Tag Archives: La Villa

Food, Glorious Food

Some restaurants close, and everyone notices. That’s what happened to Cru, late last month. The Dressing Room‘s demise had everyone talking; earlier, so did V’s.

Others quietly shut their doors. That’s the story with La Villa, the longtime Bay Street spot with a steady, seemingly loyal clientele.

I included them in a list of nearby restaurants — along with Post 154, Finalmente and Blue Lemon — in a story about Westport Pizzeria moving in around the corner. They were already closed. One reader commented that she “thought” it was gone; no one responded.

La Villa was one of the 1st Westport restaurants to have pop-up seating 2 years ago. It seemed kind of weird, dining on Bay Street. But they added 5 more tables, in front of the indoor space.

La Villa, in its sunnier days.

La Villa, in its sunnier days.

No restaurant is forever. The Clam Box, Manero’s, Allen’s — all met their end. And who knows what will happen to Mario’s, when the next phase of the Saugatuck Center development begins on Railroad Place?

So, “06880” readers: Let’s hear from you. Knowing the run will end eventually, what can a Westport restaurateur do to maximize his or her chances of success? What works in this town? What restaurants consistently do it right?

Play nice. Don’t dis. Use full names (yours, as well as restaurants’). And dig in!

Westport Pizzeria: Big Changes In Store

The bad news: After 45 years, Westport Pizzeria is closing its Main Street doors.

The good news: The day after it happens — later this month — the legendary, much-loved restaurant will re-open around the corner.

The new location — 143 Post Road East — was most recently the site of EATalia. It’s got great Italian bones: Before that, it was Joe’s Pizza. Even earlier, it was the bizarrely named S&M Pizza.

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

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

Owner Mel Mioli says his landlord — Malkin Property — sent him a non-renewal notice around January 1. Earlier, Mel says, Malkin offered him a 5-year lease if Kate Spade — 2 doors down — did not rent the entire building. But that didn’t happen, Mel says. Then the landlord stopped answering letters, emails and phone calls.

Now Mel is out. So is Kate Spade. And — in between them — Francois DuPont Jewelers.

At first, Mel says, he was sad. After nearly half a century on Main Street, the pizzeria he and his brother Joe founded has become a Westport institution. Customers became  friends — and he’s watched their children, and now grandchildren, grow up.

But a couple of years ago, Mel bought the 143 Post Road East property — just in case something like this happened.

Now, that’s a hot location. Just a few steps away are a host of restaurants: Post 154. Finalmente. La Villa. Blue Lemon.

A familiar scene, for 45 years. The backs of the shirts say "A true slice of Westport."

A familiar scene, for 45 years. The backs of the shirts say “A true slice of Westport.”

Westport Pizzeria’s new space is a lot larger than the beloved — but very narrow — Main Street site. Mel is renovating the Post Road property, making it bright and welcoming.

He’ll add a few dishes to the menu. Plus — grazie! — beer and wine.

Mel’s initial sadness has turned to excitement.

“I’m very, very happy,” he says. “We’ll take care of old customers better than before, and I know we’ll make new ones.”

The other day, he walked past his new Westport Pizzeria. The sidewalk was packed with pedestrians. “I can’t wait to open,” Mel says.

So will he stay another 45 years on Post Road East?

“At least!” Mel promises.

At the end of the month, this will be just another Main Street memory.

At the end of the month, this will be just another Main Street memory.

Get Your Paper!

Westport is all set to welcome 2 new businesses downtown.

Paper Source is a large store selling, well, paper (plus envelopes, labels and the like). Steven Alan — whose opening is delayed a few weeks — is a men’s and women’s clothier.

Both occupy the new building wedged into the former parking lot between Spruce — the old Town Hall — and Bank of America, just east of Restoration Hardware.

Paper Source, Westport CT

It is, I think, the 1st totally new construction (on an unused site) downtown since 180 Post Road East — Michele’s Pies, La Villa restaurant, etc.

With people (hopefully) streaming in to buy paper and clothes — and eat at the coming-soon restaurants in the old post office, and the basement of Spruce/the old Town Hall, plus crossing the street for Urban Outfitters — the news is good for this stretch of downtown.

But the new building wiped out dozens of parking spots. As Westporters chime in on the possible loss of spaces if the Gunn House is moved across Elm Street to the Baldwin lot, I’m wondering how and why the new construction at 100 Post Road East got a pass.

Pop-Up Goes The Restaurant

La Villa is one of the 1st Westport restaurants to install a newly legal pop-up outdoor dining area. The 5 tables are ready for action.

A new restaurant will soon appear in the old post office, across the street.

Will we see dueling pop-ups on Bay Street?

Eat, Drink, See A Play

Several years ago, when the Westport Country Playhouse was being renovated, nearby restaurants saw drops of up to 2/3 in business.

The Dressing Room sits in the shadow of the Playhouse. Other partner restaurants are not far away.

This summer, many of those restaurants — the ones still around, anyway — will show their appreciation for the Playhouse in a tangible way.  Seven have signed on as “partners” for the 2011 season.  Playhouse subscribers receive discounts of up to 20%, when presenting a ticket or stub on the day of that performance.

The 7 partners include The Dressing Room, La Villa, Manolo, Matsu Sushi, Rizzuto’s, Tavern on Main and Thali.

It’s a win-win-win.  Participating restaurants get their logos displayed in Playhouse promotional materials (and complimentary tickets).  The Playhouse gets to support — and gets support from — local businesses.

And theater-goers get great, discounted meals at a diverse mix of restaurants.  It’s a nice reminder that Fairfield hasn’t stolen all our culinary thunder.

Yet.

(Click here for full restaurant descriptions and discounts.)

Pies!

Out went the ice cream (and ice cream cakes).

In comes pie.

A small sign on the vacant Baskin-Robbins window announces the arrival  of Michele’s Pies.

Soon, we’ll join Norwalk with the opportunity to buy lemon lime pie.  Tiramisu pie.  Twisted citrus blackberry pie.  Maple pumpkin pie with a pecan streusel.  Caramel pecan chocolate pie.

Also chicken pot pies.  And Australian beef pies.

Not to mention handmade cookies, tea breads, pastries, cheesecakes, muffins, coffee, cappucino and espresso.

Our long national downtown nightmare is over.

Owner Michele Albano uses only fresh seasonal fruit — nothing canned or frozen.  Even the pumpkins are puréed by her staff.

Michele’s grandmother taught her to bake.  Her creations remind people of their own grandmothers’ pies.  At least, that’s what the website says — and would a pie-baker lie?

In high school Michele sold her pies locally.  She founded her business in her Killington condo in 2006.  Her pies quickly earned a following at farmer’s markets and craft shows in Vermont and Fairfield County.

Michele's pies won 7 (count 'em!) 1st prize ribbons at the National Pie Championship.

In 2007 Michele competed in her first National Pie Championship.  She won 1st prize in the coveted “commercial nut” category, for her chocolate pecan bourbon pie.

When demand outgrew her Killington kitchen, she headed to the big city:  Norwalk.  Her Main  Avenue location was an instant hit — but Michele did not grow too big for her toque.  She was there every day behind the counter, serving customers.

She began selling to local outlets — Oscar’s is a customer — but now she’s ready to expand to a Westport location.

Her little corner of downtown brims with dining options, though they all seem Italian:  La VillaFinalmenteJoe’s Pizza.

Perhaps Michele has a baked manicotti pie up her sleeve.  Or a lasagna Bolognese pie.

All with fresh, seasonal tomatoes, of course.