Author Archives: Dan Woog

Mario’s Adds Something New To Menu

Much about Mario’s is timeless. For 47 years it’s served the same great steaks and prime ribs, in the same place, to — in many cases — the same customers.

But on Sunday, September 14, something changes. For the 1st time in nearly half a century, Mario’s will serve brunch.

Sunday morning will soon be hopping at Mario's.

Sunday morning will soon be hopping at Mario’s.

For years, owner Lori Kosut says, customers have asked for the meal. She herself loves it. But, she says, “it just wasn’t something my father wanted to do.”

Lori’s father was Frank “Tiger” DeMace. A Westport legend, he opened Mario’s in 1967. And he owned and operated it until the day he died, in 2012.

“I am very proud of what my father built,” Laurie says. “I am proud that 3 generations of my family work here. Mario’s has always been a family restaurant.

“But as a mother, I don’t want to be home making breakfast for my family on a Sunday. That’s one of the changes I’m most excited about. I’ll be here for brunch just as often as my customers.”

Marios logoAs noted though, some things about Mario’s never change. To honor her family, her restaurant and her Saugatuck location’s heritage, the brunch menu will include Italian specialties.

Italian “French” toast, prosciutto di Parma omelets, eggs Benedict and Italian pastries lead the offerings. Non-Italian items include steak and eggs, bottomless mimosas and bloody Mary’s — all for $19.95.

“My father always insisted on keeping Mario’s affordable for families,” Laurie notes. “That will not change. Sundays are a day for family — whether it be a family of friends, or a family with children.”

That’s our Mario’s!

After-School Bus Route Funding Extended Through December 31

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is extending funding for the Westport Transit District’s after-school bus route through the end of 2014.

That’s good news for parents who have scrambled to provide transportation for youngsters headed to programs at Earthplace, Temple Israel and other spots around town.

State Representative Steinberg commended the FTA for its “flexibility and commitment to fairness. The town of Westport followed the process which FTA laid out and the arguments for an extension were well-received.”

Involved with Steinberg in the bipartisan effort to secure the funding extension were Westport 1st selectman Jim Marpe, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and Congressman Jim Himes.

Now, Steinberg says, Westport must turn its attention to longer-range transportation options.

FTA logo

 

Y Cuts The Ribbon; Long Journey Is Almost Complete

video tribute featuring Allen Raymond was the emotional highlight of yesterday evening’s Westport Y ribbon-cutting ceremony. But there were many other memorable moments too, at the new Mahackeno facility.

The spacious new parking lot was filled. Y members, staffers, volunteers and friends gathered to celebrate the move from the 90-year-old downtown facility, to the one off Wilton Road.

Longtime benefactors were honored at a pre-dedication reception inside. The Gault, Mitchell and Tauck families headed the list.

Robin Tauck enjoys one of the Y's new group fitness studios.

Robin Tauck enjoys one of the Y’s new group fitness studios.

Then the group assembled outside the west-facing front entrance. Replicating the work of his predecessor 91 years ago, Reverend Jeffrey Rider of Greens Farms Congregational Church delivered a prayer that invoked the first chapter of the Bible: Rather than dwell alone, mankind should be part of a community.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe continued the theme. He said the Y makes the community more whole, more healthful and more connected.

State Senator John McKinney — a Bedford descendant — described his family’s 5-generation support of the Y.

Board president Bonnie Strittmatter and trustees chairman Pete Wolgast thanked many people. So did Y CEO Rob Reeves, with a special shout-out to principal designer Kevin Smith.

Y CEO Rob Reeves, and  the crowd in the big new parking lot.

Y CEO Rob Reeves, and the crowd outside the new building.

After the ribbon was cut, 250 people poured into the new Y. The adults ate, talked and toured, while the kids romped in the new gym.

It was a great start. But it’s premature. Until final inspections are done and permits are issued — hopefully within a few days — the downtown Y will linger on.

Enjoying the evening (from left): Ruth Sherman, who has taught aqua fitness at the Y since the 1960s; former CEO Helene Weir, who came from Canada, and Patty Kondub, a popular Y spin and aqua teacher. (Photos/Scott Smith)

Enjoying the evening (from left): Ruth Sherman, who has taught aqua fitness at the Y since the 1960s; former CEO Helene Weir, and Patty Kondub, a popular Y spin and aqua teacher. (Photos/Scott Smith)

 

 

Blues, Views & BBQ Rocks Downtown

The 7th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival rocks Westport this weekend. Get ready for a kick-ass lineup of blues, rock, brass and funk music — plus fantastic food, and tons o’ stuff for the kids.

