Santons de Provence figurines line the hallways and colorful clay roosters sit on top of white linens at La Panetière. The two small details are just minor elements of the 28-year-old restaurants décor that give it its charming and authentic feel.
A conversation with owner Jacques Loupiac and a few glasses of Bordeaux and customers may forget they are not in Provence, but just on the corner of Milton Road, a few miles from home.
Loupiac still speaks with a moderately thick French accent and struggles with a few English words, even though he moved to the United States 40 years ago. Over the last two weeks, he has been celebrating his restaurants 28th anniversary with a prix-fixe special menu featuring chilled sweet pea and mint veloute, Halibut with a pesto crust; summer berries prelude and more, with a wine pairing option.
Loupiac first lived in New Haven, Ct. and then in Greenwich, where he worked at La Cremaillere. He attended culinary school in Nice, France, on the Mediterranean coast, near Marseille, which is where he grew up. He has drawn the inspiration from Provence region of Southern France as well as from La Cremaillère, a restaurant similar to his own.
In the 28 years La Panetière has been in business, Loupiac has made a number of changes to the space. He added banquet rooms, built a wine cellar from scratch, renovated the kitchen, added the entrance fountain, created an outdoor garden and recently rebuilt the bar and redecorated the dining room.
The menu changes with the season and they offer a tasting menu every night, which diners can choose to do with wine pairing. They bake their own bread and desserts and have vegetable, meat and fish delivered fresh daily. Loupiac’s nephew, Dean Loupiac, who was also raised in Marseille, has been the chef there for ten years. The soufflé is a customer favorite, Loupiac said, but when asked about other crowd-pleasers or his own preference, he could not choose.
“Variety is the spice of life,” he said with a laugh.
Over the last three decades, many new restaurants have opened up in the area that have introduced competition and affected business at La Panetière Loupiac said. But his “passion for the profession” has enabled the owner to keep loyal customers and continue to attract new ones from the Westchester and Fairfield areas.
La Panetière's 28th anniversary menu is being offered through this Saturday, Aug. 17. Read more about it here.