. “I do what my guests want. The chef creates a wonderful menu. I go through it. We change menus four or five times a year. We’re always tweaking the menu. I think through the years the locals have realized that. I’ve built the local clientele. Originally it was people from off-island. We really are casual fine dining.”

Trattoria Simpatico is located at 13 Narragansett Ave. The restaurant is open seven nights a week, and Friday through Sunday for lunch. When school lets out, the lunch service will be expanded to include Wednesdays, Thursdays and holidays.

There is live music every night of the week except Friday and

Saturday.

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