Eat Up Stamford
Our locally sourced guide to 85+ restaurants defining Stamford dining right this minute
Long gone are the days when the only choices for takeout were pizza and Chinese, when enjoying haute cuisine prepared by a star chef meant—gasp!—sneaking across the border, when Latin food only meant Mexican. Today, no matter what Stamford foodies are hungry for, we can stay close to home and satisfy that craving, for whatever it may be. And we like it that way, so given that we are always planning the next reunion with friends or special occasion, we present our dining guide to what's trendy and delicious now. Dig in! There's plenty to choose from here, and with such a heated landscape, your only difficult decision will be what to order next.
Table For Two
A dinner date can be fraught with multiple moods. If it’s a first date, there are nerves and excitement. Those already dating are filled with expectations for what’s on the menu, and what may come after dessert. There's relaxed and social double-dating too, but don't forget “Date Night,” the longtime couple-enforced, perilous dance. No matter what the tone, Stamford can handle it all. At Napa & Co., you can come in blue jeans after a movie or dressed to the nines before the symphony, and you’ll be just right. Here you can satisfy your hankering for a chef’s tasting or wine and cheese at the bar. Either way, seasonal cuisine is the focus at this wine-centric, casually elegant New American spot. And if the table’s decorated with rose petals, go ahead and get your hopes up. Napa does marriage proposals.
For something a little more exclusive, book a table at Capital Grille, where you can feel affluent and pampered at once. One of you may order the dry-aged porterhouse steak, rare. The other, the citrus-glazed salmon. Specials or not, you’ll both toast each other while sitting at a cozy corner table facing the wine kiosk in the space’s dark, wood-paneled, comfortably clubby atmosphere.
On the other hand, when you both want to eat light but still feast, the simple yet bold Greek fare at Eos is a sparkling option. The spare, modern setting leaves the drama to the food—picture flaming saganaki cheese and a whole branzino grilled over charcoal and flavored with lemon and fresh herbs. There are plenty of dishes for vegans, vegetarians and the gluten-free here too. And after dinner, you can read your future in the grounds of the rich, potent Greek coffee.
To feel at home, try Columbus Park, owned by the Marchetti family, whose members will greet you at the door and remember your name (even your favorite cocktail). And the food is connected to Italy in the way Italians eat the order of courses—simply dressed salads and vegetable side-dishes—and some of the best pasta in the city, made each day by elegant mama Maria.
For something Old World, try Aria. You can start with prosecco at the cozy bar—their cellar sings with 350 wines from small vineyards—then to the dining room, with tablecloths, candles and servers who will hold your chair. The tables are not too close, giving your meal a sense of intimacy. The menu of Italian dishes intrigues: filet mignon carpaccio, and black squid ink pasta with radicchio, shrimp and walnuts. Don’t skip: Flourless chocolate almond torta caprese for the perfect romantic ending.
New Kids on the Block
You read it here first. Constantly feeding our appetites for what’s hot are those newcomers that deliver a fresh take on classic cuisines, and expand our palates to new flavors, presentations and décor. There is Barrique, a French-Mediterranean bistro that is living up to its great location and the memories of its predecessor Chez Jean-Pierre. The refurbished, bright, charming dining room is the scene of happy diners eating salade Niçoise, sipping a light, orange-scented bouillabaisse, or cutting into a hearty New York Strip steak with frites. With an outdoor café scene in warm weather and a cozy back bar in winter, it feels like it’s been here forever.
Across the street is Boca Mezze Eatery, which opened in August. The big reveal? The former Telluride has been transformed into a dramatic, contemporary, white “South Beach-meets-New York” space, with a long bar upholstered in white leatherette. Mezze are on the menu—perfect-for-sharing small plates from the Mediterranean, Middle East and the Balkans.
Close to Shippan is Tomato Tomato, specializing in 12-inch New York style pizzas named after nearby streets. We hear the most popular is the Brightside, with spicy sausage, sautéed onions and long, hot peppers. Don’t limit yourself to pizza. The chef is Luciano Magliulo, formerly of Mona Lisa and Piatto. The atmosphere—white subway tiles, gray walls, black leather booths and red accents—is family-friendly. And there’s a full bar, with special cocktails and a large beer and wine selection.
