Chef Donna Ewanciw already had a highly successful Italian restaurant, Radice in Blue Bell, when she decided to open a second one.
This time it would be a restaurant with a simple menu, inspired by the seasons, with just a half-dozen entrees. Of course there would be Italian influences, with a selection of pasta dishes and personal-size pizzas, and a short list of salads and appetizers.
That restaurant is Vela, named for Veterans Lane in Doylestown, where it is located. Vela opened in June serving dinner only, with plans to add lunchtime hours.
“I like to keep food simply prepared” in order to relish the flavors on the plate, said Ewanciw, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
That resulted in entrees such as roast chicken, grilled swordfish, pan-seared salmon, veal paillard with a panko crust and pan-roasted beef with crushed potatoes and a bone marrow crust.
Simpler dishes include pappardelle pasta served with pork shoulder ragu; gnocchi with peas, cream, basil and pancetta; spaghettini with shrimp, tomato and garlic parsley bread crumbs; and rigatoni with eggplant sauce, roasted tomato and ricotta.
Pizzas include tomato with soppressata and mozzarella, spinach with endive and fontina cheese, and a white pizza with ricotta, asiago cheese and escarole.
Desserts can be as simple as seasonal local peaches roasted in the brick oven and topped with homemade caramel sauce.
As important as good quality ingredients and great food, is hospitality, Ewanciw said. “There is a lot of very good food out there, but I think it’s invaluable to create a culture of treating staff and guests like family,” she said.
When summer fruits and vegetables give way to fall, Ewanciw will do more cooking in clay pots, creating comfort foods perfect for cooler weather.
The new restaurant is located in Veterans Lane Shopping Center, featuring a spacious, contemporary dining room with lots of windows and light.
“It’s fresh and crisp, a new look for Doylestown, and the customers say they are pleasantly surprised,” she said.
There also has been a good response to her small menus, which offer a range of choices but not enough to overwhelm the diner.
The full bar also is a draw for customers, serving a variety of draft beers, plus bottles and cans. The house specialty cocktails were created and named by the staff; they include Barefoot in Bucks, with Boardroom vodka, mint, cucumber, lime and lavender syrup; Smoke on the Water with Monkey Shoulder Scotch, sweet vermouth and Laphroaig Mist; and Golden Gavel, named for the judges at the nearby Bucks County Courthouse and featuring Blanca tequila, lime, Mango and muddled jalapeno.
Vela is currently open for dinner, but happy hours and lunch hours will be added soon, possibly as early as next week.