Category Archives: Restaurants

Let There Be Lights!

Tonight — without fanfare — the new downtown street lights were turned on.

Just as importantly, the old cobra-style highway lights were shut off.

The new lamps — lower, warmer, nicer — are far kinder to Main Street. They also complement the lighting displays in many nearby stores.

The west side of Main Street...

A soft glow on the west side of Main Street…

...and the east. Note the new, user-friendly pedestrian crossing in front of Banana Republic too.

…and the east. Note the new, user-friendly pedestrian crossing in front of Banana Republic too.

Soon, the holiday decorations will be up. They will be far lovelier than last year’s sad zip-line effort.

Now all that’s left is for Eversource to remove the old lights. Let’s hope they move more quickly than the contractors on the Merritt Parkway North Avenue bridge.

Meanwhile, further north, a lone snowflake glistens near Oscar's...

Meanwhile, further north, a lone snowflake glistens near a new light by Oscar’s…

...while Tavern on Main boasts its traditional lamp, and a gorgeous wreath.

…while Tavern on Main boasts its traditional lamp, and a gorgeous wreath.

You Want Pizza With Those Pants?

Bedford Square is remaking downtown Westport.

And Urban Outfitters — across the street on Church Lane — is remaking itself.

The hipster-ish retailer — whose shares have plunged more than 50% since March — has just bought a restaurant group. Vetri Family is best known for Pizzeria Vetri. Food and Wine Magazine recently called it the best pizza place in the country.

The Vetri group plans to integrate restaurants and/or coffee shops in at least 3 Urban Outfitters locations: Herald Square; Austin, Texas — and Westport.

“Spending on casual dining is expanding rapidly, and thus, we believe there is tremendous opportunity to expand the Pizzeria Vetri concept,” says Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne.

Investors were not impressed. Urban Outfitters shares dropped another 7.5% yesterday.

Coming soon: a new eatery inside?

Coming soon: a new eatery inside?

This Takes The (Coffee) Cake

The Starbucks near the diner is notorious for its entitled drivers. Just when you think they could not find another it’s-all-about-me way to park, they stun us with something new.

Now it’s contagious.

Alert “06880” reader Bart Shuldman spotted this sight earlier today, at the downtown Starbucks:

Starbucks downtown parking

Parker Harding Plaza is a very busy place. But this driver could not wait, like a normal human being, to find a parking spot. (Perhaps it was the lure of those special red Christmas cups.)

He or she stopped the car, put on flashers, and went inside to join the long line.

Leaving 2 children sitting in the back.

Compo Acres Shopping Center Just Got A Bit More Crowded

Jersey Mike’s Subs opened today, in the Compo Acres space previously occupied by Robek’s.

The “fast-casual sub sandwich” spot — the 10th Connecticut location for the franchise, and one of 1500 overall — joins Trader Joe’s, Chipotle and SoulCycle in contributing plenty of constant, in-and-out traffic to Westport’s toughest-to-navigate shopping center.

That traffic will be particularly intense for a while. In addition to the usual let’s-try-the-new-place mentality, there’s an added incentive: Through Sunday, Jersey Mike’s is offering free subs for a minimum $1 contribution to Special Olympics.

The only catch: You’ve got to already have one of the 10,000 certificates “circulating throughout the community.”

Jersey Mike's was packed at 1:30 p.m. today.

Jersey Mike’s was packed at 1:30 p.m. today.

UPDATE: Y Purchases Red Barn

Confirming a rumor that has circulated for months, the Westport Weston Family Y announced this morning that they have purchased the Red Barn property.

Update: “06880” reported this morning that earlier this year, the Y denied buying the property. CEO Pat Riemersma says that “whenever talking about the Red Barn, we have indicated no comment because of a confidentiality agreement in the purchase agreement.”

Early this afternoon, she said that the sale became official late Friday afternoon. She added that the purchase agreement pre-dated her arrival as CEO. She assumed that role on June 8.

The landmark Wilton Road site abuts the Y’s new Mahackeno campus.

The 3.2 acre parcel purchased by the Y includes the restaurant building and a separate house. It was owned by members of the Nistico family, who operated the Red Barn Restaurant from 1983 until July 2015.

Lining up for a sale of Red Barn items and artifacts, last June.

Lining up for a sale of Red Barn items and artifacts, last June.

“This is a unique opportunity for our YMCA — a long-term investment that allows us to preserve neighborhood values and, ultimately, utilize the property for the benefit of our members and the community we have served since 1923,” said Y CEO Pat Riemersma.

The Y’s announcement added:

The volunteer leaders who govern the Family YMCA, a charitable nonprofit organization, are in the process of developing a plan that will provide guidance as to the future use of the property. The Y has established a Limited Liability Company, known as 290 Wilton Road LLC, as part of the transaction.

Unsubstantiated rumors over the past many months have offered many potential reasons for the Y’s purchase of the property, including additional parking, use for its preschool, and to tie its septic system in with the Red Barn sewer line.

YMCA logo

Kevin O’Brien Returns To Westport Pizzeria

As promised this morning, Kevin O’Brien — the once-homeless Westport teenager who turned his life around — came back to town today.

One of his dreams was to visit Westport Pizzeria. As noted in an “06880” post earlier this month, Kevin once subsisted on 25-cent slices, not far from “Needle Park” where he spent his nights.

A couple of years ago the pizzeria moved around the corner, from Main Street to the Post Road. But the slices taste the same. And this afternoon, owner Mel Mioli was there to greet Kevin.

