The recipe for a successful business, according to Rick Bennett, includes two essential ingredients:

“One, make sure you do business with good people and, two, have a shared vision (with those good people).”

Then, “and only then,” says Bennett, you need to ask yourself: Can we earn enough money doing it to put food on the table, figuratively and literally?

Recently, Bennett, owner of CAVU Cafe, an eatery that opened in February at the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport, and Delian Valeriani, CAVU’s general manager, discovered they shared the same vision for opening a restaurant. “This is a first for both of us,” says Bennett, adding, “It’s a good partnership.”

To complete the team and provide the interesting culinary offerings CAVU has developed, Bennett and Valeriani brought in Chef Pete Lara all the way from Texas.

CAVU is an acronym for the aeronautical phrase “ceiling and visibility unlimited”(pronounced ka-voo, with equal emphasis on both syllables). It is an appropriate name for a restaurant that offers a fabulous view of a busy municipal airport, with its big skies, open landscape and flying machines.

In fact, when choosing the color scheme for CAVU, Valeriani’s goal was to “bring the outdoors in.”

“It’s a really unique location,” says Bennett, and “we wanted match the colors of the sky,” making it appealing both to private and commercial pilots who fly in for a bite to eat and to local folks who appreciate a good meal with an interesting view.

According to Lynn Grudzien, hostess, server and “girl Friday” at CAVU, “People fly in to have something to eat — from New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and from northern points like Presque Isle — just because they wanna fly.”

Bennett, a pilot himself, talks about “the $100 hamburger.” Private pilots “need an excuse to fly,” he says, and “one excuse is to go have lunch.” CAVU is one of a handful of restaurants in New England to which those smaller private planes can fly in and out of easily.

And, speaking of hamburgers, CAVU offers several, including The Outlaw. “It’s one of our signature dishes” says Valeriani — a half-pound burger prepared with barbecue sauce, pepper jack cheese and the fried trio of pickles, jalapenos and “wrangler rings” (thinly sliced onion rings) on the burger. It’s served with house-made coleslaw and CAVU crisps.

“The secret to our coleslaw,” says Lara “is using apple cider vinegar, rather than white vinegar.”

“The crisps,” he adds, “are potatoes that have been sliced very thin.” CAVU serves them as an alternative to traditional fries.

Another signature dish, says Valeriani, is the Guinness mac and cheese – made with smoked Gouda cheese, Guinness and a Guinness beer bratwurst.”

Through their partnerships with the airport community, and specifically to honor the traditions of the German technicians who are working on the Lufthansa airplane at the airport, Lara and Valeriani became familiar with a popular bratwurst. According to Valeriani, “We said: ‘You know what would be good . . . throw it in with the cheese . . . and we might as well reduce some Guinness and toss that in too.’”

To make the reduction, says Lara, “you cook it up till it turns into a syrup.” He prefers not to elaborate further on other methods and ingredients in his “secret recipe.” For vegetarians, the “Gouda mac” can be prepared without the bratwurst.

CAVU offers a light and tasty fried haddock. The haddock, says Lara, “is served with German crisps made with butter and flavored with parsley, salt, pepper and Montreal seasonings.”

Grudzien’s favorite is the the chicken Florentine. She says the sauce is what makes it so popular with CAVU’s customers.

“The Florentine and the (chicken) Marsala started out as specials,” says Valeriani, but “people liked them so much that we put them on the menu.”

The specials change all the time, and include lobster rolls and haddock chowder.

Be sure to save some room for dessert because CAVU serves up something they call “CAVU indulgence”: chocolate mousse, strawberry cheesecake and molten chocolate mini cakes served a la mode.

And there’s also vanilla ice cream served with a mixed berry compote. The berries are cooked with sugar and drizzled over the ice cream. “With a hint of mint,” says Valeriani, “it’s got a very fresh flavor to it.”

For something a little more unusual, they’ve got dessert grilled cheese made with banana bread, vanilla almond whipped cream cheese and orange syrup.

CAVU is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., seven days a week, for both breakfast and lunch. On Sundays, breakfast is served all day.

“We have a particularly nice eggs benedict,” says Valeriani. “We use Carando ham rather than Canadian bacon, and Portuguese muffins — a big fluffy muffin with a hint of lemon to it.”

CAVU’s homemade waffles and blueberry pancakes are served with fresh fruit and meat on the side, if you like. “We’ll be using fresh Maine blueberries when they are in season,” says Valeriani.

He adds that the restaurant is planning to work with local farmers to produce dishes that are “fresh, healthy, locally sourced and made from scratch.”

“People deserve to know what they’re eating,” notes Bennett, so “we’ll also be putting calories and other nutritional information on the menu.”

CAVU also does in-plane catering and on-site catering for events at the airport, and offer takeout orders by phone or online.

Our goal, says Bennett, is “to serve traditional comfort foods with a modern taste.”

Creamy chicken Marsala for two

2 chicken breasts, cleaned and tenderized

Flour for coating the chicken

Olive oil

2 tablespoons thyme

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 cup Marsala wine

1 cup heavy cream

1-2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

12 ounces fettuccini, cooked as desired

Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish


Heat pan and oil.

Coat chicken with flour and sear until cooked through (165 degrees).

Remove chicken from pan, set aside and keep warm.

Using the same pan, saute garlic and thyme one minute.

Add Marsala wine and reduce.

Add cream and sprinkle in enough parmesan to thicken.

Place hot fettuccini on plate, layer chicken breast on top of pasta and top with Marsala sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Banana bread grilled cheese sandwiches

Four slices of banana bread

For syrup:

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon orange extract

Heat water until boiling, then reduce heat and add powdered sugar slowly, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.

Add orange extract and vanilla extract.

Heat 10 minutes or until it forms a syrup. Set aside.

For filling:

1/8 cup cream

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup cream cheese

1/2 cup whipped cream

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Heat cream and butter until warm.

Add cream cheese and whip until it is spreadable.

Add whipped cream.

Add almond extract.

Mix well.

You’ll also need:

A little extra butter

Extra whipped cream for garnish

To assemble and cook:

Coat one side of each slice of bread with the extra butter.

Spread cheese filling on the unbuttered sides of two slices of bread.

Close the sandwiches with the other two slices.

Grill on a flat top or in a pan.

Top with syrup and extra whipped cream.

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