Finally, there is Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Harbor Point, the fifth in the expanding New York chain. It’s got a cult status and deserves it. They’ve got BBQ down to an art and a science, using a slow-and-low process to balance the four components of barbecue, smoke, spice, sauce and meat. The twenty craft beers include five from Connecticut. This is an ultra-relaxed place that makes people happy—especially for its easy parking. Insider tip: Order the fried green tomato with smoked shrimp rémoulade.
Worth The Trip
A food tour of Hope Street.
Not everything is downtown; Springdale residents have known this a long time. Want a taste of what they already know? Start at Kiku Sushi, boasting a cozy, wood-filled interior that is casual and comfortable, and the food…Oh my! We love the sashimi lunch, delicate cuts of fish rolled around matchsticks of cucumber and thick cuts of tuna. You won’t leave hungry here. Kiku offers contemporary sushi bar appetizers like tuna with jalapeño and yuzu sauce, and goes fusion with Thai dishes like curry and mango chicken. But if you are a sushi snob like us, this is also your place.
Down the street is Sunny & Frankie’s, a popular neighborhood pub serving a menu of comfort Italian to please all palates. Stop by and be sure to say hello to Angelo and Giovanni.
Next door is Olio, Hope Street’s new culinary gem. Opened last year in the old Bella Luna space, this bright, spare, casual restaurant has a terrific New American menu of delights like seared scallops with cauliflower fondue and sweet-and-sour raisins, and miso-soy barbecue ribs. Owners and business partners Moira Hyland and chef Steve Costanzo have made Olio a neighborhood destination.
Across the street is Amore Restaurant, a step-back-in-time, family-owned place that’s a top contender for best pizza in Stamford. Try the thin, chewy and crunchy pie with homemade mozzarella and Italian plum tomato sauce. There also is the bruschetta pizza, topped with fresh tomatoes, bacon and mozzarella.
Further south is Hope Street Pizza, (technically in neighboring Glenbrook), where Springdalers have been traveling for the Greek-style pizza at this family-owned institution. Their pan-baked, thick crusts have an airy and crisp texture, and are topped with their signature cheddar-mozz blend.
Trying to live on a budget? In Stamford you can please your discerning palate and still save for a rainy day. There's Garden Catering, an ever-popular after-school spot serving real chicken breast nuggets and fried mashed potato balls since the late 1970s. It does a big lunch and catering business too. No doubt since the food’s fresh—the produce comes from Hunts Point Market—and they roast their turkey, beef and other meats in-house.
Season Eats take-out breakfasts are so good, they draw families on any given Saturday morning. Kids love the peanut butter banana and cinnamon quesadilla, while Mom and Dad love the eggs Benedict sandwich on a jumbo toasted English muffin and the steak-and-egg hoagie with pickled banana peppers. Still hungry? Season Eats eases into lunch with lobster chowder and black bean and corn chili. We also like that their burgers come in 7 or 4 ounces.
Colony Grill has long been about its signature pizza—a thin, cracker crust “bar pie” topped with hot oil. This cult favorite, around since 1935, is famous for its no frills setting and gruff service. Notice all those hot oil pies on Stamford menus these days? This is where it started.
The global kitchen is also represented in our cheap list. At Layla’s Falafel, the cooks blend the cultural melting pot of southern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel with such international dishes as falafel, shawarma and kabobs. Vegetarians find lots of options here as well.
You will feel like a European transplant at Café Oo La La, the bright and cheerful café at the Ridgeway that chef-owner Faina Yelensky opened two years ago. Homemade classic and modern meals on the quick are her specialty, so stop by and try the individual grilled vegetable quiche, one of the café’s best sellers. Yelensky makes the crust with butter so it’s rich and flaky. If you come for breakfast, try the crunchy French toast with fruit and applewood smoked bacon.
The deli-like First Kitchen, the former Saigon Café, doesn’t hint at the culinary delights within. Begin with pho, Vietnamese noodle soup. It has long rice noodles, thin slices of meat and fresh herbs. Try to grab one of the few tables here and eat your pho right away. Then sample some Banh mi—a Vietnamese “sub”—with your choice of meat, chicken, Vietnamese cold cuts, pickled vegetables and fresh herbs.
Lastly, there’s the tiny but always packed Little Buddha, serving the sweet-sour-spicy-fresh flavors of Thai food. There are only eight two-tops, so it’s popular for takeout. But if you can get a seat, remember it’s BYO. The chefs make most dishes medium spicy, but they’ll adjust it your way. Most popular are basil chicken, duck curry and fat rice noodles with brown sauce.
Eating La Vida Loca
Travel all points south for a blend of flavors that define Latin fusion
We’re talking classic fusion here, with flavors and ingredients from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America. The Spanish, Portuguese and French food traditions of this vast region are like a history lesson of accommodation among native peoples, conquerors, immigrants, and travelers of all sorts. So expect some Asian in your Peruvian food, some Swiss in your Mexican, and African in your Haitian.
We begin our tour with Brasitas, which can arguably be credited with the local Latin resurgence. This restaurant’s lively and tropical décor, along with its creative cuisine, melds flavors and techniques from Colombia, Venezuela, Spain, Mexico and the Caribbean. Customers love this place because the food is good and the atmosphere is lively. There’s valet parking too.
Next stop is Bartaco, where there’s the spirit of a Mexican beach shack reflected in its casual menu of tacos—we love that one of the fillings is tripe— and well-curated tequila list.
Fly to the Peruvian Fiesta Atlantic Restaurant for the lomo saltado, a stir-fry of beef, bell peppers and potatoes (with a sprinkle of aji amarillo, a purée of hot yellow chili pepper, the hot sauce of choice here) that reflects the confluence of native Indian, Spanish and Chinese cultures. We always order the fish ceviche too. It’s the real deal.
Then head to the Brazilian steakhouse Rodizio Grill, and bring your appetite; servers dressed as South American gauchos bear tall skewers of rotisserie-grilled meats of every kind, and they’ll keep on bringing them until you tell them to stop. Insider tips: start with a caipirinha, a sweet lime and cachaça rum drink, and don’t overeat at the enormous salad bar—as good as it is—you'll need to save room for everything else.
From the Caribbean is Maddy’s Food Truck, serving Haitian specialties influenced by Spanish, French and African cultures. The flavors are bold and fresh, seasoned with fresh ingredients that include thyme, parsley, scallions, garlic, onions, citrus juice and habanero peppers. Griot, morsels of tender, spicy fried pork, served with spicy cabbage salad, is the most popular dish, paired with a traditional side of twice-fried plantain that soaks up the heat.
We’d be remiss to ignore Mexico, and we have a few options offering authentic fare, Tex-Mex and everything in between. On the fusion end of the spectrum is Lola’s Mexican Kitchen, a contemporary restaurant and popular bar serving, among its popular dishes, appetizers like habanero edamame, and entrées like ropa vieja (traditionally a Cuban dish) topped with fried plantain, and fish tacos with slaw.
For Tex-Mex there's Riviera Maya, serving hearty portions of your favorite standards. Try the house special, the chiles rellenos, an authentic treat.
Up on High Ridge is Olé Mole, an always crowded storefront with a devoted following. Burritos top the list of most popular dishes, especially the “huge” carne asada. Grilled chicken burritos and enchiladas, and their guacamole, earn our thumbs up as well.
If the real deal is what you are looking for, you won’t go wrong at Casa Villa, where the enchiladas in green sauce with shrimp, or in mole with chicken, recall the classic cuisine of Puebla, owner Alvino Villa’s home just south of Mexico City. El Charrito, probably Stamford’s favorite food truck, offers another authentic option: huaraches, an oval of fried masa (cornmeal dough) filled with your choice of meat, beans, salsa and cheese. Often parked at Jackie Robinson Park, El Charrito draws lines of RBS bankers and landscapers alike.
Where do the girls go? Where the boys are! But whether you and your lady friends are getting together for some girl talk, or planning a little flirty action later into the night, there are places where you can eat, catch up on gossip, watch the crowds grow, then hop over to the bar. Thursday is Ladies Night at Hudson Grille, offering $5 cocktails your group can enjoy while sitting in big booths that offer views of its large circular bar. It also has a wide-ranging menu with a little bit of everything for all tastes, including among other options, the shrimp chopped salad and sliders with fries, one of our favorites. No need to bar hop; as the night progresses, and the deejay starts playing, you can start dancing.
For a clubbier atmosphere, meet your friends at Butterfield 8. Ladies can drink for free from 9–10 p.m., then enjoy $5 Stoli cocktails like the Blue and Club blueberry vodka with club soda. Make sure you have some munchies too; grab a big, circular booth in this sleek, wood-walled club and order up dinner apps like the spinach artichoke dip or Buffalo wings with blue cheese.
