Category Archives: Restaurants

Pearl Of Longshore: The Sequel

A few days ago, “06880” described the lack of activity at Pearl of Longshore — the restaurant that will eventually replace Splash.

Charlie Haberstroh — who, among many volunteer activities, has been asked by 1st Selectman Jim Marpe to serve as liaison between his office and the restaurant and Inn — reports that the new owners of Pearl are going through a long permitting process. The building is old, with many outstanding issues.

Work is being done now on the basement. The hope is to begin above-ground work soon.

Haberstroh assures Westporters that Pearl will open well before next summer. It will be fully operational in time for a much-needed, and hopefully successful, addition to our town’s waterside dining attractions.

The new Pearl of Longshore restaurant -- and a new patio bar? -- will be open next summer.

The new Pearl of Longshore restaurant — and a new patio bar? — will be open next summer.

A Tale Of 2 Restaurants

Westport’s Splash-less summer is nearing an end. The waterside restaurant at Longshore — and its very popular patio bar — closed last winter.

A new tenant — Pearl of Longshore — is leasing space from the town. But renovations are going slowly.

Very slowly.

As in, making the North Avenue/Merritt Parkway bridge project look like warp speed.

The steps to Splash, and the Inn at Longshore.

The steps to Splash.

Today, for example, no one was working.

The target date of December probably won’t be met.

And if the current pace proceeds, we may be looking at a 2nd Splash-less summer next year.

The scene today inside Splash...

The scene today inside Splash, after the entire summer…

...and outdoors.

…and outdoors.

Meanwhile, a full crew has been hard at work in Saugatuck.

They’re transforming the venerable Mansion Clam House into a very good looking Parker Steak House.

A new look for an old building.

A new look for an old building.

Sheetrocking is set for this week. They seem confident they’ll be done in 2 months.

A full crew working at Parker Steak House.

A full crew working at Parker Steak House.

The new interior features a handsome cathedral ceiling.

The new interior features a handsome cathedral ceiling.

When the workers are done at Parker Steak House, perhaps they can head over the river. A new job is waiting.

Smokin’ The Westport Blues

As a new member of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association 8 years ago, Bob LeRose wanted to make an impact on the area.

LeRose — the “Bobby” of Bobby Q’s restaurant — zeroed in on his 2 passions: barbecue and music.

The result — organized in conjunction with the DMA, 2nd selectman Shelly Kassen, the Westport Library and Levitt Pavilion — was the 1st-ever Blues, Views & BBQ Festival.

The name might be a bit clunky — what’s up with “views”? — but it quickly became a fixture of the downtown late-summer scene. Its attraction spread far beyond Westport — kind of like Festival Italiano — but like that Saugatuck celebration of yore, it’s still ours.

Westport's Emergency Medical Services staff participated in last yeear's hotly contested barbecue competition.

Westport’s Emergency Medical Services staff participated in last year’s hotly contested barbecue competition.

The 8th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival is set for Labor Day weekend (September 5 and 6) at the Levitt Pavilion and library and Imperial Avenue parking lots.

Once again, there’s kick-ass music (including Westport’s own Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Mark Naftalin); cooking demonstrations by top local chefs (including Da Pietro’s, Vespa and of course Bobby Q’s); rib- and pie-eating contests; bull riding; a drum circle; kids’ activities (from bounce houses to face painting), and the very popular Kansas City Barbeque Society competition.

The Levitt Pavilion is the perfect spot to hear great, get-up-and-move blues. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The Levitt Pavilion is the perfect spot to hear great, get-up-and-move blues. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

A specialty food court is filled with wood-fired, grilled and roasted meats, and handcrafted beer.

New this year: a “People’s Choice Wing Contest.” Whole Foods is donating the goods.

I’ve heard a few snarky comments about the price (tickets range from $30 for Sunday bought in advance, to $85 for a two-day pass bought onsite). Children under 12 are free with a paying adult.

But the event sells out. And plenty of out-of-towners seem thrilled to be there.

This couple was VERY happy to be at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

This couple was VERY happy to be at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

More importantly, it’s a way for the DMA to continue their great job of keeping downtown attractive and lively; promoting commerce, culture and community, and bringing something unique and fun to the area.

The DMA uses its funds to improve downtown. They also support other organizations like the Westport Woman’s Club, Rotary, Levitt, Library and First Night.

The Blues, Views & BBQ Festival does not fall out of the sky. It costs money to produce. There are bands and police to hire, port-a-potties and fencing to pay for, signs and programs to produce, tents to erect, and clean-up to be done.

