Category Archives: Restaurants

Photo Challenge #141

Last week’s photo challenge — showing an Old World grotto — could have been taken in Italy.

But it was shot right here in Westport, at the highly regarded Arezzo restaurant. The waterfall and window are tucked away in the back, on the way to the riverfront patio.

Only 2 alert readers knew where this secluded spot was: Stephanie Mastrocciolo and Breno Donatti. Of course, Breno has an inside track: Arezzo shares a rear wall with his Winfield Street Deli. (Click here for the photo.)

This week’s challenge is also water-related. If you think you know where in Westport you’d see it, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Ed Simek)

Pearl’s Gem

Westporters are used to seeing art everywhere.

Thanks to WestPAC — the Westport Public Art Collections — we enjoy museum-quality pieces in our schools, Town Hall, even fire headquarters.

Murals by noted local artists hang in Patagonia and Banana Republic.

Now art while you eat is on the Pearl at Longshore menu.

Gallery@Pearl hangs in the handsome lobby space of the popular restaurant. Exhibits vary in media, and rotate every 10 to 12 weeks.

The works are the brainchild of Cathy Colgan. As an arts events producer for the Westport Downtown Merchants Association — think the Fine Arts Festival and Art About Town — she developed a deep appreciation for the depth of talented artists in our community, and their desire to show their work in varied venues.

“Morning Glow” by Dale Najarian.

Pearl was happy to help. So far Nancy Landauer, Sholeh Janati, Janet Samuels and Elizabeth Marks have all exhibited.

This Tuesday (September 12, 5 to 7 p.m.), Pearl kicks off a show by talented painter Dale Najarian. She paints abstract landscapes of local scenes, like Compo Beach. All work is for sale, and will be up through November.

But Pearl is more than just a place to eat (and see art). Like many local businesses, it’s embedded in the community.

Several times a year, for instance, Pearl hosts the philanthropic group Women Who Care. Last week, while munching on complimentary food on the porch — a space usually filled with paying diners — members voted to award $10,000 to Fairfield County Hospice House.

Last weekend, Pearl was the site for a Summer Soiree. The sold-out fundraiser for Westport and Fairfield first responders raised more than $10,000.

The recipients — including Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas and Fire Chief Rob Yost — promptly decided to send the funds to their counterparts in Houston. Right now, they need it more than we do.

It was a feel good/do good moment for all.

And — despite the rain — the setting wasn’t too shabby either.

Slicing Up Saugatuck

The 6th annual Slice of Saugatuck was the best yet.

Perfect late-summer weather; a record number of 50-plus restaurants and businesses, and a large, relaxed crowd enjoyed an afternoon of strolling, eating, music, eating, shopping, eating, kids’ activities, and eating.

Thanks go to the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, plus the Slice’s many sponsors.

And congrats to the Gillespie Food Pantry: recipient of some of today’s funds.

Here’s what the Slice looked like, starting and ending at Bridge Square:

Owner Bill Taibe (right) and his Kawa Ni staff served Japanese delicacies (and drinks).

Firefighters at the Saugatuck station promoted fire safety (and offered a seat in their very cool truck).

The Whelk offered some delicacies …

… while a few feet away on the riverfront plaza, the Silver Steel Band played.

Matt Storch dished out fries. The Staples High School graduate’s new Match Burger Lobster restaurant opens in 2 weeks.

Socks — a face painter — came from Norwalk.

The Funicello family’s Tutti’s is always a Slice of Saugatuck favorite.

Mersene — owner of the very popular Indulge by Mersene — welcomed Railroad Place Slice-goers with her typically funky goods.

Every kid loves a bounce house.

A tae kwan do place lured passersby with this inflatable guy.

The Slice included Saugatuck Avenue too. Here’s the mouth-watering scene at Dunville’s.

All roads led to the Slice of Saugatuck. If you’re reading this before 5 p.m. — there’s still time. After 5, several restaurants extend the fun with specially priced menus.

Here’s How To Help

It’s a beautiful weekend in Westport. We’ve got the Slice of Saugatuck and Westport Country Playhouse gala to look forward to — along with the usual beach and sports activities, plus everything else under the sun.

Elsewhere in the hemisphere, people are hurting.

“Give a Little Love” with these chocolates — and help hurricane victims.

Here are a few ways Westporters can aid victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. If you know other ways to help — including those affected by the Mexican earthquake — click “Comments” below.

Aarti Khosla, owner of Le Rouge — the artisan chocolate shop at 190 Main Street — is donating 50% of the proceeds from her ongoing “Give a Little Love” handmade hearts campaign to OneAmericaAppeal.

That’s the effort by all 5 living former ex-presidents — Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter — to provide aid to Houston.

