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Tag Archives: Gold’s Delicatessen
One of Westport’s oddest traditions — drivers plowing through the storefronts of Compo Shopping Center’s bank, delicatessen and retail stores — is ending.
Last night, alert “06880” reader Jeff Gray spotted workers placing bollards up and down the sidewalk.
Here’s another view, shot this morning by Amy Schneider:
Now Westporters can enjoy a safe Labor Day weekend — and every other day too.
On Wednesday, a condo fire in Stratford left dozens of residents homeless. Longtime Gold’s waitress Karen Alexios was one.
She lost everything, except the clothes on her back. Still, she went right back to work. That’s who she is.
“Customers adore her,” says owner Nancy Eckl. “They bring her birthday and holiday gifts. She’s very special.”
Karen’s relationship with Gold’s goes back to her childhood in Bridgeport. Her mother brought her to the deli, because it had “the best chopped liver in the world.”
She started waiting tables at 16, at a local bakery. When she was offered at spot at Gold’s — with 2 other offers — the choice was easy.
Now Nancy — and her customers, who have known and loved Karen for over 20 years — want to help.
“Karen has a huge heart,” a GoFundMe page says. “She always takes care of others.”
Now they want to take care of her.
(Click here for the Karen Alexios GoFundMe page.)
A recent “06880” photo of the Compo Beach palm tree got an alert — and hungry — reader thinking about lobster rolls.
That reminded her of clam chowder, which made her think of Westfair Fish & Chips. She’s been a fan ever since she was a student at Staples High School, back in the mid-1980s.
The small, unassuming takeout-or-eat-in spot behind the strip mall opposite Stop & Shop has been a Westport favorite for over 30 years. And that got the “06880” reader wondering about other restaurants that have stood the test of time.
Three decades is a great achievement for many things: a career, a marriage. But it’s particularly remarkable in the constant churn that is Westport’s restaurant scene.
She and I came up with a list of places we think have been here for at least 3 decades. They include:
Gold’s. The anchor of Compo Shopping Center since it opened in the late 1950s, and the anchor 6 decades later for anyone who loves a quintessential deli.
Viva Zapata. Probably the oldest continually operating restaurant in town, especially when you consider its predecessor, at the entrance to what is now Playhouse Square.
Westport Pizzeria. Opened in 1968 on Main Street, where it stood proud and unchanging for over 45 years, “Westport Pizza” moved around the corner to the Post Road in 2014. Its special recipe thankfully remains the same.
The Black Duck. A star turn on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” has not changed this waterfront favorite one bit.
Dunville’s. Around the corner from the Duck on Saugatuck Avenue, another down-home place that’s the same now as when its present owners grew up here.
Sherwood Diner. Or, simply, “the diner.” It’s no longer open 24/7, but is still the go-to spot for Staples High School seniors, senior citizens, every other human being in Westport, and anyone wandering in off nearby I-95.
Sakura. As steady as she goes. It — and the gorgeous cherry blossom tree outside, which gives the restaurant its name — has been a fixture opposite McDonald’s since the fast-food franchise was Roy Rogers. And before that, Big Top.
Fortuna’s. With limited seating, this is not really a restaurant. But stop quibbling. Its winning formula has filled the stomach of Staples students, Post Road workers and everyone else since the Ford administration.
Coffee An‘. If it’s good enough for Bill Clinton, it’s good enough for the rest of us. It doesn’t matter if you’re a president or a peon. The donuts are the same — unbelievable — for all.
Little Kitchen. When it opened on Main Street, it really was a “little kitchen.” Now it’s bigger, and the granddaddy of all Asian fusion places in town.
Da Pietro’s. One of Westport’s best — and smallest — restaurants, earning praise and love since 1987.
Tavern on Main. This cozy 2nd-floor Main Street spot has not been here as long as its predecessor, Chez Pierre — but it’s getting close.
I couldn’t find out for sure when a few other long-lived (though probably less than 3 decades) restaurants opened. But these too have stood the test of time: Tengda. Tarantino’s. Finalmente. Via Sforza. Planet Pizza. Tutti’s. Positano’s (at 2 different locations).
Special mention goes to 2 fantastic delis that offer a wide variety of hot and cold food, and serve as community centers: Elvira’s and Christie’s Country Store.
Plus, of course, Joey’s by the Shore. It’s not a restaurant or a deli. But the beach concession occupies its own special. much-loved niche. And if it hasn’t been here for 30 years, it’s at least 29.
Finally, 2 other downtown delis have been around for decades. They’ve changed names, and — particularly with one — substantially updated the interior.
But Rye Ridge (formerly Oscar’s) and Winfield Street Coffee (previously Art’s, and definitely not on Winfield Street but right over the bridge) keep doing what their predecessors have done.
