A local, historical property recently got a face-lift and, because I’ve heard so much about this spot, I had to check it out for myself.
I met with owner Sam Estephan, who celebrated his 24th year of owning the restaurant on January 16th. “People cannot believe this is the same place with all of the renovations we’ve done. They walk in and are shocked; everything is new but we’ve still preserved the history of the building. We are very excited about all the new additions.”
With four different dining areas there is a dining experience to fit everyone’s style. Warm up by the fireplace and enjoy fine dining in a historic atmosphere or relax in a more casual area, like the lounge. In warmer months enjoy the privacy of the brand new deck that seats upwards of 60 people and overlooks a picturesque wetland landscape.
The different dining areas offer different menus as well. If fine dining is what you’re in the mood for, choose from the full menu of more than 40 entrees highlighting steak, seafood and traditional Italian options, like Tortellini Milano – a cheese filled pasta, topped in a tomato blush sauce and garnished with mushrooms, peas and sun dried tomatoes. Feeling more casual? Try the lounge menu with gourmet sandwiches and appetizers, including Shrimp Lejon, filled with horseradish and wrapped with smoked bacon or roasted portabella mushroom stuffed with ricotta cheese, sun dried tomatoes and spinach, baked and topped with a balsamic and basil vinaigrette. The most popular light fare are the Kennett Square mushrooms stuffed with crab imperial, so big that 4 of them could make a meal. Other light fare includes lobster bisque, French onion soup and a variety of salads, like spinach garnished with goat cheese and topped with a hazelnut vinaigrette.
I sat down with Executive Chef Paul Gentile to find out more about the man behind the menu.
Chef Q and A with Executive Chef Paul Gentile
WC Dish: So, tell us, how long have you been cooking?
Gentile: Well, I attended The Philadelphia Restaurant School when I was 20 years old and have been cooking professionally since I was 18.
WC Dish: Do you have any early food memories?
Gentile: My mother was and still is an excellent baker. She could cook, but baking is her specialty, whereas my grandmother was really good at cooking traditional Southern Italian food. I was surrounded with both of their passions and so it was a pretty clear path [for me] to go into the kitchen professionally.
WC Dish: Where did you go after graduating?
Gentile: After school I worked at a classic French restaurant in Philadelphia and then I worked at another French-influenced restaurant in Radnor. Then I moved more into American cuisine at country clubs and breweries and I’ve been here at The Thorndale Inn for 6 years.
WC Dish: After working with so many styles of cooking, what is your favorite cuisine to prepare?
Gentile: I really enjoy a French Bistro style of cooking. I like working with classic French techniques but making it accessible to the public. That’s fun for me.
WC Dish: What would you call the cuisine style at the Inn?
Gentile: I’d say it’s a very Old American Inn menu right now, but we are in the process of changing to offer 20 upscale entrees for fine dining and to offer $8 to $15 options on a Bistro-style menu to accommodate folks that want to come out for a great dinner. We want to continue offering our clientèle options to meet their dining needs.
WC Dish: What are some soon-to-come bistro offerings we can we drool over until the menu comes out?
Gentile: Ha ha, we will have homestyle-bistro offerings with regional and international flare, like Italian-roasted pork with roasted peppers and broccoli rabe and maybe German-style pork and sauerkraut with apples and caraway seeds or fried Southern-style catfish with sweet potato fries with a remolaude sauce.
WC Dish: Can you tell me about some of the specials you have in addition to the regular menu?
Gentile: This week we have a sauteed Scottish salmon fillet with roasted eggplant and broccoli rabe, topped with basil white wine butter sauce and garnished with jumbo lump crab with balsamic syrup. We also have an 8 oz filet, pan roasted and served over onion and gorgonzola Challah bread pudding, with a grappa reduction sauce. The last one is sauteed chicken breast on baby carrots and leeks topped with Calvados cream sauce, camembert, chives and roasted apples.
WC Dish: What is your approach to cooking?
Gentile: I like to do interesting food that brings people value. Here, I’m able to give people creative entrees with 2 types of vegetables and a starch. Everything is fresh. It makes me happy to be able to give so many options for a good price. We strive to have a excellent food and atmosphere and to leave our guests with good memories and a full stomach.
WC Dish: I can’t wait to come back and enjoy the deck this summer. What is the drink selection like here? There is nothing better than having a delicious drink outdoors.
Gentile: We have a full-service bar with wine, liquor and beer. You name it, we’ve got it. We have a fun martini menu, including chocolate and pomegranate martinis. In the summer we have fresh mojitos and we always have 8 beers on tap, including domestic and international options.
What else do you need to know about Thorndale Inn?
If you’re planning a party or need a meeting space, the Thorndale Inn offers private rooms and is only 5 to 10 minutes from Exton and other major business areas, making it a perfect spot for a business luncheon or special event. A la carte and buffet menus are available online at www.thorndaleinn.com.430 Bondsville Road Downingtown 610-269-5455
Open Daily for Lunch and Dinner
Lunch: Monday through Saturday from 11:30 A.M. to 4 P.M.
Dinner: Monday through Saturday from 4:30 P.M. to 11 P.M.
Sunday: Open 1 P.M. to 9 P.M.