WESTPORT, Conn. — The last couple of years have been a bit of a blur for Breno Donatti.
In January 2015, he sold his Wilton farm-to-table restaurant, Bistro 7.
Eight months later, he and his wife Jeanette welcomed their little boy, Valentino.
The following month, the Stamford resident took over the reins at Winfield Street Deli in East Norwalk and, in February 2016, christened a sister eatery, Winfield Street Espresso & Panini Bar in a prime storefront near the Westport train station.
But Donatti shows no signs of slowing down: He’s celebrating the New Year with a third Winfield Street Deli, formerly Art’s Deli in bustling downtown Westport.
“He’s his own Mom and Pop chain,” said Matthew Mandell, executive director of the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce. ”I’m a big fan of smaller entrepreneurs doing well in Westport. They’re more invested in the community and Breno has gone out of his way to become involved.”
Born in Brazil and raised in Trebiso, Italy, Donatti arrived in America at 18, taking a job as a dishwasher at a friend’s pizza place because he spoke no English.
But he had learned to cook from his Italian grandmother and gradually worked his way up the ranks, taking English language classes at a nearby church.
Donatti had dreams of running his own restaurant someday and he got the chance with Bistro 7. The restaurant won a soup award at 2014’s Chowdafest and was named the second best farm-to-table restaurant in the state by Connecticut Magazine, but Donatti wanted out.
“I made so many mistakes,” he said, laughing, “but I learned so much. It was a good learning experience.”
Donatti knew he wanted better hours and more time to spend with his young son and his wife, a Juilliard-trained opera singer who often tours in Europe. Suddenly, delis and coffee shops sounded like the perfect match.
When he took over the venerable Winfield Street, he kept the name because the 90-year-old eatery had such a loyal following. Likewise, he kept the tasty “Art’s Combo” at the former Art’s, which has been open as a deli since 1969.
But the rest of the menu at all three locations includes a delectable array of Italian specialties — from chicken parmigiana and meatball grinders to the perfect espresso pressed fresh at his train station location, which he shares with fresh pasta makers Grana Pastificio.
Does he mind trying to keep tabs on three locations?
“Driving, they’re about four minutes from each other,” he said. “It’s no problem.”
Donatti said he loves getting to know his customers and seeing them enjoy his food, instead of being tied to a high-pressure restaurant atmosphere.
“I’m so in love with this,” he said. “I’m not a showman. I can work in my sweatpants!”
For more information on the trio of Winfield Street locations, visit www.winfielddeli.com .
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