And what every other place in this story does: provide excellent food and continuity to generations of Westporters.
(Have I missed any longtime restaurants or delis? Click “Comments” — and my apologies!)
For several years, Design Within Reach had a small Westport store.
Tucked away on Elm Street — behind Klein’s and the back entrance to the YMCA — it was not, CEO John Edelman admits, a great location.
Now Design Within Reach — which calls itself “the largest retailer of authentic modern furniture and accessories in the world” — is back in Westport.
This time, they’re doing it right.
The Stamford-based company has taken over both levels of the 1935 post office building on the Post Road, across from Jeera Thai and Finalmente. They’ve completely renovated the 2 floors — which themselves were redesigned by Post 154, a restaurant that could not possibly need all that space — and made good use of the terrace overlooking Bay Street.
It’s one more exciting addition to downtown. With Bedford Square and Jesup Hall restaurant opening nearby, there’s an infusion of energy that hasn’t been felt since the movie theaters’ last picture shows 2 decades ago.
Edelman is excited to return. And he doesn’t just mean relocating the store.
His Westport roots go back to his parents, who got married here 70 years ago. They moved to Ridgefield (more land), but he made regular trips to Gold’s (for Sunday lox and bagels) and Klein’s (for Sally White’s record department).
Eight years ago, when Edelman became CEO, the New York Times did a story. Of all the company’s stores, he chose to be photographed in Westport.
Last week — as guests at an opening party admired the handsome chairs, desks, beds, lighting fixtures, sofas and more — Edelman took time to talk about his sprawling new store.
As a post office, the building was a typical New Deal project: big and heavy. The Post 154 owners modernized it, but when they closed they left lots of “stuff” behind.
The new tenants created a beautiful space. It’s modern, open, alluring and airy.
Designers kept the center staircase, but that’s about all that remains. They “deconstructed” nearly all the rest. Exposed ceilings and HVAC give the store a hip, contemporary feel.
The terrace is a great idea, showcasing relaxed living while drawing customers from the side street.
The store — which really should be called Design Within Reach of Only Certain Zip Codes — does not have many suburban locations. Edelman says. But with 70% of their clientele having graduate degrees, Westport is a perfect spot.
Edelman is back in Westport big time. He and his wife rented a house on the water. He can walk to the train station, and he may buy a boat.
He can’t buy records from Sally White anymore. To mail a letter, he uses the “new” post office.
But he can still get his bagels and lox at Gold’s.
And then, a couple of blocks away, he can watch Design Within Reach help jump-start the renaissance of downtown Westport.
As Westport grapples with the closing of Oscar’s — the last mom-and-pop place on Main Street — alert “06880” reader Jim Gray sent along a photo of the original deli, a few doors down.
Oscar’s next-door neighbor — Westport Hardware — burned to the ground in 1976. It’s now the site of the 3-story Gap building.
Oscar’s started out with a real Oscar. Oscar Sisken and his wife, Sally, ran it for many years along with Sally’s brother, Benny. They drove in from Bridgeport, and were open every day from 8 am to 6 pm with the exception of Wednesday.
On Wednesday Oscar came in early, and made potato salad and cole slaw for the week. I believe he also made his own pickles, which he sold for a nickel each! In those days the rolls and bagels were 5 cents each. A loaf of rye bread was 29 cents.
In later years Benny was unable to work so Sally’s nephews, Peter and Harold Epstein, helped Oscar. (Their father, Sid Epstein, managed Maxine Furs diagonally across the stree.) When Oscar was ready to retire he sold the business to Joe Milici, a hair dresser who worked at a salon a few doors down the street.
Joe ran the business from the original location for several years, and hired Lee to help him. When a rumor circulated that Gold’s Deli was considering opening on Main Street, Joe decided to expand before Gold’s came in and took over. That’s when he moved Oscar’s to its present location. When Joe retired and moved to Florida, he sold the business to Lee.
For half a century, Gold’s Delicatessen has been a Westport icon.
And for more than 40 years, it was managed lovingly by Kenny Spigarolo.
He died Tuesday, age 91.
Bill Ryan passed the news to “06880.” He said simply, “Anyone who had Kenny wait on them felt better when they left than when they came in — and not just because of the food.”
Kenny graduated from Roger Ludlowe High School in Fairfield, and attended Kansas State University before proudly serving during World War II. While in the Army he ran the largest PX in Kassell, Germany, where he met and married the love of his life, Hildegard.
After the war he managed his family’s business, Spigarolo’s Market in Bridgeport. Then, for 4 decades at Gold’s, he made his mark on thousands of Westporters.
