Word on the street — Charles Street — is that Mystic Market opens next month.
Some folks will describe it as the old Blu Parrot spot. Others — with longer memories — will say it’s where Jasmine was.
But real old-timers know it — and will never forget — the site as the beloved Arrow restaurant.
For a couple of decades — after its move from the nearby Saugatuck Avenue/Franklin Street location that gave it its name — the Arrow defined the neighborhood.
And made its mark on all of Westport.
Here’s a look back, at the way we all were.
Owner Frank Nistico
Owner Tom Nistico, back in the day.
Lou Nistico, son of the founders of the Arrow.
FRIDAY FLASHBACK FUN FOLLOW-UP: Last week’s Friday Flashback featured a 1946 photo of Marie Corridon on the Longshore high diving board.
It was a great shot (click here to see). Now comes word — via alert “06880” reader Chris Corridon — that Maria was not your casual, Sunday diver.
Turns out her family lived in Norwalk, and were members of Longshore. She learned to swim at the then-private club — and went on to win a gold medal at the 1948 Olympics in London!
Marie was the lead swimmer for the champion, Olympic record-setting US team in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.
She is a member of the swimming Hall of Fame. Her 7 children all participated in Division I athletics. The girls all swam, and are active Masters swimming record holders. One — Sheila Stolarski — is a Weston resident. Several of her grandchildren swim competitively too, in high school and college.
For decades, no one thought about the Longshore lighthouse.
Yesterday, I published a photo of it as part of “06880’s” Friday Flashback series.
I had no idea that Westporters Dick Stein and Tracy Hinson had just offered an oil painting of that same scene to the town, as a gift.
Dick told official curator Kathie Motes Bennewitz that he found the painting behind an upstairs desk at last year’s Red Barn tag sale. Owner Tommy Nistico asked Dick if he knew where the lighthouse had been located. Dick remembered it instantly from his youth.
The painting — by artist Harriet Horowitz, who moved from Westport in 1972 — was dusty and dirty. But Dick bought it, hoping it would one day hang in the Parks and Recreation Department office — at Longshore.
He had it cleaned and lightly repaired. Now he’s given it to the town.
That’s a great story. But there’s one more part.
According to alert “06880” reader Peter Barlow — who sent the lighthouse photo along for the “Friday Flashback” — in the late 1960s a popular Parks and Recreation Commission official ordered the demolition of the lighthouse.
Years later, he admitted it had been a mistake.
The commission member’s name?
Lou Nistico — father uncle of Red Barn owner Tom Nistico, who sold the lighthouse painting to Dick Stein.
Surging Saugatuck gets another big boost this Wednesday.
The Blu Parrot flings open its doors. Westport’s newest restaurant — on the site of the old Jasmine, and the older Arrow — offers an inspired menu, and equally intriguing live music.
It’s a big space, and the owners have big plans.
But it’s also the perfect space: the corner of Charles Street and Saugatuck Avenue, easy to get to and near many other new (and old) cool places in that part of town.
The owners are hardly newbies. Adam Lubarsky and Steven Alward are Staples grads (Class of 1973) and old friends. In 1978 — age 23 — they opened the Georgetown Saloon. For 26 years they offered good food, honest prices, and music so kick-ass that Keith Richards was a regular.
Now — back in their home town — Adam says, “We want to elevate the bar.”
Steve’s menu features dishes like oyster po’boys, Bubbe’s brisket sandwich, Moroccan lamb kebabs, bool kogi, and shrimp & grits.
Proud owners Steve Alward (left) and Adam Lubarsky.
But it’s the stage that will make the Blu Parrot special. A “piano man” plays from 5-7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursday. From 9 p.m. on (Wednesdays through Saturdays) and 6:30-9:30 Sundays, there’s great music. Jazz, rock, country, Brazilian — it’s the Georgetown Saloon, with a Westport twist.
Sunday brunch features gospel. That’s a Saugatuck first.
Speaking of Saugatuck: For decades, the Arrow restaurant was an icon of that tight, close-knit community.
The Blu Parrot will — in its own way — help define the spirit of the new Saugatuck.
Somewhere up above, Lou and Frank Nistico are smiling.
Later this week, Saugatuck hosts the Italian Festival. The location — across the street from the Nistico family’s old Arrow restaurant — is as Saugatuck (and Italian) as it gets.
But Lou Nistico was a man for all of Westport — not just Saugatuck — so it’s appropriate that this week he’s also being celebrated on North Avenue.
Thirty years ago, the athletic complex at his beloved Staples High School was named for Lou. But the letters honoring the restaurateur/philanthropist/paisano fell into disrepair, and for a while now the signage almost disrespected the man.
Now — thanks to a fundraising effort spearheaded by John Lupton and the Class of 1966 — bold new lettering graces the newly painted north and south entrances. Fittingly, the color is Staples blue.
Earlier last month, the same fundraising drive paid for lights to illuminate the stone “Staples High School” sign at the main entrance on North Avenue. That sign is actually the lintel from the original building on Riverside Avenue — just down the street from the Arrow, and the Nistico home.
Athletic fields around Westport bear the names of men and women who contributed greatly to the youth of this town: Albie Loeffler. Jinny Parker. Doc Doubleday.
Without knowing it, every time we mention those sites, we honor an important part of Westport’s past.
So why have we forgotten the “Lou Nistico” part of Lou Nistico Athletic Complex?
The reflection of lights, and an exercise machine placed in front, don't detract from this portrait of Lou Nistico near the fieldhouse.
Staples’ enormous fieldhouse — where people of all ages run, pole vault, long jump, wrestle, play basketball, hit baseballs, kick soccer balls, toss lacrosse balls (sometimes all simultaneously), and swelter during graduation ceremonies each June — is named for a man as gargantuan as the indoor space itself.
Lou Nistico was a co-owner of the Arrow Restaurant. It was a family place that defined Saugatuck — all of Westport, really — for generations. But calling him a restaurateur is like saying da Vinci “liked to draw.”
Lou loved this town — particularly its young people. He would do anything for them — and often did. He gave them jobs. He invited teams to drop by after games, and fed them for free. He bought clothes so athletes and musicians could look good at banquets and concerts. He paid for college educations.
And he did it all quietly, unobtrusively — no mean feat for a man who tipped the scales at 400 pounds. (He was weighed once at Gault — true story.)
Lou Nistico did many other things for Westport. He was the kind of guy who — through force of personality and physical presence — cut through crap red tape, and got highway departments and police officers to do what was good for the town, back in the days when such things were possible (or at least not likely to be videotaped or blogged about).
Though Italian through and through, Lou would’ve been proud to be called a mensch.
When the Staples fieldhouse was built 30 years ago, it was named for Lou Nistico. A larger-than-life portrait by Ralph Ruta was hung in the hallway, by the pool. “Lou Nistico Athletic Complex” was written in large letters above the outside entrance. Almost immediately, everyone forgot.
In 3 decades, I have never heard the fieldhouse called by its proper name. Newspapers, Channel 12, Staples broadcasters — all refer to it simply as “the fieldhouse.”
It’s hard to overlook a man as big — or as big-hearted — as Lou Nistico. But Westport has managed to do just that.
(Thanks to Red Izzo and Paul Lane for suggesting this post. They note that the Wilton High School fieldhouse — named for longtime Westporter and former Wilton athletic director/coach Nick Zeoli — has suffered a similar fate. But that’s a story for an “06897” blog.)
The sign at the entrance to the Lou Nistico Fieldhouse shows its age.
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