One bright star on the Wilton restaurant scene has dimmed, as Bon Appétit Café closed its doors for good after Saturday evening’s dinner service. Owner Dominique Arrighi made the call to shutter the 5-year-old restaurant due to rising rents at the Kimco-owned Stop and Shop Plaza at 5 River Rd..
Response to the news of the closure on Facebook and elsewhere was united in its sadness, with many people expressing surprise that the restaurant was going to close, and several others saying effort needs to be made by local officials (selectmen, town planners and others) to help businesses in Wilton stay open.
“A huge loss….. Our town planners need to figure out how to support business!” wrote Elizabeth Salguero on the GOOD Morning Wilton Facebook page.
“Getting very difficult to run anything in town. Our Selectman should look into all the vacancies and help our Center come back! Wilton isn’t the town I moved in to,” was the thought that Patricia McManus expressed.
Amy Foodman commented, “The owner of that plaza is a huge company based nowhere near here. They could[n’t] care less what kind of business is there…as long as they can pay the ever-escalating rent.”
We stopped by on Friday night to have a farewell drink or two with Lionel Arnal, Arrighi’s partner and the lead chef in Bon Appétit’s kitchen. He told GOOD Morning Wilton that they’d take a bit of time to figure things out and undoubtedly enter the food scene fray again–although most likely not in Wilton.
Long a local favorite and well-reviewed, Bon Appetit served such delicious authentic French faire. On a personal note, with French family we loved going to the restaurant to remind us of a vrais Français taste of home. Arnal and Arrighi, who also cooked, simply wanted to prepare really good, authentic food that pleased everyone who walks through their front door. It was the kind of place where children would get to expand their culinary palate a bit and grown-ups would have a hard time deciding between beloved standards (mussels! coq au vin! paté maison! soupe a l’oignon) or inventive sauces and heartier, locally-sourced exotic dishes.
Who knows, maybe the timing of the restaurant’s expansion in 2012 from the small sliver of a storefront to it’s current twice-as-large space was something from which they could never rebound, especially given the state of the economy. We like to blame a lot of stuff on that “state of the economy” in Wilton, but there’s too much rumbling about a difficult landlord and high rents, most especially in that shopping plaza to chalk it up to just the state of Wall Street.
Yes, it was said that prices were high at Bon Appetit. Given the owners’ dedication to authentic cuisine and quality food preparation, it came with the territory. I wish it was a place that more people would have supported more often, and I wish Wilton had more of a draw for clientele from outside of town.
It’s a shame to look around that shopping plaza and see “For Lease” sign after “For Lease” sign. There’s much talk about Kimco not caring because of how large the commercial real estate company’s interests are around the country, and there’s too much precedence about small local owners losing the high-rent fight with the giant. Any ideas on how to help on that battlefront?
In the meantime, we wish Dominique, Lionel and all the others bon chance and a final merçi for your years with us in Wilton. And let’s take it as a reminder that to keep the landscape populated with great, small local businesses, we need to make sure we’re supporting them with our dollars and traffic.