The Spin Doctors and Rick Derringer headline the stage acts. How did they — and many other Big Names — come to town? Westporter Crispin Cioe played a huge role.

Crispin Cioe gets ready to wail.

Crispin Cioe gets ready to wail.

Soon after he and his family moved here 13 years ago, Crispin met Bob Le Rose, The owner of Bobby Q’s and leader in the Downtown Merchants Association, Bob wanted to start a blues festival. Crispin — a longtime musician/ bandleader/ producer/songwriter — knew plenty of bands and agents.

Each year, the pair spends months discussing possible musical acts. They probably eat very well too.

When they hit on the idea of having the Spin Doctors star in Saturday’s show, Bob worried that the festival might stray too far from its blues-based foundation.

Crispin performed and hung out with the band in the 1990s. He knew they were “rootsy/funky/bluesy” — especially live — and that they’d gotten their start at the Wetlands club in Manhattan (a spawning ground for the jam band scene).

Listening to the band’s recent recorded work, they saw movement toward exactly the kind of music featured at Blues, Views & BBQ.

Spin Doctors will headline this year's Blues, Views & BBQ Festival.

Spin Doctors will headline this year’s Blues, Views & BBQ Festival.

Likewise, several years ago Crispin and Bob were searching for a way to feature well-known musicians who grew up here, and still live in the area. “Guitar god” Charlie Karp — a Westport native who played with Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles — helped assemble the Westport Heritage Blues Band, a special treat.

This year’s treats include Raw Oyster Cult, a New Orleans supergroup; the high-voltage, horn-drenched street band Big Sam’s Funky Nation; perennial favorite and guitar star Anders Osborne; blues slide guitarist Ms. Rory Block, and the formidable Popa Chubby.

Big Sam's Funky Nation will also perform at the Blues, Views & BBQ Fest. (Photo/Adam McCullough)

Big Sam’s Funky Nation will also perform at the Blues, Views & BBQ Fest. (Photo/Adam McCullough)

Crispin will play tenor sax with his old pal Bill Kirchen, guitarist and principal songwriter for Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen. The friends go back to the University of Michigan, where Commander Cody was formed.

Lately, Crispin has been working with legendary local band Cracked Ice, vocal great Darlene Love and producer Steven Van Zandt. But on Sunday (August 31) he’ll be at Blues, Views & BBQ, playing alto sax with Rick Derringer on the classic instrumental “Frankenstein.”

If you like great music, excellent barbecue and plenty of fun in your own hometown, you’ll be there too.

(For advance tickets and more information on the festival — which takes place at the Levitt Pavilion and the grounds of the Westport Library — click on http://www.bluesviewsbbq.com or call 203-505-8716. Gates open at 11 a.m. Music starts at noon, and goes straight through to 9:30 p.m.)

Allen Raymond Helps Dedicate New Y

Allen Raymond did many remarkable things in his 91 years of life on earth. The lifelong Westporter was a philanthropist, tireless volunteer, devoted church member, political leader, and adviser to selectmen. He was also one of the Westport Family Y‘s longest-serving, proudest board members, and a major contributor to the new Mahackeno facility.

He died on May 1 — less than 4 months before tonight’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. But Allen was not only at Mahackeno in spirit — he was really, truly there.

Y officials showed a video of their beloved benefactor. Filmed at Allen’s home in February — when he knew his life was ebbing away — it shows him at his best. He’s smiling warmly, joking gently, speaking lovingly and gracefully.

The new Mahackeno Y will hopefully thrive as long as its downtown predecessor did: 90 years. Yet in the next 9 decades, it’s hard to imagine any moment that can top tonight’s amazing appearance — one last time — by Allen Raymond.

(Click here if your browser does not take you directly to YouTube. Filmed, edited and produced by Brian Russell of Red Shoe Film. Aerial footage by Rick Eason.)

This Summer Did Not Bite

Alert “06880” reader Dick Lowenstein wonders:

Where have all the insects gone? Am I alone in thinking that there are few bugs flying around?

This year and last, the stinging insects seem to have disappeared — fewer hornets, wasps, yellow jackets  and bees. Also fewer mosquitoes (maybe because of less rain).

Dick says a friend noticed fewer butterflies too.

Did you notice the lack of bugs and stinging insects? Or was this summer’s weather just so fantastic, we didn’t care?

Click “Comments” below to share your entomological thoughts.

