Category Archives: Restaurants

Mary Allen’s Historic Mill Pond Bench

Alert “06880” reader — and amateur historian — Wendy Crowther writes:

Mary Riordan Allen grew up on Hillspoint Road, a few houses away from the iconic Allen’s Clam House.

In the early 1900s, Walter “Cap” Allen opened his clam and oyster shack on the banks of Sherwood Mill Pond. The oysters came from beds in the pond and nearby cove. Cap often hand-shucked them himself. Over time he grew Allen’s into a rustic family eatery.

Recently, Mary returned to the property — now the site of the Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve. It was a special occasion: to meet her bench.

A year ago, she asked Sherry Jagerson — chair of the preserve committee – how she and her family could contribute to the spot that meant so much to them. (A photo on the plaque — and below — shows Cap Allen holding a baby: Mary’s husband, Walter Allen.)

Captain Walter Allen (far right) with his wife Lida, daughter Beulah, holding his son Walter Ethan Allen (Mary’s future husband). The photo was taken at Allen's Clam House around 1911.

Captain Walter Allen (far right) with his wife Lida, daughter Beulah, holding his son Walter Ethan Allen (Mary’s future husband). The photo was taken at Allen’s Clam House around 1911.

Several months later, Mary came to Westport from her home in Maine. Sherry, I and other committee members walked the site with her, to pick out the best spot for the Allen family bench.

Mary Allen, at Sherwood Mill Pond.

Mary Allen, at Sherwood Mill Pond.

After returning home, Mary sent me old photos. One showed her son Chris sitting on what may have been the same boulder from decades earlier.

Mary said that Chris loved feeding the swans close to shore. In early spring, they came to the marsh, rebuilt their nest, laid their eggs and raised their cygnets.

Mary Allen's son Chris, with Sherwood Mill Pond swans.

Mary Allen’s son Chris, with Sherwood Mill Pond swans.

In high school, Mary clammed at low tide on the mud flats, and sold them to Cap. She also sold horseshoe crabs. He put them in floats where he kept his fresh clams; they kept the water clean.

Cap Allen and his wife Lida, in front of the clam house.

Cap Allen and his wife Lida, in front of the clam house.

The Clam House and Mill Pond were Mary’s summer playground. She and her friends rented Cap’s handmade rowboats, to catch blue claw crabs and have adventures. They swam at the gates at high tide — a “challenging and dangerous activity” that today she would not allow.

In winter, the pond froze over. The ice skating was wonderful.

Years later — after she married — Mary’s own children enjoyed similar activities. They also ate quite well at Allen’s. After all, she was family.

Cap’s son, Walter Ethan Allen, had a 35-foot ketch-rigged oyster boat. With a shallow draft and long, shallow centerboard and rudders, it was perfect for oystering. For better ballast, Walt asked neighborhood kids to sail with him.

When Walt returned from World War II, he asked Mary — a Staples High School student — to help. Eventually, ballast turned to romance. They married when she was 18. He was 30.

Walt and Mary Allen had 5 children. This photo shows Abigail, their oldest (Cap’s grandchild), in front of the barn that once stood tight against Hillspoint Road on the edge of the Clam House property. The barn -- which still stands -- was rustic inside, but furnished with a full kitchen and a 2nd-floor loft. Cap used it as a popular summer rental property.

Walt and Mary Allen had 5 children. This photo shows Abigail, their oldest (Cap’s grandchild), in front of the barn that once stood tight against Hillspoint Road on the edge of the Clam House property. The barn was rustic inside, but furnished with a full kitchen and a 2nd-floor loft. Cap used it as a popular summer rental property.

Cap owned a 1934 Ford Phaeton convertible. He drove it to the bank every Monday morning, to deposit the week’s proceeds.

Mary enjoyed hanging out at the clam house. Cap was “quiet but friendly and affable, and had a nice sense of humor.” A cigar smoker, he recovered from throat cancer. In 1954, age 75, he died of arterial sclerosis.

His sons — David and Mary’s husband Walt — tried to keep the business going, hiring help while they held their own jobs. Finally, they decided to run the restaurant only. The Uccellinis — 2 generations of their own family — did a magnificent job too.

Allen’s Clam House was a hugely popular summer place. Over time though, the building wore down. Environmental restrictions made it financially impossible to continue.

The restaurant closed in the mid-1990s. The land was ripe for sale. Developers — hoping to build 3 houses — made lucrative offers. Westporters mourned the loss of what had always been a favorite view. They urged the town to buy the land.

Mary worked closely with First Selectman Diane Farrell, and negotiated a special deal. Though it took many years, the site was eventually rehabilitated by volunteers. It officially opened as a preserve in 2010.

The Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve is one of the most tranquil spots in Westport. (Photo/Katherine Hooper)

The Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve is one of the most tranquil spots in Westport. (Photo/Katherine Hooper)

For the dedication, Mary’s daughter Bonnie Allen wrote:

A special acknowledgment is due to my mother, Mary Riordan Allen, the last remaining owner of the Allen’s Clam House property. 11 years ago, in the spirit of Captain Allen’s concern for the Mill Pond and its meadows, she turned down high purchase offers from developers in favor of selling the property to the town at a price it could afford.

With generous matching contributions from like-minded Westporters (Paul Newman, Harvey Weinstein and Martha Stewart among them) the town of Westport bought the property, and honored my mother’s wishes that it be preserved in its natural state, dedicated to my grandfather, Captain Walter Dewitt Allen.

Last week, Mary and Bonnie returned to Westport to meet their bench — a gift from Mary and her children. The plaque honors Mary’s husband Walt, who died in 1982, and Bonnie’s son, Sebastian Katz, who died in 2000 at age 20.

Mary and Bonnie Allen, on the family's bench.

Mary and Bonnie Allen, on the family’s bench.

The plaque on the Allen family bench.

The plaque on the Allen family bench.

Mary’s bench is the one that Sherwood Mill Pond visitors gravitate to most. I suspect that’s because it provides the same views and sense of peace that first drew Cap to this special piece of the Mill Pond, and inspired him to raise a family and a business on its shores.

Thanks to Mary and her family, this site is a wonderful place, where both nature and history are preserved.


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Love To Lee

Like many Westporters, Lynn U. Miller is a huge Lee Papageorge fan.

Yesterday — as the popular Oscar’s owner battles lung cancer — the noted Westport photographer stopped by his Main Street deli.

“Lee fills every room with his goodwill, kindness, generosity, wonderful smile, and genuine interest in and concern for everyone,” Lynn says.

She’s learned a lot from him. She wanted to show Lee and his family how she — and many others — felt about him.

She gathered 7 of Lee’s staff — Harry, Joyce, Cris, Javier, Joachim, Devan and Wally (Imis was off) — for a heartfelt, loving shot.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

50 years of Lee’s customers share the sentiment.

Long May She Wave

I sure screwed up yesterday’s post about a “missing” AED. (It wasn’t stolen from Winslow Park at all – it had never been installed. I also misidentified the donor — it’s the Gudis Family Foundation and Norwalk Hospital, not the Adam Greenlee Foundation. Click here to see how many times I could be wrong in one post.)

This one is on the money.

A year ago, Tarantino owner John Paul Marchetti installed an American flag outside his Railroad Place restaurant.

He’s a proud Marine Corps Reserves veteran — he served in Iraq — and was honored to fly it 24/7.

Tarantino flag

Yesterday, he and his brothers — co-owners of the popular Saugatuck spot — noticed the flag was gone.

Marchetti was angry. “This country gave my immigrant parents everything,” he said. “The flag is a symbol of freedom. Someone stole that symbol.”

I told Marchetti I would post the story on “06880.” We’d ask the thief to return the flag, no questions asked.

Meanwhile, Marchetti posted a photo on social media.

Westport Hardware Store owner Richie Velez saw it. He promised to bring a replacement over, as soon as he got off work.

So, if you’re the flag thief, do the right thing. Hand it off to someone who can fly it as proudly as Marchetti, and cares as much as Velez.

(Hat tip: Johnny Carrier)

Starbucks Parking Problem Solved: The Follow-Up

Supposedly in Seattle, 2 Starbuckses squat directly opposite each other, across a street.

That’s not happening in Westport. But it’s close.

As reported first on “06880” last October, the Starbucks near the Sherwood Diner is moving. Its new home is across the Post Road, the former Arby’s. That puts it even closer to another Starbucks: the cafe in Barnes & Noble, a few yards away.

Arby's

Arby’s is empty now (nothing new). After refurbishing, the site — formerly Burger King, and before that Carrols — will be open.

It will include a drive-through, for vanilla mocha pumpkin toffee nut latte-lovers who don’t even want to park.

Not that they ever could.

 

The Latest On Lee Papageorge

About a year ago, Joel Smilow went to Oscar’s for lunch.

A longtime Westporter, and the former chairman and CEO of Playtex, he’s also a noted philanthropist. He made a transformative gift to Yale-New Haven Hospital’s Smilow Cancer Hospital, and donated medical research buildings at NYU and the University of Pennsylvania (among many other endowments).

Lee Papageorge — the popular owner of Oscar’s Delicatessen — was struck by a sudden thought.