Oh, yeah: rental for the Levitt too. (Plus sound guys, lighting guys, and ribs for the bands.)

Vegans are welcome at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival. But meat-lovers will have an especially great time.

Vegans are welcome at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival. But meat-lovers will have an especially great time.

It’s all worth it. As Bobby LeRose says, “Thousands of people support this event each year. We get support from everyone. We see smiles all around. People are so happy with the music, food, activities and sense of community.

“You just don’t see this caliber of talent on one stage for the price we charge this close to home, in our beautiful and intimate Levitt Pavilion.”

Westport was recently named one of Connecticut’s 10 Most Boring Towns. Any of the thousands of happy folks who ever heard 2 days of fantastic music, scarfed down ribs, ridden a bull or done anything else fun at the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival would beg to differ.

(The 8th annual Blues, Views & BBQ Festival is set for Saturday, September 5 [11 a.m.-10 p.m.] and Sunday, September 6 [11 a.m.-9 p.m.] For ticket options, daily schedule, and entry forms for the eating and BBQ competitions, click on www.bluesviewsbbq.com.) 

BBQ_FEST_Logo

Aaron Donovan’s Aquatic Adventure: Part 2

Yesterday, “06880” reported on the 1st day and night of Aaron and Susan Donovan’s journey by 18-foot kayak/pedal boat/sailboat, from Westport to New York City. In real life, Aaron — a 1994 Staples High School grad — serves as media liaison for the MTA.

Here is Part 2 of his story:

Aaron and Susan were in luck. On day 2 — and for the next 2 days– the prevailing westerly wind shifted out of the east. There was no need to lengthen the trip by tacking. Winds were a perfect 10-15 knots.

Off Darien, they encountered a sailing school. Aaron remembered his own summers at Pequot Yacht Club. It was “one of the greatest, most fun and educational things I did as a kid.”

They had 3 islands to choose from off Greenwich. They threaded the boat between Island Beach and Great Captain Island, landing briefly on Calf Island. It’s a publicly accessible bird sanctuary, but overnight permits are available only in advance, after submitting a “wildlife studies curriculum,” along with proof of knowledge of how to perform CPR (!).

Aaron and Susan had not done that. They considered pitching their tent on the boat — after all, that is not camping on the island.

But they pushed on, and pedaled through breakwaters and up the Byram River. They landed at the dock behind Bartaco in Port Chester.

Pitching a tent behind Bartaco in Port Chester.

Pitching a tent behind Bartaco in Port Chester.

The staff was very helpful. Aaron and Susan’s 2 main concerns were food, and recharging their phones, computers and homemade GPS.

Aaron learned that his boat was actually parked in the last slip owned by Ebb Tide Marina. He offered a damp $50 bill, and they had a spot for the night.

Aaron and Susan wandered around downtown Port Chester and its waterfront park, had an excellent dinner, then pitched their tent on the boat.

Sleeping behind a bar was surprisingly quiet. Until 2 a.m., that is, when a crew of loud, laughing people returned to a power boat docked next door. A woman fell into the water. Her friends fished her out, and they left. “Thankfully, they did not hit us,” Aaron says.

Day 3 was the smoothest yet. Aaron and Susan evaded some treacherous rocks off Manursing Island, then made a beeline for Execution Rocks Lighthouse.

Surprisingly, they saw the towers of the Throgs Neck and Whitestone Bridges before spotting the lighthouse.

Execution Rocks Lighthouse, as seen from Aaron and Susan Donovan's boat.

Execution Rocks Lighthouse, as seen from Aaron and Susan Donovan’s boat.

When they got there, hosts Craig Morrison and Linell Lukesh — representatives of a nonprofit that bought the island and lighthouse for $1 — were sitting in lounge chairs in their yard (actually, a grassless, concrete and rocky slope).

Docking was tough. Except for a metal ladder going straight to the sea floor, the entire island is surrounded by riprap — large granite boulders that serve as a breakwater to prevent erosion.

Craig pointed to a newly installed open mooring. It took a bit of maneuvering and hard work, but finally they landed.

The lighthouse was the highlight of Aaron’s trip. From the top, they could see Port Jefferson, Stamford, New Rochelle and Manhattan. There were 2 regattas underway, and plenty of fishermen in shallow-draft motorboats.

The Manhattan skyline, as seen from the top of the lighthouse.

The Manhattan skyline, as seen from the top of the lighthouse.

Craig and Linell barbecued, then Aaron and Susan retired to their room.

The lighthouse has 2 guest rooms, each with 2 cots. The charge is $300 per room — tax-deductible, as a donation to the lighthouse preservation fund. But they’re open on Saturday nights only.

