Angela and Sandy Baldanza sat beside each other at a table underneath a red awning over the patio of their new place, Baldanza's Natural Market and Cafe, at 17 Elm St.
As bossa nova and traditional European music played softly from a speaker placed near the entrance, the couple explained their transition from the apparel industry in Manhattan to the food business in New Canaan.
"We both have a very strong passion for really good food and a really nice atmosphere," Angela said. "We were really interested in taking the farm-to-table experience to people -- that's how we cook at home."
Angela recently left her job as senior vice president of merchandising at the Jones Group, one of the largest apparel retailers in the country. Sandy owned several clothing companies, including Baldanza, Due Per Due and Workers for Freedom.
"I sold my business last year," he said. " I knew I wasn't going to retire, but I wasn't sure which way I was going to go. There's not much dissimilarity from running an apparel company to doing this. That's so high-pressure that anything else you want to do is easy."
In their second career, the focus is on fresh food. The cafe, which opened July 12, serves breakfast and lunch between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., and is open for coffee and prepared dinners until 6 p.m. The menu ranges from vegetarian and gluten-free food to simple standard dishes.
"I'm also amazed at how many hot dogs we're selling in an organic food market," Sandy said. The hot dogs are made from Nuna Naturals grass-fed beef, based in New York.
"We call it clean food, because we can really trace back everything to where it came from," Angela said.
The pair rattled off a number of local farms where they buy their ingredients, including Riverbank Farms in Roxbury, which was making a delivery that afternoon.
People are taking notice.
"This is the best restaurant in town. We've come here every day since it's been open," said Elizabeth Costa, who was eating lunch with her husband, Joe. "The town needed this for sure. Healthy, good food."
"I think one of the big differences is, Sandy and Angela know all this food," Joe said. "There are a lot of restaurants that will buy all their food from Cisco. Sandy purposely seeks out the best of each ingredient."
To demonstrate, Sandy took an inventory of Costa's hamburger.
"Joe's burger is grass-fed, organic beef. The roll is an Eli's Bakery brioche roll, the cheddar cheese is Grafton Village from Vermont, and the pickle is from Riverbank Farms," he said.
The Costas are not the only ones who've taken a liking to the new cafe. Sandy said Brian Lewis, the owner and chef at the elm restaurant, down the road at 73 Elm St., had been there that day for lunch.
"I love it. I absolutely love this," Sandy said. "At this point in our life we don't have a lot of financial pressure. I have the opportunity to go against the grain and just make great food."