“After all you’ve done for people,” Lee asked Joel, “has anyone ever bought you lunch?”

Lee was happy to do so.

Two months ago, Lee received a tough diagnosis: lung cancer. It was particularly devastating because he never smoked — not once in his life.

Lee is now undergoing immunotherapy — at the Smilow Cancer Hospital.

“Those people are fantastic. They’re geniuses,” Lee says with awe. “They know how to talk to you. They treat you so well. They’re the whole package.”

Oscar's owner Lee Papageorge.

Oscar’s owner Lee Papageorge.

Lee — who is 65 — has been a part of Oscar’s since the actual Oscar hired him at  16. Working in the original store — a few doors down Main Street, now part of Vince Clothing — Lee earned $1 an hour. “I had $20 in my wallet. I felt fat!” he says.

(Lee was not the 1st Papageorge who fed Westporters downtown. His grandfather and father opened the Club Grill in 1927. It later was known as Muriel’s, on the Post Road at Taylor Place across from what is now Tiffany.)

In 1967, Joe Milici bought Oscar’s (from Oscar). Lee kept working there. Four years later, he became a 50% partner. They moved to their present location soon thereafter.

The ’70s and ’80s were exciting times on Main Street, Lee recalls. There was always something going on.

He and store owners like Bob Hertzel, Stan Klein, Drew Friedman and Dan Coughlin were prime movers behind the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. They loved the area, the town and their customers. They supported each other, too.

Now, Oscar’s is the oldest — and last — “mom-and-pop” store on Main Street.

Oscar's Delicatessen (Photo/Videler Photography)

Oscar’s Delicatessen (Photo/Videler Photography)

As he battles cancer, Lee has been buoyed by the support of “very strong women.” Susan Gold, of the Westport Historical Society, has been particularly helpful.

Since he was 16, Lee has been a part of Oscar’s. And Oscar’s has been a part of downtown.

Lee’s many customers — and friends — send all their best wishes to him.

Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #80

The next time you’re stuck on Hillspoint Road, at the Post Road light, look left. You’ll see a picnic bench, in the woods by Sakura.

That was last week’s photo challenge. Only 1 “06880” reader was alert enough to nail it. Congratulations, Marcella Lozyniak! (Click here for the image — and all the incorrect guesses.)

Oh My 06880 - July 10, 2016

(Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris)

Perhaps readers will have better luck with this week’s challenge. If you know where Jaime Bairaktaris found this shot, click “Comments.” (Click on or hover over to read it more clearly.)

If you’ve got a back story, add that. There should be plenty of good info on this one!

Sam Appel: Westport’s Newest Official Rock Star

Sam Appel is redefining the food and beverage industry.

Don’t believe me? Just ask Zagat.

The go-to restaurant guide has just named the 2006 Staples High School grad one of its 30 New York influencers under 30 years old.

Or, as the headline reads: “Rockstars Redefining the Industry.”

ZagatSam was recognized for her work as director of community and programming at Journee. The members-only club for restaurant professionals focuses on career development and continuing education. She helps build and sustain the community — with programming, classes, networking and other projects — in Journee’s 21st Avenue space.

Of course, no one becomes a rock star by herself.

At Staples, Sam took every culinary class she could. She served as a teaching assistant for instructor Cecily Gans; worked at her summer cooking camp; helped with her catering jobs, and assisted on a cookbook.

Sam was drawn to Chef Gans’ “personality, artistry, and beautiful food.”

She was similarly inspired by English teacher Gus Young. He introduced her to the “art and magic” of food writing.

Not surprisingly, Sam’s college application essay was about food writing.

Sam Appel

Sam Appel

She had thought about culinary schools. But when she discovered Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration — with its focus on hospitality — she realized that the business side of food was as intriguing as cooking it.

After graduating from Cornell in 2010, Sam joined restaurant software company Avero as a consultant. She then moved to a marketing position with Chipotle. (Her territory included Westport — so she was involved when they expanded here.)

As a founder of the Toklas Society, she helped build, market and run a nonprofit fostering the professional development of women in food and hospitality.

Sam’s goal is for hospitality to be taken “as seriously as any other career.”

Like, say, rock ‘n’ roll.

Grana Pastificio: Pasta Just Like Nonna Made!

Back in the day, Saugatuck was a real Italian neighborhood. That meant real Italian stores — and real Italian food.

The neighborhood has changed — several times. But down by the train station, a new store with old-world roots promises to link the Saugatucks of yesterday and today.

Grana Pastificio nestles in a corner of Winfield Street Italian Deli (which earlier this year took over the Cocoa Michelle/Bonjo site).

The name means “small grain pasta factory.” The tiny shop fills a niche left when Villarina’s closed last fall. But it’s much more than a chain store in a shopping mall.