If you want to get there without kayaking/pedaling/sailing from Westport, take the Port Washington Water Taxi. It’s a 15-minute ride to the island.

(Tomorrow: Days 4-5)

Susan and Aaron Donovan, standing at the top of Execution Rocks Lighthouse.

Susan and Aaron Donovan, standing at the top of Execution Rocks Lighthouse.

They’re Closing The Nail Salons. Guess What’s Next To Pop Up Everywhere.

Donald Trump may not like it.

But the Mexicans are coming. Or at least, their restaurants are.

We’ve already got Viva Zapata, Villa del Sol, Border Grill, Bartaco, Cuatro Hermanos, Qdoba, Chipotle and Señor Salsa.

Opening soon:

Rio Bravo

Rio Bravo (“tacos and tequila”) is located near Pier 1 Imports — right next to the old V restaurant. Which is near Bravo Pizzeria and Wine Bar.

I assumed the popular Italian eatery was branching out into Mexican. Just to be sure, I called Bravo.

¡No!

“It’s a very strange coincidence,” said a Bravo (Italia) spokesperson.

Meanwhile, the Saugatuck rumor mill has yet another Mexican restaurant headed to the former post office, near the westbound train tracks.

Hey: If The Donald decides to campaign here, at least we’ll know where not to take him for dinner.

Billy Shot Me — And Your Business?

There it is. After googling a business, you find — along with links and directions — a tab inviting you to “See Inside.” One click brings up handsome, wide-angle exterior and interior views of the store or office that you can pan, rotate and zoom in on — just like Google Earth.

You might think — if you think about it at all — that the owner did a nice job hiring a good photographer who can stitch photos into 360-degree views, then had his webmaster post them nicely.

You’d be wrong. As with all things Google, a very regimented, standardized tool runs the program they very boringly call “Google Business Photos.”

A screenshot of part of The Spotted Horse's virtual tour. Clicking on one of the circular arrows on the bottom images brings up the panoramic view.

A screenshot of part of The Spotted Horse’s virtual tour. Clicking a circular arrow on the bottom images brings up the panoramic view. (Click or hover over to enlarge.)

To get those images posted with a “See Inside” link — available through generic search, Business Pages and clicking on a Google Maps icon — a business owner must use a Google photographer.

The photographer’s training process takes 6 months. The certification process is very rigorous. Mistakes made at the pixel level must be fixed.

Just half a dozen Connecticut photographers have gone through the long process. Westport’s Billy Scalzi is one of them.

A 40-year area resident, he was an institutional bond broker who owned 2 companies. He left Wall Street in 1996, to become a real estate speculator. Photography is Scalzi’s 3rd career.

Billy Shot MeHis company is called Billy Shot Me. Using a DSLR camera — and the same technology as Google Street View — he takes Google Business Photos all over the state. Locally, he’s shot The Spotted Horse, Mumbai Times, Picture This and Volvo of Westport. (He’s also done all the rest stops on I-95 and the Merritt Parkway. The owner is very proud that they’ve all been renovated.)

Outside of Westport, Scalzi has shot doctors’ and dentists’ offices — even a psychiatrist’s. (“He wanted that little balloon man in Google Maps,” Scalzi says.)

Scalzi’s fee begins at $350. But that’s the only charge. Google offers its service for free. And because business owners can embed the photos on their own website and in social media, they’re available to users who find them even through search engines like Bing or Yahoo.

On his own — and gratis — Scalzi is shooting and creating virtual tours of Compo Beach, Longshore and Grace Salmon Park. He wants those to be available to anyone who clicks their links on Google Maps.

Taking a virtual tour before you go — to a restaurant, car dealer or psychiatrist’s office — appeals to some people.

To some business owners too — though not all. “It’s simple marketing,” Scalzi says. “I’m amazed that half of all businesses in the U.S. don’t even have websites.”

Billy Scalzi's 360-degree view of Picture This gives potential customers a great idea of what they'll find.

Billy Scalzi’s 360-degree view of Picture This gives potential customers a great idea of what they’ll find.

 

Benvenuto, Positano!

When Positano closed on December 31 — the victim of rising rents and tough parking — Westport lost one of its last waterfront restaurants.

We’re left now with only Rive Bistro. (And Joey’s by the Shore — the best beach concession anywhere.)

But the restaurant gods giveth, as well as taketh.

Positano is adjacent to the Westport Country Playhouse.

Positano is adjacent to the Westport Country Playhouse.

