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    Thursday, July 25, 2024

    A culinary Milestone in Mystic

    Owners Peter and Andrea Fine at Milestone Mystic, a new restaurant and live music venue that opened at 12 Water St. earlier this month. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    The dining room at Milestone Mystic (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Owners Peter and Andrea Fine at Milestone Mystic (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Bartender Cam Battle gets ready to open at Milestone Mystic on Nov. 16, 2023. The new restaurant and live music venue opened at 12 Water St. earlier this month. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Peter and Andi Fine live across the state in Weston, where they own and operate a popular restaurant called Milestone in the Redding’s Georgetown neighborhood.

    Three years ago, the Fines started coming to Mystic to hang out with friends in the area, and were as typically charmed as most newcomers. As the Fines’ visits grew more frequent and they became increasingly familiar with the attractions and dynamics of the community — and with an innate curiosity about the dining scene — the Fines became intrigued by an available space on Water Street in Factory Square. That’s the complex that, in addition to numerous residential apartments, is home to such familiar destinations as Margaritas, Friar Tuck’s, Mystic River Chocolate Café and Barley Head Brewery.

    The spot in question, which in former incarnations housed Zheng’s and, prior to that, Pizza Works, seemed like an ideal site for another Milestone.

    “We thought that location would be a cool space for us to expand what we’re about (as restauranteurs) and what we’re trying to do,” Peter Fine said. “It’d been three years since COVID and we’re doing well in Georgetown, and we thought it might be time to look for another opportunity.”

    On a recent weekday, he and Andi were showing visitors around Milestone Mystic, which officially opened in early November after a Halloween night party that featured New Orleans singer-songwriter musician Eric Lindell.

    Indeed, the success of Milestone Georgetown, which they started in 2018 after Peter’s long career in real estate — chiefly restaurant and retail development for the hospitality industry — convinced the Fines they were onto something that would translate well with Mystic residents and visitors. And the fact that Mystic is, frankly, full of restaurants and pubs was part of the appeal rather than a deterrent.

    “It’s not intimidating at all,” Peter said. “Our first impression is that Mystic is a welcoming, dynamic, year-round community with soulful locals, and we humbly think we can be part of it. The tourist aspect is icing on the cake. We enjoy that aspect, but we’re going to do our best to earn a spot among the locals. It’s going to take time, but we’re excited by the opportunity.”

    Julia Child?! Turkey Day?!

    The menu is something the Fines have enjoyed conceptualizing at both Milestones. A lot of it has to do with Peter growing up in a very food-oriented environment. His late mother Sue Fine owned a very popular home-cooking restaurant in Westport Soup’s On, and before that she and Peter’s father David — also deceased — were active investors/part-owners in Nantucket’s 21 Federal restaurant. She also owned and operated 21 Federalist Specialties, which offered takeout food for vacationers on the island.

    And prior to that, Peter’s folks were socially active in a Cambridge neighborhood full of renowned locals including Julia Child. The iconic chef attended a few Thanksgiving meals at the Fines’, and Peter said his mother was perfectly comfortable cooking for anyone including Child.

    “She made simple, tasty, well-prepared meals using local, fresh ingredients. Mom would do anything for her customers — or for friends and family, and it usually involved cooking,” Peter said. “People came to eat her food, but also because she was the type of person that exuded energy and love.”

    At Milestone, diners have a variety of choices that reflect Peter’s mother’s recipes along with upscale tavern food and a number of seafood and fine dining options. There’s an on-site pizza oven whose full pies lasso the essence of by-the-slice New York City carts. Gourmet burgers, blue plate specials and full dinners — Italian, seafood, pork chops, hanger steak and more — expand the possibilities.

    There are also late-night tavern munchies, and the bartenders curate nuance a carefully thought-out array of wine, beer and what Peter describes as “creative and properly done cocktails. We hire people based on their personality, who want to be here and be involved in everything we’re doing.”

    Home sweet Mystic

    To that end, the Fines have purchased a second home in the area to provide closer access to a community they feel has already shown them great acceptance.

    “Milestone restaurant is continued validation that Mystic has become a food destination,” said Bruce Flax, president of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce. “Peter and Andi chose Mystic as the destination of their second restaurant. They’ve transformed that space into something uniquely representative of their location in Redding while also adding a touch of Southeastern Connecticut.”

    Milestone Mystic is indeed lovely. As conceived by interior designer Kate Hauser of Westport’s Kate Hauser + Co., the firm that also oversaw the original Milestone, the restaurant is beautifully designed and instantly relaxing with exposed brick, warm earth tones, polished wood floors and an expansive, angled beam ceiling. The floor plan is rectangular and runs parallel lengthwise to Water Street. The floor is shiny pine from Tuscaloosa, Alabama and the ceiling is towering and open as per the industrial feel of the complex. A glossy bar extends along the back wall with a parallel counter for drinks and standing customers.

    Casual and spacious dining tables with large windows look out onto Water Street. The short wall by the Water Street entrance is painted in a flowing, brightly colored mural depicting the Mystic River. At the far end, the room opens into a large area that serves as a dining room and an amphitheater style listening room. A fully functional stage, lights and sound system can be activated for live music at any time. And out back, construction is underway on what will be a large outdoor, covered deck with a full bar and waitress station.

    “Kate, the designer, is an amazing talent,” Peter says. “There are things I know and things I don’t, and Kate has done such a tremendous job. It’s fun and approachable and interesting. If you’re someone who’s interested in design, you’ll enjoy just looking at the place. If not, you’re still instantly comfortable.”

    A twisty path

    Now 58, Peter admitted that getting in the restaurant business as a proprietor came a bit late in life.

    He went to college at Tulane in New Orleans, working all four years as a bartender and doorman at Tipitina’s, the city’s internationally renowned live music club focusing on hometown music. In addition to New Orleans food, the music helped shape Peter’s affection for the hospitality business.

    “Music is so important to me,” he said, “and it will become a big part of this restaurant. When I left New Orleans, the music had made such an impression on me that I found myself self-promoting shows with artists like the Radiators, the Funky Meters and Anders Osborne just so I could hear the music.”

    After Tulane, Peter spent 35 years working in commercial real estate with a focus on retail/restaurant development after his father introduced him to entertainment retail visionary Sheldon Gordon. Peter also worked with Jeff Hartmann, a pioneer in casino retail development, and Peter spent time in Las Vegas, Boston, London and, yes, Uncasville at Mohegan Sun.

    Andi said she brings a different but complementary set of skills to the Milestone story. “I’ve had experience in graphic and floral design, print production and the catering business,” she said. “My role is less precise, but I know what works and feels right. And Peter and I trust each other’s instincts.”

    “It is a collaboration, and it’s fun,” Peter said. “But none of this would be happening without my mother. Watching her, what she did and how she interacted was special to me. I realized much later the business of food has always been in my heart.”

    “It’s been a long and twisty, genuinely interesting journey,” Peter said. “None of this would have happened, though, without my mom. She had a saying. ‘Inch by inch – it’s a cinch.’ And we’ve just followed that. Food and socialization around food – those are the great experiences.”

    If you go

    What: Milestone Mystic

    Where: 12 Water St., Mystic

    Hours: 3-10 p.m. Mon. and Wed., 3-11 p.m. Thurs., 11 a.m.-midnight Fri. and Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.

    For more infomation: milestonect.com, (860) 980-8787

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