Grana Pastificio's entrance on Railroad Place.

Grana Pastificio’s entrance on Railroad Place.

Grana Pastificio fronts the train station. Commuters are its main customers — and, of course, the railroad was built by Italians.

Owners Eni Jimenez and Thomas Tenaglia are brothers. In 1935, their great-grandfather opened a macaroni shop in Stamford. Their grandmother worked there. Starting at age 10, they received a doctorate in pasta from her.

Eni studied to be a physician’s assistant. Thomas went to HVAC school. But they’d always had restaurant jobs, and a year ago they started researching the retail market for pasta.

When they met the Winfield Deli owner, they struck gold.

“We love old world traditions,” Eni says. That’s not idle talk. The brothers hand roll, hand cut and hand knead everything. They do their own cheeses, and mill their own grains. The only machinery is a refrigerator.

Emi Jimenez (left) and Thomas Tenaglia, hard at work.

Eni Jimenez (left) and Thomas Tenaglia, hard at work. A mural will soon replace the bare wall behind them.

In the morning, commuters pick up order sheets. They check their choices — hand cut pappardelle, spaghetti alla Chitarra, fettucine, tagliatelle, garganelli, lasagna sheets. bucatini, rigatoni, lumache, gemelli, macaroni, shells and much more — and can opt for whole wheat, squid ink, red pepper or teff.

There’s also ravioli, cappelletti, tortellini, agnolotti and mezzeluna, stuffed with ricotta, beef, port, shrooms, ruffle Ricotta or burrata — plus cavatelli and gnocchi. Sauces include bolognese, tomato and pesto.

Customers select their pick-up time that evening. (All Eni and Thomas really need is an hour or two.)

The brothers pair their pasta with wines at nearby Saugatuck Grain and Grape. They also recommend cheeses.

Coming soon: imported olive oil, and weekly pasta-making classes.

A few of the many pastas at Grana Pastificio.

A few of the many pastas at Grana Pastificio.

The idea is for commuters to make fresh pasta at home — easily and quickly. Because it’s so fresh (with no preservatives), the pasta takes just 5 minutes to boil in salted water.

The brothers deliver excess food to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission.

“We’re bringing back old-world traditions — and old-style types of pasta,” Eni says. “We take pride in what we do.”

Longtime Saugatuck residents will take pride in Grana Pastificio.

The many Westport newcomers, too.

(For more information email info@granapastificio.com, or call 203-557-3855.)

Donald Trump “Spotted” In Westport

No, this is not an April Fool’s story. Donald Trump was seen at the Spotted Horse last night.

At least, a cardboard cutout of him was.

Donald Trump

He — or it — arrived in Avi Kaner’s car trunk. The second selectman’s wife Liz was lobbying in Washington a few weeks ago. Waiting for her train home, she went into a souvenir store and purchased the cardboard fold-up “Donald.”

Since then, he’s made appearances at various town events — including graduation parties.

Whether you like the presumptive Republican nominee’s politics or loathe them, you gotta admit: He’s a stand-up guy.

(Hat tip: Francis Fiolek)

Green & Tonic Picks Up Westport’s Crumbs

Decadent, high-priced cupcakes did not work here. Twice.

Jeffrey Pandolfino is betting the 3rd time — with real food — will be the charm.

He owns Green & Tonic. The smoothie/salad/wrap/bowl/cleanse company just opened its 5th location here in Westport.

Green & Tonic moves eastward, from Greenwich, Cos Cob, Darien and New Canaan. The new spot is the Jesup Green/Taylor Place corner vacated by bankrupt Crumbs.

Westporters poured into Green & Tonic last night.

Westporters poured into Green & Tonic last night.

Last night’s opening was packed. (It helped that everything was free.)

Green & Tonic’s tagline is “Revive with real food.” The menu offers “plant-based food and drink for everyday eating.” It ranges from berry and acai “power bowls,” through wheatgrass and bee pollen boosters, to salads like pomegranate kale with quinoa, and on into a sunflower seed tuna wrap and a curried lentil brown rice bowl.

There are also “cleanse programs and meal plans,” for those who want to “get back to basics.”

Green & Tonic owner Jeffrey Pandolfino.

Green & Tonic owner Jeffrey Pandolfino.

So how is Green & Tonic different from Freshii (across the street)? Pandolfino points to greater variety, and the ease of picking up pre-made meals.

“We’re the healthy Starbucks,” he said. “We want to be the place you come to every day.”

Also from, presumably, right across the street.

The Green & Tonic philosophy is never far from customers' minds.

The Green & Tonic philosophy is never far from customers’ minds.