The best deal in the area just may be in Broad Brook, where Sam Buca’s is serving up a three-course dinner for $10.
The early bird special, available weekdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., starts with the diner’s choice of pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans) or salad. Entrees include fish and chips, chicken pot pie and meatloaf as well as red-sauced favorites like chicken or eggplant parmesan, spaghetti and meatballs or sausage, lasagna and cheese ravioli. For dessert, there’s house-made rice pudding or ice cream.
The initiative was designed with customers’ wallets in mind, said general manager Peter Panagiotis.
"We understand that economic times are very challenging, and that people work hard for their money," he said.
The early bird deal has been in place for a little more than a month, one of several changes at the restaurant since current owner Pawel Zygmunt and Panagiotis took over last summer.
Chef Nick Mangene, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, came aboard and revamped the menu, swapping out many predictable Italian dishes for more exciting continental fare. Now there’s prosciutto-wrapped shrimp, crab cakes, gorgonzola chicken, seafood lasagna, risotto, grilled swordfish with mango salsa and fried leeks, stuffed pork chops and beef tips bruschetta.
There’s a larger selection of sandwiches too. Options include half-pound burgers and prime-rib sliders topped with caramelized onions and horseradish mayonnaise. The brick-oven, New York-style pizza is still a hit, Mangene said, with dough and sauces made fresh at the restaurant.
"We’ve had good response; people love the menu," Panagiotis said. "Even the old customers [under the previous management] said 'It’s about time.'"
Panagiotis and Mangene agreed that freshness is key to the restaurant’s success. Seafood deliveries come in twice a week from Boston; meats come from Arnold’s, the popular western Massachusetts butcher shop. Dressings and sauces are made in-house, and they even bake their own bread daily.
Business is "in the right direction," Panagiotis said, noting that he’s met customers from Suffield, Enfield, South Windsor, Ellington and Vernon. "We’re doing well. We had some challenging times in the winter."
Weekday specials include Monday’s $10.99 "create your own pasta;" 50 percent off a second pizza on Tuesday (any size) and prime rib on Thursday for $13.99. Lunch is served on Saturday and Sunday. Delivery is available within a 5-mile radius.
The restaurant will reopen for weekday lunch hours in the fall. Panagiotis says he’d like to do a Sunday brunch in the future.
The reimagined Sam Buca’s won the approval of East Windsor native Frank Muska, founder of Western Connecticut State University’s Department of Criminal Justice. Muska stops in frequently while visiting family in the area.
"It’s a diamond in the rough," Muska said, naming the spaghetti and sausage dish as his favorite. "This is a great place."
Sam Buca’s is at 110 Main Street in Broad Brook. Hours: Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 9 p.m. Call the restaurant at 860-386-6990 for more information.