Little Village Bistro opening soon

Former Thistle Inn chef opening new restaurant in Wiscasset
Sun, 03/29/2015 - 4:30pm

    Tony Bickford, formerly the chef at the Thistle Inn in Boothbay Harbor, is opening his own restaurant in Wiscasset.

    Bickford, who is from Wiscasset, said having his own place has been a longtime dream.

    “This will be my first restaurant,” he said. “I started when I was 16 at Karen's Kitchen. I was the breakfast cook there.”

    After high school graduation, he moved to Portland where he worked at a couple different restaurants. He also worked at Sebago Brewing Co. in Scarborough for seven years.

    “I learned some organizational skills and speed, cooking pub food basically,” he said.

    It wasn't until moving back to Wiscasset that Bickford became really serious about cooking.

    “When I moved back to Wiscasset and got the job in Boothbay Harbor (Thistle Inn), that's when I really started honing in on the things I liked to cook.”

    Bickford started as a sauté cook at the Thistle Inn in 2010, where he became acting chef. He became Thistle’s official chef in September 2014.

    Working beside former Thistle chef Mike Whitney was helpful, Bickford said. “He taught me a lot; I taught him a lot. We had a great relationship.”

    The building that will house Little Village Bistro has been through a few changes over the past few years. Most recently it was The Route 27 Pub. Bickford is in the process of remodeling the interior, and is doing most of it himself.

    “It's going to have a rustic feel, mostly in shades of gray,” he said. There will be benches with plush cushions and pillows.

    The name of his new restaurant just came to Bickford one day.

    “That's one of the hardest things about starting a business, coming up with a good name,” he said. “I thought about what would fit Wiscasset, and the 'prettiest village,' and I've always liked the bistro idea.”

    Bickford is working on finalizing his menu.

    “I have been practicing on a lot of recipes over the past couple months that I want to have on the menu,” he said. “A lot of it is basic American food: fish and chips, burgers, steaks. I'm not looking to wow people with these crazy ideas, just wow them with these classic recipes that are done really well, and maybe throw in an herb or two that they've never tried with it.” Bickford said that will elevate it to the next level.

    “I'm working hard for my money, so when I go out to eat I don't want to take a risk on something that I may not like, and I think a lot of people are like that. So I want to base my menu around that idea. American food with some Italian influence, like Alfredos and scampis that people are already familiar with.

    “I want to play around in the kitchen for a bit just to see what's going to fit,” the chef said.

    According to his Facebook page,, some of the ideas Bickford is playing around with are mouth-wateringly enticing: Chicken Alfredo with fresh asparagus, pea and goat cheese tortelloni and fresh ricotta fennel sausage ravioli, to name a few.

    The Little Village Bistro Facebook page pledges to “focus on providing guests with a culinary experience they won't forget.” Bickford also plans to make his restaurant affordable, and to use as much local food as possible.

    At last September’s annual Claw Down event in East Boothbay Bickford came away with two plaques: 2nd Place Judge’s Award and 2nd Place People’s Choice Award. The winner of that event’s People’s Choice Award, Chef Stephen Richards, said he thought Bickford should have gotten his award. “Seems like every year this guy brings his “A” game. It’s not gonna be long before you see him up there with a first place plaque in his hand.” (In October, Richards, chef of Mine Oyster in Boothbay Harbor, was also named the 2014 Maine Lobster Chef of the Year.)

    Bickford's wife, KC, will be helping out occasionally, when she’s not working toward a nursing degree and holding down the fort with their two daughters, Charlotte and Isla.

    Located at 65 Gardiner Road in Wiscasset, Little Village Bistro will open April 16. It will be open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Call 207-687-8232.