He was an “original” University of Connecticut women’s basketball fan, and a lifetime member of the Germania Schwaben Club, where he and Hildegard danced and socialized. He earned a special Red Cross award, for donating hundreds of pints of blood.
Calling hours are tomorrow (Friday, May 29), 4-8 p.m. in the Lesko & Polke Funeral Home, 1209 Post Road, Fairfield. His funeral will begin in the funeral home on Saturday at 9:15 a.m., with a Mass of Christian Burial to follow in St. Thomas Church at 10. His interment with full military honor will take place in Mountain Grove Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to Homes for the Brave, 655 Park Avenue, Bridgeport, Connecticut 06604, by donating a pint of blood through a local American Red Cross chapter. To sign his guest register, click here.
The Daily Meal (ho ho) has just posted its list of “America’s 10 Best Jewish Delis.”
Included are Carnegie Deli and Katz’s in New York City; Langer’s in LA, and Shapiro’s in Indianapolis. Indianapolis?!
Let the kvetching begin.
Some people come to Westport for the schools. Others like the beach.
For Hadley Rose, it was a good pastrami sandwich.
In 1992, the industrial packaging and hazardous-material shipping executive and his wife had spent 8 years in Wilton. With a young child, they found they were going to Westport for movies, shopping, restaurants serving alcohol — things Wilton did not have.
Westport was also more of a “mixed” community, Rose says.
Plus, Gold’s had that pastrami sandwich.
The Roses bought a “semi-fixer-upper,” and moved in.
A few years later, Westport was enveloped in controversy. (Surprise!)
The issue was school start times. Rose presented reams of documents to the Board of Education, supporting a later opening bell for high school students.
The proposed changes did not pass. But that was Rose’s introduction to local politics.
He attended First Selectwoman Diane Farrell’s “brown bag lunches.” She and 2nd selectman Carl Leaman encouraged him to run for the RTM.
Rose knew more about the legislative body than many Westporters did — and still do. “Most people think it’s the “Republican Town Meeting,” he says. (The “R” stands for “Representative.”)
He was first elected in 2003. Four years later, he ran for the top spot.
Now — after a decade on the RTM, and 3 terms as moderator — Rose has resigned. He and his wife are moving to Simsbury, to be closer to their 2 children who live in Boston.
Rose first ran because he wanted to change some of the ways the RTM worked.
Committees now receive information in a more timely fashion. He rotated committee chairs. He changed meeting start times from 8 p.m. to 7:30. And he “nudged speakers along.”
Meetings are much shorter now. But everything still gets done.
Rose praises RTM colleagues like Velma Heller, Jack Klinge and the late John Booth for their “respected, moderate voices.” He says the first selectmen he’s worked with — Farrell and Gordon Joseloff — have done “wonderful jobs.”
But Rose reserves his highest praise for Westport’s department heads.
“They’re very underrated. But they make this an incredible town,” he says.
“You can’t run a Public Works Department better than Steve Edwards does. Stuart McCarthy is doing great things at Parks and Rec. Those kinds of people are the glue — the institutional memory. They’ve served the town really well.”
Rose believes the RTM plays a vital role in town. “We’re the final say on most important issues,” he notes.
“The Board of Finance is definitely more politically driven than we are. So we act as a great check-and-balance. There are so many different points of view on the RTM, when we coalesce around an issue, you know it’s really been vetted.”
Rose says that the RTM has helped keep taxes down. “I don’t think people appreciate how low are taxes really are,” he says. “Look at Weston or Scarsdale.” He laughs. “Or what I’ll pay in Simsbury.”
Rose says that the RTM’s relationship with the Board of Education is now better than in the past. “We help them think a bit more about things, a bit earlier on. We’ve helped them cut waste, yet keep programs.”
One of Rose’s only regrets is that, as moderator, at times he had to hold his tongue. “Sometimes I really wanted to respond, and I couldn’t,” he says. “I had to be neutral, so no one could say the reason I ruled in a certain way was to favor something.”
As he leaves the RTM, Rose is buoyed by its future. “We’ve got lots of new people, with great perspectives,”he says. “There’s a lot of financial folks, but with different points of view. Some are conservative, some are relatively liberal. I’m very impressed with them.”
He will miss “working with the people on the RTM, and for the town. I’ve met a lot of extraordinary people. They’ve added a lot to Westport, and to my life.”
He will not miss “some of the baldly political decisions made by some bodies in town,” he says.
He is proud that the RTM is non-partisan. “I couldn’t tell you the political party of 8 or 9 members. And I don’t want to know.”
Rose will miss much about Westport, beyond the RTM. “There’s a good mix of people who put in tons of time to make this a better town,” he says. “They want it to be a great place, and they work to make it so.”
Oh, yeah. Rose will miss one more thing.
“Gold’s still makes a great pastrami sandwich.”