he tell? The aroma screams Italian, fresh and unique. That’s Franco’s Bistro at the intersection of Route 302 and Whites Bridge Road. It’s unique because owner Frank Merced creates everything that is served from scratch and usually from recipes he writes himself.
Franco’s opened just over a year ago and despite sitting at an awkward intersection, which is now undergoing construction, Frank and his wife Elaine are optimistic about the future of Franco’s.
“We saw an opportunity down here that I can bring to Windham a nice addition of fresh cooking,” said Frank, who also owns Merced’s on Brandy Pond in Naples. “We’re here and we want you to experience us and we want to offer you a really good experience.”
Frank has been a chef for 39 years. He knew as a boy that he wanted to cook and had a flair for it. He did two years of cooking classes in high school and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1977. He worked in many kitchens before opening Merced’s five years ago.
“The restaurant business is a very, very tough business to get into. Things take time to develop,” he said. Being at the end of the commercial district is a bonus for Frank and Elaine. “Once it’s cleaned up and working the way it’s supposed to appearance-wise, people can come here to get a nice meal and great service.”
The menu is a blend of Italian and American cuisine, featuring traditional Italian fare as well as choice steaks and fresh seafood. They also serve lighter fare and smaller portions for those who might want that option. The portion size doesn’t matter because people box up portions to take home so they have room for the Italian lemon cake, cannoli, crème Brulee and toasted almond and amaretto cheesecake, all made in-house by Frank.
“I just love food,” Frank said as he put together a lasagna from scratch, layering in homemade roasted plum tomato marinara made with no onions, no tomato paste and chunks of garlic, sausage, ground beef and buffalo cheese, which has its own unique flavor.
Frank’s favorite dishes to make are Shellfish Fra Diavlo with sautéed shrimp, mussels, clams, salmon, scallops, red peppers and mushrooms over pasta, lasagna, and lobster Mascarpone ravioli, which is sautéed lobster with brandy, white wine and Mascarpone cheese, topped with mushroom pesto and truffle oil.
“I wanted to do something that sets us apart. It doesn’t have to be dramatic. This is what sets us apart from other restaurants,” everything is made fresh to order. “That’s my philosophy with food,” Frank said. “Have a nice, high end meal and add your personal touch.” Most of the recipes served are Frank’s creation and many contain “Frank spice”, his own blend that can be used on any dish to give it a distinct character, he said. He also makes all of the salad dressings and even the bread.
He said that people love the chicken and veal parmigiana and the steaks as well as the baked scallops and baked haddock. One of the house specialties is the Filetto Mignon Alla Barberosa topped with a rich barbera wine reduction, served with mushrooms and roasted asparagus. There are also nightly specials.
“It’s all really good, I’m proud to say,” Frank said.
They are open at 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and close at 8 p.m. all except Fridays and Saturdays when they close at 9 p.m. They will open Mondays for the summer starting July 4th. Reservations are recommended for a party of five or more. Walk-ins are welcome. They also have a full bar with Happy Hour. For more about Franco’s Bistro, visit www.FrancosBistro.com, find them on Facebook or come in and experience their delicious food for yourself!