Dolores Catania

On Sunday, September 17 (5 to 7 p.m., Terrain Garden Cafe, 561 Post Road East), Dolores Catania from “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” and Angela Pantalone, owner of the Wag Central indoor dog facility, will talk about how they took life challenges and made their own empires.

The event raises money for Harvey and Irma victims. Click here for ticket information.

PS: Le Rouge also has 40 “Hate Has No Home” here yard signs. Pick yours up now!

Lisa Fielding’s Secret Table

Lisa Fielding can often be found doing one of 3 things:

Writing. Cooking. Or writing about cooking.

The woman who grew up everywhere — her family bounced from San Francisco to Europe to the Middle East to New York to Chicago for her father’s international banking career — finally landed in Hollywood.

Fielding became a film executive, working with big-name producers. But she eventually grew tired of developing projects for “lazy writers who got all the credit” — and began writing herself.

She’s not the type to sit at a desk all day, though. Besides, every fledgling writer needs a “real” way to put food on the table.

A friend suggested she do it literally — by cooking.

Lisa Fielding

Fielding was already known as a fabulous entertainer. All those youthful moves had given her an international repertoire.

She launched her business in 2009. A story in a local paper provided the push she needed.

Her first gig was scary — “like being on stage,” she recalls.

But Fielding had hosted parties since she could remember. Overseeing the details of a sit-down dinner for 12, or a birthday celebration for 50, was second nature.

In the film business she’d traveled often to New York. As her personal chef career boomed, she realized she wanted to claim the East Coast as home.

Now that’s entertaining!

When she discovered Litchfield County, Fielding says, “I decided to become a Yankee.” She loved it. The commute to New York was a bit much, though.

She found Westport: a perfect match.

“It’s like Litchfield — but it’s not,” Fielding says.

“It’s bucolic, green, verdant. You don’t have 8 acres, but you do have a proper place, with things to do. It’s enchanting.”

She moved here August 1. She’s already moved her company — Secret Ingredients — to town

It’s more than just private cooking. After attending the Hidden Kitchen in Paris — multi-course tasting dinners, served at a communal table in a private apartment, with guests who don’t know one another but bond over delicious food and great drinks — Fielding decided to bring the concept to “car-centric L.A.”

She launched in 2010, with a 9-course sit-down dinner for 24 in a beautiful Hancock Park villa.

Fielding followed that with a Malibu beach party; a feast for 150, served at one long table in a Napa winery, and more.

She named it The Secret Table — “where intrepid foodies come to meet and eat.” She took it Litchfield and New York.

Now, Fielding plans to start her “secret” events here too.

“Westport has a collective love of the aesthetic. It’s everywhere I go, ” she notes. “I look forward to tapping into it.”

The Secret Table is a great way to make new friends.

Lisa Fielding has been in town for just a month.

Her many new friends are already old — and well-fed —  pals.

(For more information, email lisa@secrettable.net)

Slice Of Saugatuck Returns September 9

Saugatuck keeps growing. Every day, it seems, there’s something new and exciting in what was once our original town center.

There are new restaurants and stores. There’s new life and activity (like “Tuesdays at the Train”).

And — on Saturday, September 9 — new businesses will participate in the Slice of Saugatuck.

From Bridge Square to Railroad Place — and everywhere else — Slice of Saugatuck is packed. (Photo/Terry Cosgrave)

Six years ago, the 1st street festival drew 27 participants, and a few hundred people.

This time, 54 establishments have signed on. A crowd of more than 2,000 is expected to stroll the streets, nibble food, listen to live music at 6 venues, and enjoy kid and family activities like an obstacle course, bouncy houses and Maker Faire area.

The list of attractions includes 31 restaurants and 23 merchants. They’ll put tables outside, open their doors, then let the fun begin.

Slice of Saugatuck also boasts 2 beer gardens with wine), and specialty drinks at many venues. After the festival, a Saugatuck Happy Hour keeps the celebration going.

The “Slice” name comes from the street fair’s shape. Ranging from Riverside Avenue on one side and Saugatuck Avenue on the other, narrowing to Railroad Place, it resembles a pizza slice.

Of course, for many years Saugatuck was a heavily Italian neighborhood. There are still plenty of premier pasta-and-pizza places there — along with restaurants specializing in seafood, steaks, Mexican and Thai cuisine and more.

But you know that already. Saugatuck is a favorite destination for Westporters, and everyone else in Fairfield County.

It’s a little slice of heaven, right here in town.

(Tickets for the Slice of Saugatuck — $15 per adult; 2 for $25; children under 13, $5 — go on sale on-site at 1:50 p.m. the day of the event; cash only. Proceeds help fund the Gillespie Center’s food pantry. The Slice is sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. For more information, including a map and list of participants, click here.)

 

Ladies Sing The Blues

When Beth Iovinelli belted out a song at last year’s Blues, Views & BBQ Festival, she basked in thunderous applause.

