PORTSMOUTH — Blending into the historic brick walls of a former Frank Jones Brewery building in the city's West End, Cornerstone Artisanal Pizza & Craft Beer opened June 5 and is now serving lunch and dinner.
The restaurant is the second location for Cornerstone, run by uncle-nephew duo John and Michael Cavaretta. The original Cornerstone opened in Ogunquit, Maine, in 2012. The new location will maintain the same approach – chef-created pizza paired with craft beer. There is also a full bar serving wine and cocktails.
John said Cornerstone originally looked at Dover, but the location fell through.
“One of the things we love most about Ogunquit is how the businesses come together to support each other and the community at large,” he said. “The West End of Portsmouth has a similar small town feel inside a bigger city and we're really excited to become a part of it."
John is no stranger to Portsmouth. He worked as a waiter at the former Trolley Stop Restaurant in 1972. In 1973, he worked at Annabelle's, a restaurant and disco in Ogunquit, before taking ownership of the Village Food Market, also in Ogunquit in 1977. He sold it to a longtime chef in the prepared food section of the market last November.
He and his husband Randy Coulton and nephew Michael Cavaretta are business partners for the Portsmouth location of Cornerstone. It is managed by Patrick Patterson. Michael also oversees the Ogunquit location.
When asked what will make Cornerstone stand out from the several other pizzerias in the area, Michael said they are “not afraid to take chances with ingredients.”
“For example, one of our popular pizzas is a duck bacon pizza with a soft-cooked egg on top,” he said. “All of our ingredients are fresh, locally sourced and everything is made in-house.”
The thin crust pizzas are rectangular in shape and one can easily serve two people. They are fired in a wood stone oven by executive chef Dominic Lo Galbo. Other pizza offerings include a Katahdin mushroom truffle oil, a Cajun BBQ pork and red cabbage slaw and a cold picked lobster pizza.
“We also offer a fresh take on modern comfort foods,” Michael said. “One is a fried egg carbonara.”
Other items on the other side of the pizza menu include ratatouille, a fried avocado club and a pasta mélange of linguini, scallops, shrimp, lobster with herbs and wine.
Ingredients come from local fishmongers and farms. Pork chops are from Kelly Brook Farm in Greenland and bison for burgers is from Hackmatack Farm in Berwick, Maine.
“We'll be offering four-course pizza and beer pairings inviting craft brewers to come in and talk about their products,” Michael said.
He said he and his staff have delivered pizzas to local businesses to introduce themselves to the community. There are 40 employees at the new location. Dan Wiseman is the bar manager.
Nestled in the renovated Frank Jones building that includes other businesses and apartments, Michael said they are getting a lot of “hungry, happy tenants” enjoying the restaurant.
“It was great working with Chinburg (Properties) on this project,” Michael said.
The 4,500-square-foot interior is multi-leveled with two bar areas. There is seating for 127, and once the outdoor patio is completed by the end of July that number will increase to 180. The restaurant is built in a way to partition it off into four areas for functions, including the soon-to-be outdoor space.
One small intimate area is where the elevator shaft used to be that hauled up the beer kegs in the Frank Jones Brewery. The restaurant is artfully designed with wood from old barns, interesting lighting and a flywheel wall accent from a factory in Dexter, Maine.
“I live in a former logger's house in York,” Michael said. “A lot of the wood on the walls came from the attic and garage of that house.”
Coulton helped with the design, working with architect Adam Schoenhardt. Artas Designs of Biddeford, Maine, built some of the furniture and the bar countertops and tile work were done by Zen Stoneworks of Portsmouth.
The owners are looking forward to connecting with their new community and will be offering catering and working with the Take Out Guys delivery service.