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A restaurant renaissance

Nottinghams reopened in February after renovations

The newly remodeled bar at Nottinghams in Sherwood has the type of ambience new restaurants go to great lengths trying to recreate. There is dark wood, classic décor and a cozy feeling. That's the benefit of being in a 95-year-old building.

"Even when we did wedding receptions, people always hung out up here, even when the bar was closed," explained Nottinghams owner Carrie Maiorano. She reopened the building as a restaurant in March after spending six years operating Nottinghams as a catering business and banquet hall.

The name is the same, and Maiorano is still doing remote catering, but inside, Nottinghams has undergone a dramatic transformation. The banquet hall area is a dining room with high-back booths to offer guests privacy and a piano for the live jazz she has booked for many weekends. There are new dividers separating the upstairs area, and the bar sports a flat screen television, bookshelves adorned with wine selections and antique clocks.

The remodel came at a price, though. Nottinghams was closed for six months before opening in March, and Maiorano is working feverishly to let the community know that they're back and open for business. She's confident that once people taste the food, it won't be a problem getting them to come back.

Maiorano, along with Chef Paul Hickman, have crafted a menu that's heavy on natural and local ingredients. Nothing, not even the French fries, are pre-made, and they work with local farmers to supply ingredients. The result is a menu heavy on Northwest ingredients, like the Hazlenut Crusted Shrimp, Pork Tenderloin with a Marionberry Glaze, and the signature Amber Salmon, which Carrie and her mother Lorrie Bidgood cooked up by accident while catering. Maiorano's hoping to find the common ground between families and foodies. The moderately priced dinner menu includes more than a dozen dinner entrees which get creative, but never intimidating. No one will struggle to pronounce any of the items.

"It's a little different," Maiorano said. "The food is fresh, but there's still comfort food."

Maiorano said Nottinghams was doing well as a catering and banquet business, but she thought the direction of Old Town Sherwood dictated a change.

"People don't want to get married and hear a bunch of traffic or look up and see a condo overhead," she said. "It's not a bad thing, the town's just changing."

So why not move? Maiorano is fiercely committed to Old Town. She likes the idea of an infusion of new businesses that keep a respect for the historical integrity of the area. Behind the bar, she has a book, put together by Sherwood Friends Church, outlining the history of the building. It was built in 1912 as a Quaker Church, and remained such until 1971. For the next two decades artist Stewart Olsen and his wife used the upstairs as a home, while the downstairs served as his stained glass studio. His windows are still there, and Maiorano actually chose her color schemes based on the colors in the windows.

"Every time I look at those windows I think of [Olsen] making them," she said. "We tried to leave the building as original as we could."

Maiorano loves to cook -- she makes all of the pastries and helped Hickman develop the menu - so the she had no doubt she'd enjoy running a restaurant. But opening one in Old Town Sherwood was still a bold move. Aside from Clancy's bar and restaurant, there is no place else in the downtown area to get dinner (Nottinghams is also open for lunch). While Old Town has seen an influx of new businesses, along with breakfast and lunch spots, there is still a decided lack of foot traffic at night. Maiorano is hoping to change that.

"We just really felt that it was time for this to happen here. I think it will be good for Old Town," she said. "We thought about what we could do to stay here and grow, and we're attached to Sherwood, and we love the building, and we didn't want to leave."

Renovating Nottinghams has been a family affair. While Maiorano's leaned heavily on her mom for decorating help - she's an interior designer - her husband, who works for the Newberg Fire Department, chipped in with handy work, and her six-year-old daughter Hanna even did a little painting.

Nottinghams is located at 22418 Pine Street in Old Town. Maiorano will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce March 13 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. The restaurant is open from Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Their hours Tuesday through Thursday at 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight.