Tag Archives: Rizzuto’s

Bridging Saugatuck

Everyone in Westport calls it (redundantly) the “Bridge Street bridge.” No one uses the official “William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge” name. (He was a popular cop who, for years, theatrically directed rush-hour traffic at the Riverside Avenue intersection.)

In a while, though, everyone in town will be talking about it.

Preliminary discussions between local and state officials have begun regarding repairs — or perhaps replacement — of the 131-year-old, 287-foot structure.

It’s the oldest surviving movable bridge in Connecticut. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It carries 16,000 vehicles a day.

Maritime commerce in long-ago Saugatuck — and upriver, downtown Westport — depended on the bridge’s ability to open. It was a tedious, hand-cranking process.

It also put a lot of stress on the bridge — stress that’s been aggravated by tremendous vehicular traffic, and occasional collisions with vessels. Now its girders are rusting — and possibly cracking.

An idyllic shot of the Bridge Street bridge. Usually, it's filled with traffic.

An idyllic shot of the Bridge Street bridge. Usually, it’s filled with traffic.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation has identified serious deficiencies with the Bridge Street bridge. They’ve got their eyes on it. (And many others — our infrastructure is not exactly healthy.)

Renovation or replacement would entail considerable disruption to a structure vital to our town. (Repairs a while back resulted in a temporary span being constructed adjacent to the permanent one. That’s when a much-needed northbound turning lane was added, coming off the bridge by the old Mansion Clam House.)

There’s no question something must be done. When it is, will other issues be addressed — like the congestion that currently clogs Saugatuck for hours each day?

Will there be discussion of (let’s say) using some of the land at (let’s say) Rizzuto’s parking lot for a roundabout, moving traffic continuously through without a light? It’s been done elsewhere.

“Improvements” are in the eye of the beholder. Would you like to see the old truss bridge remain? Would you prefer a completely new structure?

If you have ideas on how to improve the Bridge Street bridge — and the traffic mess on and around it — click “Comments.” Please use your real name. Feel free to add thoughts on when and how you use the bridge, and what you think of it.

The Bridge Street bridge and environs, as seen on Google Earth view.

The Bridge Street bridge and environs, as seen on Google Earth view.

Ho Ho Ho! They’ll Drink To That!

Seventy or so Santa Clauses — and a few random Mrs. Clauses, elves and Grinches — descended on Saugatuck Center this afternoon.

They drank, ate and ambled their way — no sleighs allowed, not after all that beer! — from Dunville’s to the Whelk, then Viva’s, Rizzuto’s and the Duck. Dessert was at Saugatuck Sweets.

The price to party: $100. Plus, you had wear a costume. There were some very serious Santas today.

It was all for a great cause: Adam’s Camp, a special summer spot for children with special needs.

Everywhere the merry group went, traffic stopped. It was as if no one has ever seen 70 Santas drinking their way through Saugatuck before.

Kelly and Drew Schuette, who organized this afternoon's Santa pub crawl.

Kelley and Drew Schuette, who organized this afternoon’s Santa pub crawl. More shots are below.

Santa - 2

Santa - 3

Santa - 4

Santa - 5

Nearly everyone made it to the plaza outside the Whelk for a group shot. A few were still inside, enjoying their beers and oysters.

Nearly everyone made it to the plaza outside the Whelk for a group shot. A few were still inside, enjoying their beers and oysters.

Fine Dining, With Steaks And Shirley Temples

Alexander Lobrano knows his onions. And every other food.

Alexander Lobrano (Photo/Steven Rothfeld)

The Westport native — and, since 1986, Paris resident — was European Correspondent for Gourmet magazine from 1999 until it closed in 2009. He has written about food and travel for Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, Departures, Conde Nast Traveler, and many other publications. He has won several James Beard awards.

His blog is called Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City’s 102 Best Restaurants, but he ranges far beyond France. Alexander reviews eateries all over the world.

When he looks back on his culinary youth, Alexander is not your average Joe. And — as you would expect on a blog called “06880” — it all comes back to Westport.

Recently, he wrote:

When I was growing up in Westport, Connecticut in the ’60s and ’70s, the default “good” restaurant was a place down near the train station called Manero’s, an Italian-American owned steakhouse with a brick walls covered with shiny copper cookware and jovial older waiters with accents of indeterminable origin. [NOTE: Manero’s is now Rizzuto’s.]

This was where Grandmother Drake would take us for a birthday dinner or sometimes just a special night out, and with her pretty green eyes, Titian blonde hair in up-swept French Twist chignon, good jewelry, faux leopard jacket and quick wit, the waiters adored her.

The running joke at almost every meal was that it was her birthday, and they’d often bring out a baked Alaska with a candle in it for her after we’d eaten the exact same meal we always had: cocktails—bourbon for the adults, and Shirley Temples for the girls or Horse’s Necks for the boys, the difference being in name only, because they were the same concoction of ginger ale and grenadine syrup with an orange slice and a vivid Maraschino cherry (oddly enough, the concept of children’s cocktails seems to have gone completely out of style…can’t think why), shrimp cocktail, steak with onion rings, baked potatoes wrapped in foil, and salad with blue-cheese dressing.

If the food at Manero’s was good, no one could ever have accused it of being interesting, but then in those days no one wanted food that was interesting.

To be sure, Westport had an excellent Chinese restaurant, West Lake, and the Italian food at the Apizza Center in nearby Fairfield was wonderful, too, but aside from a couple of New England-y seafood places—The Clam Box [NOTE: now Bertucci’s], etc., and a “French” restaurant downtown where they flambéed everything, but most of all the bill, the town offered slim pickings for anyone who really loved good food with the exception of the rather mysterious Café Varna [NOTE: actually Cafe Barna, on the site of what is now Mitchells of Westport], which served, rather amazingly in retrospect, Bulgarian food [NOTE: actually Hungarian].

The local restaurant pulse quickened in the ’70s with the opening of places like Viva Zapata, a Mexican place that Grandmother Drake heartily disapproved of — “Barbara,” she’d say to my mother, “You shouldn’t feed food like that to growing children” — and a fun little café called Bon Appetite.

During a recent trawl through southwestern Connecticut, I thought of this long ago gastronomic landscape and couldn’t help but be amazed by the variety of ethnic eating now on offer in the area, a reflection, I think of how Americans have become so much more adventurous at the table than they were 40 years ago.

That’s the introduction to his review of a New York restaurant called The Left Bank (“er, um, well, not quite,” Alexander writers, referring to its French aspirations).

It’s also a great introduction to a long-ago dining scene that long-time Westporters recall with a bit of fondness, some amusement, and much embarrassment.

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.)