Category Archives: Restaurants

Stand Cafe Attracts Hard-Core Vegans — And Many More

Jenna Jacobs McPartland did not plan on opening a vegan restaurant.

She grew up in suburban Minnesota; moved to New York at 20 to study at a conservatory; acted off-Broadway, got married; got pregnant.

Her husband was killed on 9/11. Six days later, their son was born.

Jenna was lifted by the kindness of friends, and strangers. After hand-writing 1,200 notes — and realizing how many people did not have the support she did, after her husband died very publicly — she helped start September Smiles, a non-profit to help non-9/11 widows deal with tragedy.

Jenna Jacobs McPartland

Jenna remarried, and moved to her husband’s home in Weston. She finally reached Broadway — with a walk-on role in “Oklahoma!” for one night, 3 days before it closed.

She divorced, and married her “third and final” husband. Jenna now lives in Westport, with her blended family.

A few years ago she read “Eating Animals,” by Jonathan Safran Foer. She had already given up red meat, but now went fully vegan. As part of “learning how to really cook,” she attended New York’s Natural Gourmet Center. She graduated in 2015.

Jenna began looking for Westport locations, to start a vegan restaurant. Last year she bought the Stand Juice Bar at Fairfield’s Sportsplex. It was the right opportunity — she would not have to build a customer base from scratch.

Now called the Stand Vegan Café — with a full menu — she’s made it her own. She believes in “whole, organic, non-GMO, local plant foods for the planet, the animals, our bodies, and our spirits.” (She also believes “a yummy cookie is totally worth it once in a while!”)

Jenna calls her menu “very comfort food-y.” Breakfast (served all day) ranges from tofu broccoli quiche and ancient grain oatmeal to Belgian waffles and a very popular Seitan bagel sandwich.

Lunch includes soups, a hummus plate, sandwiches and wraps, cauliflower-based mac and cheese, salads and toasts. There’s a full bakery, and of course juices and smoothies. Many of the dishes can be made gluten-free.

Stand Cafe, where the food is as good as it looks …

“It’s a gentle introduction to veganism,” Jenna explains. She realizes non-vegans resent being called “unethical or wrong” for their diets.

Jenna is proud that “a lot of non-vegans come in and love what we serve.” She’s threading the needle, with food that’s “interesting enough for hard-core vegans, but approachable enough for skeptics.”

Good food, she says, is “all about high-quality ingredients, with high-quality techniques.”

The Stand Café is “almost a zero-waste establishment.” A farmer collects all her scraps for his fields. Nearly all material is compostable.

She pays her employees above standard restaurant rates. “We’re a family,” Jenna says.

… including dessert!

That’s not entire selfless, of course. With 6 children ages 21 to 9 in her blended family, she needs “a life outside my restaurant. Everyone who works here loves what we do. We feel like we’re achieving something together. We all look out for each other, and cover each other.”

Besides her “Oklahoma” walk-on role, Jenna Jacobs McPartland did not make it to Broadway. But her Stand Café is now a shining star.

(Jenna also supports local artists. Every 3 months, she features someone different on her walls. Next up: Westport artist Lisa Stretton.)

 

Pic Of The Day #1000

Nearly 3 years ago — on April 17, 2017 — “06880” introduced a new feature: Pic of the Day.

Here’s what I wrote:

Let’s give a hearty welcome to the latest member of our online community: the Pic of the Day.

Every night around 9 p.m., I’ll send out an image of Westport. The photos will be recognizable and relatable. Some will be artistic; others whimsical or surprising. One might have cool angles or shapes; the next might make you look at a familiar scene in a different way.

All will be cool. None will be more than a few days old.

There won’t be any text, beyond a caption and photo credit. The plan is to provide a quick snapshot of Westport for you, before bed (or first thing in the morning). [NOTE: That rule is not hard and fast. Sometimes there is text. Like today.]

Any image anywhere in town is fair game. However, I’ll stay away from sunsets. That’s WestportNow’s specialty! [NOTE: I break that rule occasionally too!]

Lynn U. Miller — Westport native, longtime friend and very talented photographer — will provide many of the shots. (She also came up with the superbly punning “Pic of the Day” name.)

But I’ll also rely on a stable of other fine photographers, like John Videler, Amy Schneider and Katherine Bruan.

And you. If you’ve got a photo you think would work for this feature, send it along: dwoog@optonline.net.

So here — without further ado — is “06880”‘s very first Pic of the Day. Enjoy!

The very first Pic of the Day: behind the Black Duck, on the Saugatuck River (Photo copyright Lynn U. Miller)

Pics Of The Day #998

David Squires had his last-ever Westport Pizzeria slice(s) today. After 51 years, the beloved restaurant closes tomorrow.

