Westport’s newest, most novel concept — a private members club/classic car storage spot/event space — hides in plain sight.
You pass it every day. You have no idea it’s there.
Too bad. You’re missing something very cool.
Autostrada opened, softly but smoothly, in January. Since then it’s hosted a few private parties (most recently, a gathering for Land Rover enthusiasts).
Its 10,000 square feet are filling slowly with rare Porsches, Ferraris and Alfa Romeos.
Members gather for coffee, conversation, or just to lounge on very comfortable furniture with like-minded collectors, a few steps from both a full bar and those beloved automobiles.
It all happens at the former Steinway showroom, between Fire Department headquarters and the Connecticut Humane Society, on the curve just before Compo Shopping Center.
Gioel Molinari and his wife Ronni have lovingly created a unique venture. He’s a tech entrepreneur; she’s an architect. They’ve lived in Westport for 10 years. Very quietly — right under our noses — they’ve designed a multi-functional space that combines his passions for cars, food and beverages, and her stunning eye for design.
The idea — a place for collectors to store their automobiles and gather casually, while doubling as a special spot for benefits, social and corporate events — took root several years ago.
The project was delayed twice: first when the original partners dropped out, then by COVID and supply chain issues — but the gut renovation of the piano showroom is worth the wait.
The gleaming car storage area, with a capacity of 22, offers 24-hour access (and a lift/detailing/ washing area).
A catering kitchen serves as a staging area for On the Marc, the highly regarded group that works exclusively with Autostrada. The same team is on hand for every event.
Private functions range from a few people in the lounge only, to up to 150 people with dancing on the vintage automobile floor.
“Most car storage spaces feel like a garage. Or they’re in a less than desirable area,” Gioel (pronounced “Joel”) says. “This is a place you feel very comfortable coming to. It’s like sitting in your living room, with your car, relaxing and talking to your friends about your passions.”
“Comfortable” is an understatement. Ronni’s welcoming lighting, glass doors and specially designed floor complement the “mid-century flair, modern Milan lounge” feel of the furnishings.
“You feel at home, but you’re transported beyond Fairfield County,” she says. “There are masculine details, but it’s not a man cave. It appeals to anyone who appreciates beautiful spaces.”
Those people do not have to own vintage or rare automobiles. Social memberships are available too.
There are 40 or so members right now. Autostrada may go to 75, but not beyond.
Members enjoy weekly happy hours. Coffee is available weekdays. Monthly special events focus on different themes, like food, wine, bourbon or barbecue.
Autostrada means “highway” in Italian. Gioel was born in New Haven, but grew up in Milan.
“The Post Road” sounds less glamorous than “Autostrada.” And traffic sure does not flow smoothly past Westport’s Autostrada.
But Gioel and Ronni Molinari have created something new, unique and special, hidden in the heart of their adopted hometown.