WAKEFIELD — The Wakefield Inn & Restaurant reopened this month with new owners, a new menu featuring Italian cuisine, and a fresh, community-spirited attitude.
Innkeepers Colleen and Dino Nicastro of Wakefield purchased the inn in May for $450,000 from chef and innkeeper Janel Martin, who sold the business to pursue a new college degree and other interests with her family.
The building, located at 2723 Wakefield Road, was built in the federal colonial style in 1804. Appropriately located in the town's Wakefield Village Historic District, the inn is one of 26 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places in Wakefield Corner, a pastoral setting with green pastures, churches and antique homes painted white.
The couple's daughter, Christina Nicastro, serves as the restaurant's new executive chef with Nicholas Albert taking the lead as restaurant manager.
In a recent interview, Colleen and the family talked about how they came to become innkeepers and their vision for the future.
"We're taking a bit of a different approach — we really want the restaurant to succeed," said Colleen, adding that the former owner offered specialized culinary cooking weekends with limited hours for the restaurant.
Eventually, the owners intend to keep the restaurant open year-round for dinner with a well-priced menu with an Italian slant.
The restaurant's first dinner menu on June 14 featured prime rib, seafood risotto, chicken Marsala and pistachio salmon, a choice of cheese lasagna or meatballs with spaghetti as a pasta dish, a variety of appetizers, and a diet-busting dessert menu featuring cannoli, tiramisu, homemade sorbet and homemade cupcakes. Christina brings with her many years of experience as a chef and pastry chef for restaurants and elderly care homes.
Colleen and Dino became acquainted with the inn when they stayed there as guests in 2011.
"I loved it, and I loved the area," she said. The couple, originally from Gloucester, Mass., soon purchased a vacation home on Belleau Lake, but with retirement five years ahead of them, they started looking for a way to escape "the rat race" and for something to keep them busy after they left their jobs. Colleen has her master's in business administration and works in computer technology, and Dino works in the Construction Trades Union 22. After their weekend stay at the inn, Colleen found out on Facebook the business was for sale.
"The more I thought about it — at first Dino thought I was crazy when I said, 'Let's buy a bed and breakfast' — the more it made sense," she said. "My daughter's a chef, Dino knows construction and Nick is the dining room guy, restaurant manager. I'm doing the books. On the weekend Dino is here working on the building, or mowing the lawn."
Currently, the family and staff live on the inn's third floor. To economize, the couple will likely rent out their lakefront home but hang on to it for the day they need a break from their innkeeper tasks.
In the meantime, Colleen said the family has received a warm welcome from the community, including from members of the Wakefield Heritage Commission, local churches, and town workers and officials.
Plans include partnering with events organized by local groups such as the Heritage Commission, which is working to transform the nearby Grange building into a museum.
"We want to target and promote the heritage of our area," she said.Regional business support services and loan resources were extremely helpful, Colleen said. A loan package was put together utilizing the Wentworth Economic Development Corp. loan fund, Granite State Development SBA Loan Program, and the Rochester commercial branch of Profile Bank.
Located a short distance from Route 16/White Mountain Highway, the inn greets travelers from near and far. Colleen said recently she booked out the entire six-room inn for a reunion of college professors, as well as another full booking for folks coming to town for a wedding.
The Wakefield Inn & Restaurant is located at 2723 Wakefield Road in Wakefield. For more information, visit www.wakefieldinn.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 522-8272. The restaurant, which takes reservations, is currently open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for dinner from 4:30 to 9 p.m., and Sundays for breakfast buffet from 9 a.m. to noon.