Soon, this was all that was left. But, David says, “After I took the photo, I ate the crumbs. RIP: Rest in Pizza.” (Photos/David Squires)

 

[UPDATE] No More Meatballs. Shop Closes Sunday.

Well, that didn’t last long.

The Meatball Shop — the Westport outpost of the New York-based restaurant that opened on June 22 — will serve its last balls on Sunday.

A hostess who answered the phone tonight laid the blame on “expensive rent and not enough customers.” She said the staff was informed yesterday.

The Meatball Shop took over from The ‘Port. That restaurant lasted 13 months — twice as long as The Meatball Shop. Before that, the ground floor of National Hall was home to Vespa. Before that, it was Cafe Zanghi.

It’s a wonderful space — but huge. Parking is tight.

On the other hand, 2 nearby restaurants — OKO and Bartaco — are flourishing.

There is no word on what will replace The Meatball Shop.

If anything.

The Meatball Shop in National Hall, just over the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.

After this story was posted, Adam Rosenbaum — The Meatball Shop CEO and partner — emailed this statement:

Yes, we will be closing our Westport location after dinner service this Sunday, January 12th.

We have really loved being a part of the community, and have been so lucky to have built meaningful relationships over the past 6 months. Breaking bread with neighbors is what we are all about, and we felt like Westport was the next spot for us. Unfortunately, although it was a tough decision, we have a lot on our plate for 2020.

We are currently focused on a large re-branding, to evolve and grow into our second decade. Highlighting our delicious, responsible and sustainably sourced menu…and also add a few more dishes that we know our loyal guests will be excited about! (https://www.themeatballshop.com/news-item/dear-ballers/ )

This means making some tough decisions to focus our efforts on the NYC market locations, with a few more exciting things to come this year!

We hope that the Westport community, and all of Fairfield County, will follow along on the journey, and we hope to revisit Connecticut soon.

Pics Of The Day #991

As Westport Pizzeria’s days dwindle, local politicians — and News 12 — gathered to honor the legendary restaurant. Among them (from left): 2nd Selectman Jen Tooker, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe (in a Pizzeria 50th anniversary shirt), owner Mel Mioli, state legislators Tony Hwang and Gail Lavielle, and Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell.

The very familiar menu (Photos/Dave Wilson)

Senor Salsa Says Adios

Add another closing to the list.

An “06880” reader reports that there are “no tables, chairs, booths or counters.” Repeated phone calls to the Post Road West restaurant yields only busy signals.

Sounds like a wrap.

Actually, it’s now closed.

And — though this is a Norwalk closing — it’s worth noting: The Garden Cinema‘s last picture show was last night.

Friday Flashback #174

Last month, a Friday Flashback featured a handsome Al Willmott painting of old-time Westport, with National Hall, the Post Road bridge, and a merchant ship. For years, it hung in Dr. Peter Ferrara’s dental office.

Now practicing in Shelton, Dr. Ferrara still loves this town. He sent along another favorite Willmott painting from his office.

For a couple of decades, Ships anchored downtown. At the corner of the Post Road and Taylor Place — replacing the longtime Colgan’s and Thompson’s drugstore — it was the restaurant to go, for any occasion: meeting friends. Showing Westport to out-of-towners. In the middle of shopping. Before or after movies a few doors away.

And — on a cold winter’s day, like Willmott painted — there was nothing better than Ships’ lobster bisque.

Mon Dieu! After All The Closings, Chez 180 Opens

The end of 2019 and beginning of 2020 battered pizza lovers, sandwich munchers and shirt buyers. Bang bang bangWestport Pizzeria, Chef’s Table and Banana Republic all announced they were closing.

But a glimmer of hope can be seen on an empty storefront at 180 Post Road East. There — directly opposite Le Penguin — a sign announces that 180 Chez is opening soon.

From the outside, it looks enticing. From the words on the websiteoooh la la!

Chez 180 is a unique patisserie & experience, offering contemporary desserts, fresh baked breads and pastries, artisanal coffee and beverages, as well as a wide variety of savory creations to satisfy every palate.

Enjoy a culinary experience, and discover a menu full of fresh local ingredients highlighting superior quality and taste.

Chez 180 is the creation of Carlos Perez. He trained at the French Culinary Institute, then worked at top New York restaurants before returning home to Connecticut.

Carlos Perez

In 2006 Perez opened La Palette Bakery in Watertown. He operated it for 13 years, while also working as an executive chef. He closed La Palette in June, to pursue Chez 180.

The website notes: “With dreams coming to fruition, Chef Perez and the team at Chez 180 look to bring a whole culinary experience, ranging from sweet to savory, to Westport and surrounding communities.”

