Living Well in Litchfield County, Connecticut

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Fantastic Fern

Fantastic Fern

Upscale Casual Italian in Lakeville
By Charles Dubow
Photo by Sabrina Eberhard

It’s all too rare when a restaurant’s interior is as good as its food. Located at the juncture of Sharon Road and Route 44 in the old firehouse in Lakeville, Fern is a treat for both the eye and the palate.

The fourth and latest restaurant from chef Gianni Scappin and Luciano Valdivia, the team behind Market St. in Rhinebeck and Barbaro in Millbrook, Fern’s interior looks like a combination of Soho and Santa Barbara. Directly opposite the front door, a spacious white horseshoe bar divides the room. On the left is a cozy bar area and to the right the large, white-walled, warmly-lit main dining room’s double-height ceiling creates an atmosphere that is both dramatic and airy. Along the back wall is a domed wood-burning pizza oven that is heated to 800 degrees and delivers pies at, as our waiter put it, “mach speed.” Roomy blonde wood booths line the room surrounding a cluster of smaller tables and underfoot are noise-muffling Persian carpets. Along the front the old firehouse doors have remained in place, giving the whole feeling a hip, post-industrial vibe. It is truly one of the most unique and pleasing layouts in Litchfield County.

“The space had a lot of masculine energy,” says Valdiva, who was the designer. “So we wanted to soften it up. That’s one of the reasons why we chose the name Fern. It’s a feminine name that also reflects the botanical beauty of this part of the state.”

But now about the food. The key to truly great Italian cooking is to use the best ingredients and to keep it simple. There is no better example of this than one of Fern’s appetizers, which consists of warm marinated olives, Marcona almonds, and chunks of Parmesan cheese to be dipped in balsamic vinegar. So simple yet so delicious. Other highlights from the appetizer menu include, but are not limited to, warm Roman bread, Burrata served with roasted tomato and pesto over grilled bread or with Prosciutto di Parma, and grilled octopus with Corona beans. 

The central location of the pizza oven practically dares you not to order a pie and you absolutely should. These are thin-crust and delicate. My favorites include the Monza, made with sausage and broccoli rabe, and the classic Margherita. You should have plenty of room afterwards for one of their pastas. I highly recommend the Cavatelli Bolognese with ricotta cheese and the Rigatoni Butera, but also keep an eye out for daily specials.

The entrees are variations on archetypal Italian dishes but each one is done to perfection. The Braised Pork Ossobuco is fall-off-the-bone tender, the Roasted Chicken Mattone, served with mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and salsa verde is a clever twist on a classic, and the 14 oz. Rib Eye Steak with rosemary fries and aioli is a carnivore’s dream. To wash it all down, the wine list offers some of my personal favorites, including a Rioja from Vina Alberdi and the Sacristie De La Vieille Cure from Bordeaux.

9 Sharon Road, Lakeville, 860-596-1930,

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