If your plans are for happy hour, head to Kona Grill, which boasts an enormous fish tank behind the bar, making this chain on the edge of the Stamford Town Center a fun after-work spot. A professional crowd heads to this bar and heated outdoor patio for $5 cocktails and half-priced appetizers. Staying for dinner? The large menu ranges from sushi and pan-Asian to American classics served by a super friendly staff.
If you’re looking for glitz, try Dolce Cubano Rum Bar, a big, Miami-style waterfront bistro with a bustling scene that draws many bachelorette and birthday parties. When we go, we always order the wildberry mojito, a red-and-blue layered concoction of muddled blueberries, raspberries, mint, with Atlantico rum. The Cuban-Italian menu goes from light (ceviche) to soulful (Havana roast pork, rice and beans) and everything in between in a big, crowd-pleasing menu.
Who doesn’t love diners? They’re our home away from home, where everyone calls you “Hon” and the specials rarely change. Our favorite? We are loath to say, but clearly it depends on the neighborhood. In SoTo, there’s Elm Street Diner, which goes beyond breakfast standards with its California Avocado (eggs) Benedict, lox and onion omelettes and peanut butter pancakes. Stay for lunch to try the burgers and the Ultimate Meatloaf Panini. (We’ll take a red velvet milkshake with that!) The Moshos family opened the diner in 1987, and they don’t skimp on authentic Greek specialties, like pastitsio, the comforting meld of macaroni and beef.
The signature donuts dipped in cinnamon sugar at the Lakeside Diner in North Stamford have long elicited raves at this tiny retro location on Long Ridge. “Fried joy!” people have said. Other standouts are the pancakes, and the Charlotte, crepe-like pancakes served with fruit. Lakeside, as its name suggests, also offers a water view. Be prepared for long waits on weekends; this place is popular.
Also near the Merritt but on High Ridge is Parkway Diner, a spot that bears a classic diner look with red and black upholstered booths, that is popular for breakfast (buttermilk pancakes!) and power breakfast meetings. At lunch, the sandwiches and wraps are the biggest sellers, including Jennifer’s Creation, smoked turkey, apples, and soft brie cheese on multigrain bread. Fun Fact: Before he was dancing on Dancing With the Stars, Tony Dovolani waited tables here.
Over in Springdale is the aptly named Springdale Diner, next to the train station. This seventeen-year-old diner gets a mix of out-of-towners and regulars; some mornings it seems like everyone grew up together. The cook bakes fresh cinnamon donuts every morning, and kids love the pancakes: chocolate chip banana or peanut butter chocolate chip. And, you can get Italian or chicken sausage with your eggs too.
Further south is Bull’s Head Diner, a classic with a landmark feel that’s known for its lunch menu. The special here is carving board sandwiches—pastrami, corned beef, roast beef, turkey, brisket, whatever juicy hunk of meat the chef has prepared, carved to order, draped and piled high onto sandwiches. Other favorites are the house-made turkey burgers, the flame-broiled half-pound burger, and Greek sandwiches: souvlaki and gyros. Desserts—cheesecake, carrot cake and Napoleons—are made in-house. Late night munchies? They are open 24/7.
Even closer to downtown is the relative newcomer Bedford Street Diner, opened in 2007 by siblings (whose parents once owned a diner) who pride themselves on creating a warm atmosphere. They name their dishes after friends, family and customers, and offer healthy options too, like sweet potato fries. Grilled salmon over mixed greens with cranberries, walnuts, Gorgonzola, cucumbers and tomatoes is one of their most popular dishes. Our eye is on Freddy’s Huevos Rancheros. Whoever Freddy is, it’s good. Oh, and they deliver too.
Rice & Spice
Dumplings, nan, pad Thai, sushi, banh mi, curry and more. Stamford’s got the Asian market covered. Beginning with Asian fusion, Kujaku Japanese Bistro has it all: hibachi, sushi, gyoza, tempura and more popular favorites. Kotobuki is small and sedate but well-respected. Sushi master and owner Masa Sato is a traditionalist, praised for the freshness of his fish and his skills with slicing fish to highlight its texture. Sit at the sushi bar and learn why rice is so important to sushi. Fin is another low-key, downtown place popular for imaginative sushi. Regulars love the Fin roll, a tempura-style spicy tuna and avocado roll served with scallions and eel sauce. Lunch box specials are great for people who delight in many flavors: miso soup, rice, a three-piece California roll, Japanese fried shrimp roll and choice of teriyaki, tempura or katsu. We got a tip about Sushi X, known for its all-you-can-eat menu. Our tipsters have just one warning: don’t leave any sushi uneaten; you’ll be charged for it anyway. Finally, Tengda’s where to gather with friends for a pan-Asian feast of dumplings, sushi (try the Magical Roll), noodles (great pad Thai), and curry, all in a menu filled with Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese favorites.