Then — referring to the Levitt Pavilion stage, site of the sold-out 2-day event — she asked her friend Suzy Bessett, “Notice anything missing?”

She meant: Any other woman.

Iovinelli was the only female singer the entire weekend.

The blues boasts plenty of legendary ladies — think Etta James, Big Mama Thornton and Janis Joplin. But over the years, bands have become male-dominated.

This year, Bessett and Iovinelli take one small step for (wo)mankind.

The 10th annual event (September 2-3) will include a rock-the-house show by the Sisterhood Blues Project. They’re set for Sunday (September 3, 12:30 p.m.).

Sisterhood Blues Project (from left): Beth Iovinelli, Betsy Benham Fruda and Suzy Bessett.

On a weekend filled with powerhouse performers — Galactic, Deep Banana Blackout, Bonerama, Paul Barrere & Fred Tackett, and the return of Anders Osborne — this is one you don’t want to miss.

The 3 “soul sistahs” grew up in Norwalk. Bessett — who organized the group — began singing as soon as she could talk. But she stopped when real life — an investment banking career, marriage, kids, a move to Westport — intervened.

Eventually, the lure of karaoke proved powerful. Then in 2009, she joined Ms. Suzy’s Opus. For years, they — with Bessett fronting — were a popular fixture on the local scene.

Bobby Q’s rooftop was a favorite venue. That Main Street restaurant/bar has moved to Norwalk, but the blues festival it spawned is still here.

Ever since the new Levitt opened 3 years ago, Bessett dreamed of singing on its stage. When Iovinelli noted last year that she was the only female singer at the festival, Bessett asked Blues, Views & BBQ founder Bobby LeRose about a celebration of women musicians. He instantly agreed.

Bessett recruited Iovinelli and Fruda. Both spent over a decade with the Third Sister Band, opening for GE Smith, Rick Derringer and Murali Coryell. They currently front the B Side Band.

The new group weaves together powerful vocals, harmony, soulful blues — and of course, sisterhood.

They’ll be backed by some strong brothers. Westporter Crispin Cioe played sax with the Rolling Stones. Westport native Tim DeHuff is a renowned guitarist. Drummer Vito Liuzzi played with the Johnny Winter Band. John Mulkerin is on horns; Mike Ventimiglia (Pimpinella) plays keyboard, while bassist Scott Spray has performed with Johnny and Edgar Winter, Eric Clapton and Joe Walsh.

They’re still working on a set list. But, Bessett says, they will probably perform at least one song from one of the great female blues singers.

The sisterhood lives.

(For more information on the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival — including musical lineup, food, activities for kids, tickets and more — click here.)

Summer Soiree At Pearl To Benefit 1st Responders

Westport is blessed with amazing police officers, firefighters and EMS crews.

We often say, “We can’t thank them enough.”

Here’s a way to start.

Next Saturday (September 2, 7 to 10 p.m.), Pearl at Longshore is hosting a Summer Soiree Party on its patio. With partners Valor Spirits and The Greatest Blaze, they’re donating proceeds from ticket sales to those 3 first responder departments in Westport and Fairfield.

The Greatest Blaze is an aptly named Greenwich lifestyle and premium firewood company. Valor Spirits has a long history of donating 10% of all proceeds to organizations that serve Americans.

Tickets ($75 per person, discounts for groups of 6 or more) include hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, music, raffle prizes and an auction. Click here to purchase, and for more information.

The Pearl of Longshore patio is a perfect place to honor first responders..

Pasta Place Goes; Pizza Bar Comes

Pasta lovers said grazie when Grana Pastificio opened in a corner of Winfield Street Coffee, across from the train station.

In a rapidly changing town, the old-world, fresh pasta place seemed a throwback to Saugatuck’s Italian roots.

After only a year, the Grana guys moved out.

There’s a good reason: They now serve 15 restaurants, and make 250 pounds of pasta a day. They needed a bigger facility. (You can still order online, and pick up your order at Winfield’s coffee shop.)

The space will not be empty for long. The new tenant should also be welcomed by old Saugatuck hands — as well as anyone else who loves good Italian food.

Graziano and Maurizio Ricci — owners of 2 Romanacci Pizza Bar restaurants (in Norwalk and Trumbull), and 2 Osteria Romanas (Norwalk and Monroe) — have wanted to open a Westport location for years.

This new spot will be a Romanacci. It will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the morning, a “breakfast pizza” will complement Winfield’s coffee.

The brothers are finalizing their permits now. They hope to be ready around Labor Day.

Winfield owner Breno Donatti says, “They’re cool guys. They know what they’re doing. I’m happy to share the space with them.”

Commuters, Saugatuck residents, and all the rest of us should be happy he’s sharing the space too.

Pic Of The Day #123

A classic Joey’s by the Shore scene (Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)