Who needs pizza? Soups, sandwiches and salads? Or even shirts and pants?

Pretty soon, we’ll have Chez 180.

 

Menu Moments: What To Eat At Tarantino

With Mario’s gone, Tarantino is the train station’s go-to restaurant. It’s worthy of its Saugatuck location: They grow their own olives in Italy, to bottle their own oil. (But this is 2020. They also offer gluten-free and whole wheat pasta.)

Here are some healthy dining picks at the Railroad Place favorite, from Westport-based nutritionist Heather Bauer.

Vegetarians

Appetizers

  • Di barbabietola (beet/goat cheese salad)
  • Tricolore salad

Entrees

  • Caprese di bufala (buffalo mozzarella and tomato)
  • Grilled eggplant parmesan (not breaded). NOTE: This is not on the menu, but they will make it upon special request.

Sides:

  • Add broccoli rabe, wild mushrooms or spinach with either entree

Tarantino, across from the train station.

Fish Lovers

Appetizers

  • Di barbabietola (beet/goat cheese salad)
  • Tricolore salad

Entrees

Note: If you are sharing a few appetizers and want a lighter dinner, consider choosing a second appetizer for dinner with a side vegetable.

  • Grilled calamari
  • Octopus carpaccio with arugula
  • Tuna tartare
  • Plain grilled salmon with your choice of veggies on the side
  • Swordfish (ask for sauce on the side)
  • Zuppa Di Aragosta (the mussels take time to get through, but they’re worth it)

Carnivores

Appetizers

  • Caesar salad (no croutons; ask for dressing on the side)
  • Tricolore salad
  • Caprese

Entrees

  • Beef carpaccio plus 1-2 shared side veggies
  • Pollo Margherita (request without brandy cream sauce)
  • Veal Milanese (ask for this grilled, not breaded)

Last Slice For Westport Pizzeria

Westport Pizzeria served its first slice in the 1960s. It will serve its last in the 2020s.

The restaurant — after Gold’s, the longest-running food-serving establishment in Westport — will not make it much into the new decade. however. The iconic pizza place is closing January 11.

The news — first reported on WestportNow — stunned Westporters. “The pizzeria” — that was all you needed to call it — was a fixture on Main Street from Columbus Day, 1968 to February 2014. Owner Mel Mioli moved to his current location around the corner on the Post Road, across from Design Within Reach, when his lease was not renewed.

Westport Pizzera on Main Street. This photo could have been taken in 1968, or 2008.

Mioli — who founded the business with his brother Joe — figures that after 51 years of making pizzas (and memories), this is a good time to retire. Joe left the business in 2004, and served 3 terms as state representative.

Many other Miolis have worked at Westport Pizzeria. But none — including his 2 sons — wanted to carry on the tradition.

And what a tradition it was. The pizza was not gourmet — but it was great. The decor was simple — but it was fine. What counted was the food, the consistency, and the folks behind the counter.

Plus the memories. Thanks for all of them, from all of Westport, to all the Miolis.

Westport Pizzeria owner Mel Mioli. His shirt says, “Serving generations with kindness and love since 1968!”


In October 2018, Westport Pizzeria celebrated its 50th anniversary. Here’s how “06880” covered that story.

In October 1968, Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey battled it out for the presidency. Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave glove-and-fist black power salutes on the medal stand at the Mexico City Olympics. “Hey Jude” sat atop the record charts.

And on October 12, 1968 — its opening day of business — Westport Pizzeria sold a slice for 25 cents.

Joe and Mel Mioli, with staff and customers in the early days.

In October 2018, we all know what happened after Nixon became president. We’ve seen how far our country’s race relations have progressed — and how much further we have to go. “Hey Jude” is still a great song.

It costs quite a bit more than a quarter to buy a slice these days. Westport Pizzeria is no longer an anchor on Main Street.

But it hasn’t gone far — just around the corner, on Post Road East. And the special, basic-but-so-good recipe has never changed.

A familiar sight.

This Friday (October 12) the pizza place celebrates its 50th anniversary with a special deal: They’ll sell slices for 25 cents. Sodas are even cheaper: 15 cents.

In 1968, Westport Pizzeria was the only game in town. Now there’s competition everywhere, from thick-crust Planet and gourmet Tarry Lodge to train station Romanacci.

But the Mioli family — the founders and still the only owners of Westport Pizzeria — must be doing something right. A restaurant doesn’t last 50 years here on luck alone.

Some don’t even last 50 days.

Some things never change.

Westport Pizzeria, on the Post Road. The “For Rent” sign was for the apartment above.