Upscale Spot on Upper Cape

Intimate restaurant puts out culinary favorites, creative dishes

By Colby Radomski

When chef/owner Jay Bartolomei looked into buying the then-ailing Regatta restaurant in Cotuit last spring, he wasn’t completely sold on the idea. The 1700s house, while charming, would be a departure from what he’d become accustomed to at his successful Falmouth restaurants (Café Villagio, which he outgrew, and later, Landucci’s Italia).

But there was something about the place that just stuck—perhaps it was its rich history or that it presented a challenge. “I got hooked,” Bartolomei admits, “on the history of the building, and the concept of small, intimate and romantic dining.”

Since taking the helm, Bartolomei has made it his mission to bring fine but reasonably priced dining to Cotuit’s under-saturated upscale restaurant scene. He also wanted to retain the steady following he had garnered over the years, and, in his words, “Open a new door for Falmouth diners.” Creating a new identity for the eatery was his first order of business. He knew he couldn’t stick to one genre of food. “I didn’t want to corner myself into one niche,” he explains. So he developed a diverse menu to satisfy even the most fickle palates.

One thing he didn’t change was the character of the old Colonial-style restaurant. Through the Federal-period front door, guests might assume they’ve stepped into a cozy home, rather than a restaurant. Toward the rear of the eatery is the casual tavern that offers a relaxed, come-as-you-are atmosphere for guests to dine while watching a game or catching up with friends over a brew after work. Guests who desire a more romantic experience can dine beside a glowing fireplace in one of several small dining rooms.

During my most recent visit, my companion and I sampled several dishes off of Chef Jay’s extensive menu, which includes a mix of Italian staples, seafood and meat dishes, including high-quality, certified USDA Prime steaks. “There’s something for everyone,” Bartolomei notes.

We started with the colorful antipasto salad for two. Savory Italian cheeses and meats, chopped red, yellow and banana peppers, onions and olives were served atop a bed of mesclun greens and drizzled with delicious artisanal balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

We also tried the salmon Florentine, which was melt-in-your-mouth good—literally. The buttery-textured chargrilled salmon filet was topped with salty sautéed spinach, chopped tomatoes and tangy crumbled gorgonzola cheese and finished with a drizzle of barrel-aged balsamic.

But the winning dish was the lobster taco. I had no idea what to expect when I heard there was fried dough and powdered sugar involved. As the gargantuan taco—which looked like a hybrid of a burrito and a chimichanga—was set before me, my emotions shifted from elation and awe to feeling bashfully overwhelmed as I wondered how I would eat this fried masterpiece gracefully. When I sunk my teeth into the crispy, sweet fried dough and fresh lobster meat, fontina cheese and avocado, pure euphoria ensued. Hands down, this was the best “taco” I’d ever eaten. How did Bartolomei come up with such a brilliant idea? “Everybody does a fish taco and a lobster roll,” he explains. “This is my version of both.”

Aside from the delicious dishes, the restaurant also has a handsome variety of liquid libations. Unlike the standard list of names at most restaurants, the wine list boasts a diverse range of upscale wines, all hand selected by Bartolomei and his team.

With a standout menu and a true commitment to quality, the Villagio at the Regatta has become a welcome favorite on the Upper Cape.

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