Kevin O'Brien (left) and Westport Pizzeria owner Mel Mioli. (Photo/Jack Whittle)

Kevin O’Brien (left) and Westport Pizzeria owner Mel Mioli. (Photo/Jack Whittle)

Kevin is no longer homeless. He’ll spend tonight at the home of an “06880” reader, who reached out to him after reading his story.

Westport has changed a great deal since 1970, when Kevin was a kid.

Some of those changes are great. Others — not so much.

But we’re still a place that draws folks back. And once they’re here, it’s nice to know we still draw them close in.

Kevin O’Brien Is Back In Westport Today

Earlier this month, I posted a story about Kevin O’Brien. He’s the former Westporter who — at 17 years old, in 1970 — spent many homeless nights in what was then called Needle Park.

He’s gone on to lead a very successful life. But he retains fond memories of those tough teenage years. At the end of the piece, he noted that he’d be driving through New England soon, and hoped to stop in Westport.

Last night, he wrote:

I’ll be in Westport on Saturday, October 17th [today] around 4 p.m. I plan to have a slice of pizza for old time’s sake at the Westport Pizzeria, and maybe a drink at the old post office [now Post 154]. If you see a red Can Am Spyder, that’s me. Sunday I’m off to visit the 9/11 memorial in NYC, and points south. :-)

Kevin would love to see as many old friends — and current Westporters — as possible. If you meet him, please give him a hearty “06880” hello!

Kevin O'Brien celebrating Christmas in Westport, 1970.

Kevin O’Brien celebrating Christmas in Westport, 1970.

Kevin O'Brien, in the Navy.

Kevin O’Brien years later, in the Navy.

Adieu, Le Farm

Six years ago, Bill Taibe opened Le Farm.

Encouraged by the success of Michel Nischan and The Dressing Room, the noted chef saw in the narrow Colonial Green space a chance to open his own seasonal, locally sourced restaurant in a town he felt would support the concept.

Westport did. From the time it opened, Le Farm was busy and vibrant.

Bill Taibe

Bill Taibe

But after a few years, Taibe was no longer its working chef. He opened The Whelk, featuring sustainable seafood and local produce in the newly developed Saugatuck Center.

An immediate success, that spawned Taibe’s 3rd restaurant: Kawa Ni, a creative Japanese-fusion place around the corner, in Bridge Square.

Now Taibe is back to only 2 Westport restaurants. Despite its success, he closed Le Farm. He felt he’d reached his goals there, and now wants to serve more people than he could in just an 850-square-foot space. He has embraced the title of “restaurateur.”

“I’m 40 years old,” he says. “I started working in a butcher shop at 16, and in restaurants at 20. I find great joy in finding great chefs. These days, I’m more of a ‘creative director.’ Le Farm no longer fit in that plan.”

Le Farm, in Colonial Green.

Le Farm, in Colonial Green.

He did not just dump the spot, though. He sold it to Brian Lewis, an excellent chef at Elm in New Canaan, who had been looking for his own restaurant.

“He’s super-talented, and sources his food well,” Taibe says. Lewis will open a new restaurant there in mid- to late-November.

It will be “a cool, casual incarnation” of the space, Taibe adds. “He may add more of a bar.”

It won’t be called Le Farm., though. Taibe retains rights to that name.

“There were lots of tears when I told the staff and customers,” Taibe says of the closing. “It’s a special place, and it’s important to a lot of people.”

Meanwhile, he’s on a hunt for his next — and bigger — Westport property.

After Restaurant Week, Time To Get Fit

Restaurant Week — the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce’s promotion of all things culinary — ends Sunday.

If you think the Chamber will celebrate the successful event with a cocktail or two, think again.

The next day — Monday, October 19 — they’ll sponsor Fitness Week.

It’s “an opportunity to learn about and set new health and wellness goals, and for participating businesses to help you achieve them.”

Aka, “work those pounds off, gluttons.”

Companies will offer free and discounted classes and memberships. There are seminars and a fair too.

Plus — why not go whole hog? — public exercise sessions.

JoyRide is one of the participants in the upcoming Fitness Week.

JoyRide is one of the participants in the upcoming Fitness Week.

The specifics:

  • Fitness Fair and Seminar (Monday, Oct. 19, 7-9 p.m., Westport Library): All participating businesses will showcase their products and special offers.
  • Qi Gong classes (Wednesday, Oct. 21, 12 p.m., Westport Historical Society): Sue Gold runs 2 free 30-minute sessions.
  • Westport Farmers Market (Thursday, Oct. 22, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Imperial Avenue parking lot): Businesses offer demonstrations of equipment, analyses of muscle mass and flexibility, and fitness education opportunities.

It all starts Monday. So you’ve still got a few days to chow down.

(For more information — and a list of participating businesses — click here.)

Starbucks Solves Parking Problem!

Starbucks — the wildly popular coffee place near the diner, with the crazily limited parking lot — has come up with a creative solution to that problem.

They’re moving.

From here...

From here…

Word on the street Post Road has Starbucks moving a couple hundred yards east, to Arby’s. That’s the fast-food place next to Bank of America that no Westporter has ever set foot in.

Starbucks will gain more parking spaces. Plus a drive-through.

... to there.

… to there.

The good news: There will be no more parking issues at Starbucks.

The bad news:  This will be a serious blow to “06880.”

The good news:  There are plenty more places — and Westport drivers — to pick on.