Positano opened last night in its new digs, next to the Westport Country Playhouse. So — after 18 dark months — theater-goers now have a great, convenient spot for a pre-show meal or post-show drink.

And the rest of us have another excellent restaurant to savor.

The cast is the same. Joseph Scarpati still owns Positano. He still cooks alongside his son Fernando, a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef. His daughter Aida remains involved too.

The new Positano is bigger than the former spot on Old Mill Beach. There’s a full sit-down bar, which it lacked before. There’s room in the back for private parties. And a patio in front. (Despite being on the beach, zoning issues inhibited outdoor dining at the old place.)

Without any fanfare, Positano opened last night. These women were the first customers for today's lunch.

Without any fanfare, Positano opened last night. These women were the first customers for today’s lunch.

The focus is still on authentic regional Italian cuisine. But the prices are lower than before.

The previous restaurant — The Dressing Room — was Paul Newman and Michel Nischan’s showpiece. The Scarpatis have honored their sustainable vision.

EcoChi, the designers, have reused the original Alabama barn wood found by Newman. Lighting fixtures, dining chairs, even table settings — all are designed with environmental integrity in mind.

Positano serves lunch from 11 a.m., and dinner from 4 p.m., 7 days a week. It’s worth checking out– even if you have to drive from Old Mill Beach.

This arresting artwork hangs on the Positano wall. The lemons represent the prized Amalfi Sfususato lemon, so sweet it's meant to be eaten raw. The Italian village of Positano is on the Amalfi Coast.

This arresting artwork hangs on the Positano wall. The lemons represent the prized Amalfi Sfususato lemon, so sweet they can be eaten raw. The Italian village of Positano is on the Amalfi Coast.

Red Barn Renovations?

The Red Barn closed earlier this month. A liquidation sale followed quickly.

Today, this was the scene at the longtime restaurant:

Red Barn

Things seem to be happening quickly on Wilton Road.

Checking Out The Mansion

In the heart of Saugatuck, it’s hard to miss: Every day, the former Mansion Clam House moves closer to its new incarnation as Parker Steak House.

The substantial portion of townsfolk who don’t like restaurant changes wonder what’s ahead. Owner Chris Costa — a longtime Westporter who bought the property from his uncle’s estate — sends this reassuring message to all:

I’m glad that my family contributed to Westport’s individual character for many years with the Mansion. It’s my intent that the building and grounds retain some of the salty dog touches that I too enjoy.

I intend to replace the fisherman on the roof. We are searching for a new mannequin now, and some foul weather gear. The old one was beyond repair for safe installation.

The quirky Mansion Clam House fisherman will be back -- in some form -- at the Parker Steak House.

The quirky Mansion Clam House fisherman will be back — in some form — at the Parker Steak House.

We will do parking lot and dock work too, once the structure is complete.

My passion for the individual character and spirit that has endeared Westport to me is alive and well. I too sometimes lament the homogenization of the beige stone and shingle world the town seems to have become.

We need individuality and diversification. The cookie-cutter thing doesn’t work for me.

I need to respect and balance the tenant’s design and wishes, and collaborate with things that can work to add all the character people fondly remember.

Work proceeded last month on the former Mansion Clam House. (Photo/Bob Mitchell)

Work proceeded last month on the former Mansion Clam House. (Photo/Bob Mitchell)

Not the least of that will be some very good food. To be clear: It will not solely be a steak house! While that is a focus, seafood of course will be well represented.

The operator is a great guy, very open to listening to customers to get them great food at fair prices and a welcoming atmosphere. He’s in this for the long haul.

I am too. This is not a trendy one-hit-and-done, in-and-out.

Time will tell. At the end of the day, the people are the voters.

We set the stage. They come. Everyone learns. Evolutions occur. And a good balance is achieved!

(Hey, “06880” readers! If you know where Chris Costa can find a good fisherman mannequin, click “Comments” below.)

 

You Can Get Anything You Want…

…at the Red Barn restaurant.

Excepting kitchen equipment.

An alert “06880” reader snapped this photo early today, as 40 or so people waited for the start of a much-lamented “estate liquidation sale.”

Red Barn - waiting

They were lured by the chance to pick up a souvenir — or something practical — from the restaurant that for generations lured Westporters and Merritt Parkway motorists.

Lookingi for anything at the Red Barn.

Looking for anything at the Red Barn.

Kitchen equipment was not — as had been promised — up for sale. But nearly everything else was.

Including this:

Red Barn - rooster

The sale continues tomorrow (Saturday, July 18, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.)

No word on whether this guy is still up for grabs.