Bugs

Sand And Silt In The Saugatuck River: The Sequel

A recent “06880” post on the Saugatuck River sand and silt buildup drew many comments. Longtime Westporter Dick Fincher reached deep in his memory bank, and added these thoughts:

The river channel, from the bay to the Post Road bridge, was last dredged by the Corps of Engineers in 1969. That is a firm date, because we had just moved here. We were living in a rented house at 165 Riverside Avenue, right on the river.

In theory the Corps is supposed to keep the channel dredged on a regular basis. But in fact it has not, since the river is not considered an essential waterway for commerce and/or extensive pleasure boat traffic.

I believe the Saugatuck dredging had 2 forks, about 300 yards south of the Post Road bridge. One went straight up the channel. The other bore over to the quay more or less in front of the library, then alongside it to the bridge.

This no doubt was because in the old, old days the commercial channel actually went right up to the backs of the buildings on the east side of Parker Harding, before it became a parking lot.

Until the mid-1950s, the Saugatuck River lapped up against the back of Main Street stores. Construction of the Parker Harding parking lot changed the river's currents substantially.

Until the mid-1950s, the Saugatuck River lapped up against the back of Main Street stores. Construction of the Parker Harding parking lot changed the river’s currents substantially.

Despite not being dredged, for many years — probably into the early 1990s or thereabouts – the lower portion had a good channel (almost to the Bridge Street bridge) because Gault got regular barge deliveries to their dock. Barges with 8-foot draft scraped the channel clean every time they came in or went out.

I would venture that the shallowness your contributor saw in the upper river (unless he just happened to see it at extremely low tide) is exacerbated by the fact that the lower river is also silting. There are spots even in the lower channel that at low tide are barely passable in the middle of the channel, right by Stony Point.

I know the folks at Earthplace take regular readings on the river’s health. Perhaps they can shed some light on this.

Dick’s insights reminded me of a romanticized version of the Saugatuck River’s traffic. A number of years ago, when commercial brokers were trying to market the gruesome glass building on Gorham Island, they ran a big ad in the real estate section of the Sunday New York Times. It featured a drawing of the building — and right next to it, way upriver of the Post Road bridge, was an enormous schooner. As if.

(Photo/Scott Smith)

The Saugatuck River at low tide. (Photo/Scott Smith)

We’re #12! But We Are Definitely Not Little Rock.

Westport — well, “Fairfield County, Conn.” (okay, actually the Bridgeport-Fairfield-Norwalk corridor) — is #12 on Forbes’ list of “America’s Best Cities for Young Professionals.”

Forbes cited these statistics:

Population: 939,904
Median Salary: $63,600
Unemployment rate: 6.2%
Population with bachelor’s degree: 44.6%
Cost of living index: 136.9
Avg. Yearly Job Growth (2014-2016): 2.0%
Companies with 500+ employees: 1 for every 910 people
Companies with <500 employees: 1 for every 42.36 people

All well and good. Except for the photo that illustrates “Fairfield County”:

Little Rock

That is not Norwalk. It’s not Stamford. And it’s definitely not Bridgeport.

It’s Little Rock, Arkansas.

PS: The odds you’ll get the top 3 are infinitesimal. They are, in order:

  1. Des Moines
  2. Raleigh
  3. Omaha
(Hat tip to Peter Propp) 

Greens Farms School, Back In The Day

This morning’s post about Westport’s constantly changing school landscape inspired alert reader Seth Schachter to go his archives.

He’s lived here only 4 years, but he’s got a great sense of history. Seth writes:

This post card is from the early 1900’s. From what I was told, the school was in the same location as today’s Greens Farms Elementary School. It is my guess and understanding that the oldest section of today’s GFS (referred to on the inside as “the fountain area”) is probably this post card image.

Early Greens Farms School

Is this in fact the current site of Greens Farms Elementary School? If readers have any information on this original building, please click “Comments” below.

Noah Hawley Earns Emmy For “Fargo”

Noah Hawley — the Staples High School 1985 graduate (and former Staples Players member) who serves as writer, executive producer and show runner for “Fargo” — stood proudly last night on the Emmy stage. With cast and crew arrayed behind him, he accepted TV’s top award for the Top Miniseries.

He cited Joel and Ethan Coen, directors of the 1996 dark comedy film that sparked the FX show. Hawley said, “They let me pretend, if only for 5 minutes, that I was one of the greatest filmmakers alive, and I thank them for that.”

Beyond “Fargo,” Hawley is a film and TV producer, screenwriter, composer and author. He wrote and produced “Bones,” created “The Unusuals” and “My Generation,” and is the author of 4 novels.

(Click on this interesting pre-Emmy interview with the Los Angeles Times.)