By Tony Marquis
They may be called Stonewall, but John Ruggieri-Lam and Maria Freddura aren’t holding anything back about the new Bentleys — or themselves.
Ruggieri and Freddura make up Stonewall Corporation, the company that now owns the Woodstock restaurant. Ruggieri’s a Boston lawyer and part-time Barnard resident. Freddura is a Boston restauranteur, who along with her husband, Paul, turned a raw bar/fish market in Boston’s North End into three thriving seafood restaurants in the city.
So why would a successful big-city restaurant owner want to re-launch a small-town Vermont eatery?
“That’s a very simple answer: I’m going through my mid-life crisis,” said Freddura, laughing.
Freddura hails from upstate New York and comes from a restaurant background. Her father started Mario’s Theatre Restaurant in Troy, N.Y. She moved to study art and architecture in Boston, where she met her husband. They now co-own three Daily Catch seafood restaurants in the city.
She’s worked mostly in seafood, but don’t worry Woodstock, she says.
“There’s no intent on making this a Daily Catch,” Freddura said. “It’s really taking my expertise and experience from the last 40 years, growing up in the restaurant business.”
Freddura is good friends with Ruggieri, an official and spokesman for Stonewall, which took over restaurant operations from Mountain Trading Company in March after MTC declared bankruptcy. Stonewall also took over the former Fire Stones restaurant in Quechee, which it has renamed River Stones. Bentleys could open in mid-April, depending on licensing, according to Ruggieri. River Stones, which is getting a menu overhaul, is still in the preliminary licensing phase, Ruggieri said, and no opening date has been scheduled yet.
As for Bentleys, if you’re looking for clues on what the new restaurant will be like, it might be best to look to the past.
“We want to stay true to the form of Bentleys from its earliest days,” said Freddura.
There’s talk of pulling items from historical menus. The new owners of the restaurant plan to keep the atmosphere and menu almost intact. Almost.
“I think the fun for Maria both at Bentleys and in Quechee, might be to throw a special on now and then that people haven’t seen before — something different,” Ruggieri said.
Freddura has spent the last month getting to know the area. She’s visited before. “Our family used to ski up here,” said Freddura who has seven boys, the oldest of which is 17. “We used to go to Pico for the younger kids and we would go to Killington with the older kids.”
She attended Ruggieri’s wedding at Hewitt Hill Farm in Pomfret in 2011.
“I climbed Mt. Tom with another couple that was attending their wedding,” Freddura said. “I fell in love with it. How could you not fall in love with Vermont?”
Ruggieri has an office in Boston, and Freddura plans to go back-andforth from the city as well.
“We have our place in Barnard and so between us we’ll have a continual presence,” Ruggieri said. “We want to keep very close tabs on the operations and management of both of the companies.”
Ruggieri has visited the Woodstock area for decades and has been going to Bentleys since 1990. He loved the area so much — he bought a home in Barnard from former Bentleys owner and realtor David Creech.
“Everything around here is so important to my life,” Ruggieri said. “Coming into town seeing full storefronts makes me happy. Seeing shops with people in them makes me happy.”
Ruggieri plans to bring back most of the previous Bentleys and Fire Stones staff and he sees a bright future in the restaurants, despite their past issues.
“Once they’ve tightened up and are a little more fiscally responsible, they’re going to be operating just fine,” Ruggieri said.
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