Category Archives: Restaurants

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.


“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.

Dismantling The Red Barn

Any hopes for a hail Mary rescue of the Red Barn were dashed last night.

Simply Estated said it will hold an estate liquidation sale this Friday and Saturday (July 17-18, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.). Everything in the restaurant — which closed abruptly this month, after 32 years in the Nistico family and decades more under previous owners — is for sale.

Tables, chairs — it’s all on the market (except kitchen equipment).

Who knows? Somewhere in the back you might find the “The” part of the iconic “Red Barn” sign. It blew down in a storm a couple of years ago, and was never fixed.

Generations of memories fill the venerable restaurant. The Nistico family — and those before them — served Westport long and well there.

After Saturday, everything else will be gone.

Red Barn painting

“Jazz Rabbi” Blows Horn For Ornette Coleman

Greg Wall faced a challenge.

The “jazz rabbi” — a saxophonist who doubles as the spiritual leader of Westport’s Beit Chaverim (or the other way around) — needed a place to blow his horn.

Plenty of local spots feature music. But jazz is often relegated to “background music” — not the high-level listening experience offered at the major New York venues he’s worked, like Joe’s Pub and the Village Vanguard.

Enter 323. The restaurant near Coffee An’ offers a nice, wood-finished listening space. Every Thursday night Wall curates weekly jazz events, with well-known musician and guest stars.

The 2 faces of Greg Wall.

The 2 faces of Greg Wall.

Like the jazz professional he is, Wall improvises well. This Thursday there’s a tribute to Ornette Coleman, the legendary alto saxophonist/composer who died last month.

Sitting in will be Coleman’s longtime guitarist/collaborator Kenny Wessel.

“I’m a firm believer in meeting people where they are,” says Wall. “Whether it’s using my music to make a connection with people in a night club, or teaching Talmud classes on a sailboat” — his Friday morning onboard classes are a whole other story — “I try to remove any barriers that stand in the way of people and their spiritual development.”

That spiritual development — the jazz element, anyway — continues every Thursday night through August 27. Upcoming guests include guitar legend Bob Devos and the New American Quartet.

There is no cover charge to hear the jazz rabbi and friends blow their shofars horns.

(For more information, click on the Facebook page: Jazz at 323 Westport.)

Arezzo Launches National Line

There is only one Arezzo.

It’s in Westport. Since opening nearly 2 years ago at the corner of the Post Road and Riverside Avenue — a location that over the years had seen many restaurants come and go — the Italian place with a killer patio out back has become one of our town’s most popular spots.

The caponata earns raves. The sauces are fantastic.

Arezzo caponataSo owner Juan Ceballos is making a smart move: He’s including them in a new multi-item product line. They’ll be available at retailers in the tri-state area — and nationally soon after that.

For 15 years — at his Arezzo Ristorante & Bar in New York, then at his New Canaan restaurant — customers have asked Ceballos to package his signature items.

But he worried about quality control. Now — assured of full control over the ingredients, preparation and production — he’s good to go.

In addition to the caponata and sauces (garden tomato, classic marinara and fra diavolo), Arezzo Authentic Fine Foods will include biscotti and lemon sauce (great for salads, vegetables and fish).

Westporters who know restaurants know Arezzo. Soon, the rest of the country — at least, those who love fine Italian food — will know it too.

Missing Fisherman Found

Many Westporters were sorry to see Mansion Clam House start morphing into Parker Steak House.

But lobster, shrimp and seafood aren’t the only losses. The Mansion fisherman — a mannequin that sat on the roof for years — disappeared as soon as construction began.

Yesterday, an alert “06880′ reader walking past the enclosed dining area beween Mansion and Julian’s’ spotted what she thinks is the fisherman — or at least, his legs — in a container.

(Photo/"Saugatuck Cindy")

(Photo/”Saugatuck Cindy”)

The rest of him is in the bottom of the container, somewhat smashed up.

If the fisherman could be salvaged, that would be quite a catch.