The Frederick Gunn School is pleased to announce that The PO, a popular dining and gathering spot for generations of students, faculty and local residents, officially reopened this week through a new partnership with Maggie Colangelo, former baker/owner of New Milford's beloved Food for Thought and recent owner/chef at 9 Main Cafe in New Preston.
Following a two-day “soft opening” for friends and family on October 13 and 14, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held outside the establishment on October 15 at 11 a.m. The Rev. Dr. Robyn Gray of the First Congregational Church on the Green blessed the new business, its owners and patrons, and then Colangelo cut the ribbon held by First Selectman Jim Brinton and Michelle Gorra, the town’s Economic and Community Development Coordinator, as some two dozen local residents and supporters, including Head of School Peter Becker, applauded.
Gorra noted the challenges inherent in opening a new business during a global pandemic and encouraged local residents to give Colangelo a warm welcome. Her request was clearly heeded, as a line of customers quickly formed out the door, and students could be seen streaming down Kirby Road, eager to place their first orders.
A native of New Milford, and a descendant of one of the town’s founding families, the Hine family, Colangelo is “classically trained and well traveled.” She has extensive experience as a baker, restaurant owner and consultant, and has also taught cooking classes for adults (at the former Silo at Hunt Hill Farm) and children (through the New Milford Youth Agency), supported by a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
She and her husband, Frank, who have three children, are excited to take over The PO, and have been busy building a new menu that showcases seasonal local ingredients, Colangelo’s signature bakery items and desserts, freshly made sandwiches, salads, smoothies and tempting side dishes, such as “Totchos,” which are like nachos with potato tots in place of tortilla chips. “There’s lots of tots,” Colangelo said. “We have Po-tacos, which are breakfast tacos with chorizo, eggs, cheese, and it has tots in it.”
Another “PO” inspired dish, “The Po-ke,” features diced, sushi-grade tuna, avocado, pickled ginger, sesame seeds, cucumber, slightly spicy mango drizzle and seaweed salad. Longtime patrons will find familiar favorites like the Reitman Wrap, named for sandwich contest winner Tim Reitman ’14, are still available.
In recent weeks, Colangelo has been tempting local appetites by showcasing new menu items on The PO’s Instagram feed, including her Morning Glory muffins (grilled), French baguettes, chocolate croissants, smashburgers and breakfast sandwiches – made with scrambled eggs and applewood smoked bacon stuffed between two slices of French toast and sweetened with Great Brook Sugar House maple syrup from New Milford.
“Ol Skool” egg salad sandwiches and “the Green Hill” – which layers avocadoes, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, local sprouts, fresh mozzarella from Kimberly Farm in New Milford with housemade goddess dressing on whole grain – appear stacked as edible works of art alongside frothy iced lattes served in glass ball jars. The coffee and espresso drinks feature Sustainable Fair Trade coffee from Sun Coffee Roasters in Plainville, Connecticut, and the tea is from Harney & Sons in nearby Millerton, New York.
Colangelo is also serving Kimberly Farm ice cream, sandwiched between two homemade chocolate chip cookies and rolled in rainbow sprinkles, as well as the farm’s chocolate milk and yogurt, which is accompanied by fresh berries and housemade granola. Her “Autumn Salad” pairs late season greens with candied walnuts, apples from Washington’s Averill Farm, dried fruits and blue cheese, served with Great Brook Sugar House maple vinaigrette.
“We’re going to be having some fun in the kitchen. You can totally find something healthy or you can totally cheat and have something ooey and gooey,” Colangelo said, noting that menu items will change seasonally to take advantage of the ingredients available from the region’s many local farms, including her own Flirtation Farms, from which she is sourcing herbs and produce this fall.
Formerly known as Cafe on the Green, The PO, is located at 5 Kirby Road in Washington in a building shared by the Washington Green Post Office, and is owned by The Frederick Gunn School. According to the late Paula Krimsky, who served for many years as the school archivist, The PO has been in continuous operation since the 1900s and functioned as a pharmacy and small grocery in the 1940s and 1950s before becoming a place for students and faculty to meet and share a meal overlooking the historic Washington Green.
“David Hoadley '51, told the story of many trips to The PO as a student. His standard order was a 10-cent Coke and a Frisbie Pie,” Krimsky noted in her written history of The PO. “Henry Gibson '32 used to recall his youth every so often by sitting on the old turning stools and savoring a chocolate malt.”
The old-fashioned soda fountain and lunch counter are still there, and have served as a backdrop in recent years for fans of TV's “Gilmore Girls,” who visit Washington as part of a local fan fest and claim The PO was the inspiration for Luke's Diner. In the weeks leading up to the grand opening, it wasn’t Gilmore Girls fans but local residents who stopped by to wish Colangelo well. They brought her old photographs of the building, and even a painting, which she plans to display, and encouraged her to restore the soda fountain works. Colangelo clearly appreciates the history and nostalgia surrounding her new space, and is already thinking about introducing a brunch menu on Sundays, once local church services resume regularly. Her intention is to listen to and respond to the needs of the community. “We love being here and we love having the support of the community,” she said.
Fall hours at The PO are Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Online ordering is available.