A New Dining Experience : The Andover Inn Makes Plans

The Andover Inn is going to be the place to be. With proposed plans for a greenhouse and events like “Exotic Mushroom Night,” the Inn’s new managers Alison Sudalter-Morello and Matthew Morello are taking the Andover Inn in a new direction. Sometime soon, this ultra-convenient restaurant may be a place for students to enjoy high tea and organic coffee between classes or while studying with friends. Once notorious for its stuffy ambiance and outdated furnishings, the Inn has traditionally been avoided by Phillips Academy students in recent years, despite the prime location of the establishment on campus. Now, it is being redone with fresh, contemporary characteristics, in the hopes of becoming less of a “destination” and more of a locally frequented spot, especially by students. Although attracted by the sumptuous dining, students felt that dining at the Inn was an uncomfortable experience because of the relatively inaccessibe price and atmosphere. The restaurant was known to attract a more mature following. Now, the structure of the Inn is changing. Morello and Sudalter-Morello, the creators and owners of the management company “Morello Hospitality LLC,” are now in charge of handling the Inn’s future affairs. The recently-married couple is trying to emphasize comfort, accessibility, modernization of atmosphere and an inviting approach to students in the completed and future stages of refurbishment. Formerly of Savour Kitchen in downtown Andover, Morello and Sudalter-Morello have extensive plans for the Inn, and they have already begun the process of refreshing the Inn’s reputation and image. Sudalter-Morello said, “We saw that the Inn was actually in great need of just a little TLC, and we knew that we would be able to come in and just clean it up a little bit and get it a little more appealing.” For example, slight adjustments to the furnishings give the Inn a cleaner, fresher look. Another potential update to the Inn’s formerly antique atmosphere is the proposal to build a modern, all-weather, glass greenhouse for guests to dine in and use as a special event venue in all seasons. Due to the scale of the project, Sudalter-Morello and Morello are stressing the importance of dividing the process into phases, focusing first on the restaurant. “We have a really friendly, inviting atmosphere. But unfortunately right now, we can’t change anything with the rooms because they’re very outdated; they’re very old. Some of the rooms actually share bathrooms with rooms next door,” Sudalter-Morello said. Alternately, they have decided to focus on establishing a warm and cozy ambiance in the primary locations of the Inn (the lobby and restaurant), to draw people in. “It was very stuffy before—and there was really nothing going on in this lobby…We want everything to be here. Eventually down the road, when things change, we will obviously have gorgeous rooms.” Sudalter-Morello described the reasons for starting in the lobby: “We saw that the restaurant wasn’t very busy—we knew that it could be packed every single night. We knew we could come in and change how the restaurant worked…get rid of the stuffiness and the formality of the actual restaurant… We thought by changing the menu and the prices a little bit—kind of modernizing the food—that we could actually have people here more often.” Morello, who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, supervises and runs the kitchen of the restaurant, while Sudalter-Morello manages the front. They plan to have changing menus, keeping the same main items with slight variations in side dishes and ingredients. In addition to the classic breakfast buffet and dinner menus, lunch and bar menus were added this past Monday. Furthermore, the team has considered the concept of holding themed nights, such as “Exotic Mushroom Night” or “Cheese and Wine Night” to perpetuate interest. Sudalter-Morello said, “We have a great relationship with staff and students [from Phillips Academy], which actually brought us to the Inn in the first place, because neither of us had ever been here before—even though we’re pretty much just right down the street. The minute we walked in we fell in love with it and we just saw so much beauty and so much potential; we just loved the way we actually felt when we walked in the door with the fireplace on, and the décor.” A main goal of the new management is to ensure that PA students begin to frequent the Inn—not only to eat, but also to work, talk and relax. Now copies of The Phillipian may be found in the front lobby, alongside issues of The New York Times and The Boston Globe. A board game collection resides by the newspapers. The uniforms of staff and personnel have been changed to more casual attire so that students feel more comfortable. Morello and Sudalter-Morello hope that these small efforts will make the Inn inviting and student-friendly. There are also plans of converting the now formal lobby into more of a lounge, with extra tables and chairs. Additionally, one of the most exciting plans is establishing “High Tea.” Guests will be supplied with their own stainless steel teapot with a flavor of Mem tea (an imported brand of exotic teas). Three-tiered platters of sweet and savory edibles would accompany the drinks in the lobby. High Tea has been a highly-emphasized point of the company’s plans. Sudalter-Morello added, “We’ll also do coffee if somebody prefers that: espresso, cappuccino. We’re bringing in our organic roaster Karma coffee, which I’m really, really excited about…Coffee is to die for so I’m really eager to change that here because it’s just not very good right now.” “I see [the students] all the time [at Savour.] I personally wouldn’t be walking in the snow and rain, but if you have nothing here, then what’s your alternative? So I’ve always noticed that. And then you have to run back up, “Oh my gosh, I have class in ten minutes…” You’re not always paying attention to the time. So I think that’s going to be huge,” Sudalter-Morello said. With Ryley Room demolished, a conspicuous lack of a student center and increasing difficulty to gather in large groups in the library, PA students are gradually starting to sense that there are few places left to meet. Undoubtedly, the transpiring alterations will truly make the Andover Inn a popular location in the upcoming months. Sudalter-Morello highlighted her and her husband’s affection for the PA community. “We just want you guys to know we really enjoy seeing you here. I just can’t understand why it wasn’t allowed before. We’ve had a lot of kids lately, and I really want to make it clear to all the students that we absolutely love having you in here.”