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Eggs in cocotte piperade, with tomato, pepper, onion, chorizo, chili pepper
Chef Jeffrey DeFrancesco bakes croissants for his French restaurant, Cocotte in Old Saybrook. 
The dining room at Cocotte in Old Saybrook
Mid-August specials at Cocotte in Old Saybrook
An opera cake as served at Cocotte in Old Saybrook: layers of coffee-soaked almond sponge cake with a coffee mousseline and chocolate ganache
MON CHÉRI: a praline milk chocolate mousse, paired with a pistachio dacquoise on a chocolate praline disc that sits on a rich brownie cake. Served at Cocotte in Old Saybrook.
A deconstructed lemon tart, served at Cocotte in Old Saybrook. 
Cocotte in Old Saybrook offers a daily menu of gelato flavors. 
A caramel dessert at Cocotte in Old Saybrook: layers of thin vanilla cake with caramel mousse and thinly sliced poached pear.
Chef Jeffrey DeFrancesco, co-owner of Cocotte in Old Saybrook, preparing a dish of raclette.
The exterior of Cocotte in Old Saybrook, which offers outdoor seating.
An American man meets a French woman through their jobs in advertising. They fall in love and marry, experiencing food, travel and culture together, and the French woman moves to America. The American man decides to go to culinary school in his 40s, graduating and later working in New York City and Westchester County for top chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Tom Colicchio.
The couple moves to Connecticut during the pandemic, and decides to open a small French bistro on the shoreline, inspired by her culture and his culinary training. They quickly build a following in Old Saybrook and from surrounding towns, as people turn out for pastries and breads, brunch, lunch and gelato.
Jeffrey and Isabelle DeFrancesco opened Cocotte in the historic James Pharmacy building in June 2021, offering French cuisine and desserts five days a week. They call it a “culinary apothecary,” “a place of creativity that honors local and fresh ingredients with the precision of French cooking.”
“There are a lot of American restaurants, Italian restaurants, Mexican…the idea was to bring something different than what existed,” Isabelle DeFrancesco said.
Their slice of France offers breakfast and lunch options like pain perdu, classic French omelettes, eggs baked en cocotte (miniature Dutch oven-type vessels), salads and tartines. Jeffrey DeFrancesco bakes daily pastries like croissants, muffins and scones, and Cocotte offers European breads for sale, in addition to other sweets and confections crafted by Maarten Steenman of La Tulipe in Mount Kisco, N.Y.
The dining room at Cocotte in Old Saybrook
The food: Isabelle DeFrancesco says she knows some Americans may find French fare intimidating, but that’s exactly what they’re trying to avoid. Cocotte’s dishes respect tradition, technique and the beauty of simple ingredients, the couple said.
Guests enjoy the pain perdu, a French toast-style casserole with bread chunks soaked in custard, blueberries and maple syrup from Lyme’s Fat Stone Farm, and the traditional French omelettes, with Fat Stone eggs and fillings like chives, mushrooms and Gruyere. Eggs are prepared in cocottes with double cream, chives, Lyonnaise potatoes and various additions: chorizo, bacon, caramelized onions.
The DeFrancescos recently added a classic salade Lyonnaise to the menu, with bacon lardons and a six-minute soft boiled egg, and tartines, served open-faced on rustic, thick-cut Pugliese bread, are topped with avocado, smoked trout or salmon, or pork rillettes. Decadent croques, served on thick-cut toasted brioche, feature classic ham-and-cheese combinations with Dijon (with or without fried egg) and two other variations, a “French onion” style and Cajun version with baby shrimp and remoulade.
Housemade mini quiches are popular, Jeffrey DeFrancesco said, in Lorraine or shiitake mushroom varieties, served with a petite house salad. Guests also enjoy the shakshuka, a spicy tomato vegetable stew baked with an egg.
Eat in or take out: Visitors can stop in quickly for sweets and gelato, or sit and stay awhile. The cozy and intimate dining room offers seating for about 24 guests, with tables for another 10 people outdoors. 
Note: Cocotte is closed for vacation Sept. 7 to 20.

323 Main St., Old Saybrook
860-917-1251, @cocottejamespharmacy
Open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; brunch is served 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The restaurant building is not wheelchair accessible, but offers street-level outdoor dining. Employees can assist guests with entry indoors as needed.
Leeanne is the food and consumer reporter for Hearst Connecticut, handling coverage of restaurant openings and closings, trends, events and general news about CT food and beverage businesses.
She’s been working in Connecticut news for more than 15 years, most recently as the food and dining reporter for the Hartford Courant. A native of Worcester, Mass., she holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University.


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