Indian cuisine is also well represented in town. There’s Tawa, the two-level jewel box downtown serving Indian breads, curries, street food, and Indo-Chinese favorites that reflect the creativity of executive chef Kausik Roy. Up the road is Coromandel, part of the family of seven restaurants known for putting the Indian buffet lunch on the map in Fairfield County. At this downtown location, courteous servers help guide the uninitiated toward mild dishes. Across Mill River Park is Spice Affaire, where chef Niranjan Rayamajhi masterfully blends and toasts spices and herbs to create dishes from all parts of India that resonate with flavor. You won’t go wrong here, whatever you pick, but come hungry. We recommend the goat masala and the Goan fish curry. But if you prefer vegetarian, try Navaratna, a relaxed, reasonably priced option downtown named after the nine ancient sacred gems. Deeply spiced dishes represent the continent’s regions and ethnic influences, from street snacks to curries, breads and rice dishes, made to order at this busy open kitchen.
We think what comes last in a meal should seal the deal on where to grab a bite. If you too think of dessert as a must-have sweet ending to a savory culinary adventure, consider these dining options, each one with well-received menus that will please your dining companions so much, they will let you eat cake while they leisurely sip their coffees.
It is near impossible to abstain from something sweet at City Limits Diner. With a state-of-the-art bakery headed by pastry chef Tracy Kamperdyk Assue, you’ll be offered an array of pastries and desserts, some nostalgic, some seasonally inspired, all decadent. Favorites include walnut raisin bread made with organic flour, banana cream pie and blueberry muffins. New offerings this season are the Cinnamon Spiced Apple and Raisin Danish and Pear and Calimyrna Fig Tart.
Then there’s Volta Gelateria, a hip European café that offers a French-Italian fusion menu that includes fourteen sweet crepes, one for every mood—a comforting Nutella filling or a dramatic flambé of berries, orange juice, caramel and Grand Marnier. You can opt for a light gelato too from a revolving selection of almost 100 flavors. The fruit-infused gelatos come in jewel-like tones, but we’re hazelnut freaks, so we go for the gianduia (chocolate-hazelnut) and bacio (hazelnut). Insider Tip: Save room for Nonna’s lemon pie.
You can also follow Melt Mobile. Sure, ever since Bobby Flay featured this popular food truck on Food Network’s 3 Days to Open, they’ve been slammed by fans clamoring for their grilled cheeses. But their take on a classic—the New York Cheesecake melt—is worth all our Facebook likes.
Lastly, here’s an insider surprise: Tabouli Grill’s chef and owner, Judy Roll, is a former pastry chef at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, and in addition to flaky baklava and rich, creamy halva ice cream, she makes chocolate devil’s food cake, carrot cake with coconut flaked cream-cheese icing and lemon zest poppyseed cake.
Where's The Beef?
From fast to fancy—the 411 on Stamford burgers
As the hamburger gets beefed up on high-end menus all over town—and yummy they all are—we are grateful for the joints that know exactly what to give us when cravings kick in for the classic burger, fries and a shake of choice. Fast, affordable grass-fed burgers and hot dogs (created before your eyes in a build-your-own assembly line with lots of toppings) and organic fries can be enjoyed inside Station Eats, or in warmer climes, outside at the Landmark Biergarten at Station Eats. The Biergarten offers a revolving choice of German, craft and local beers. Or try a high-octane, spiked adult shake like the bourbon-infused, chocolate ice cream and Oreo U-Turn.
Another option is Plan B Burger at the mall. Here they take their meat seriously. It’s officially Verified Humane, fresh, never frozen, ground in-house and hand-formed, and you can order your burger with “some pink” or “no pink.” The selection of craft beer and bourbon is large, and the bartenders are trained to help you find one you’ll love. This outlet of the growing Connecticut chainlet also offers late-night and gluten-free menus.
If you’re looking for something more classic, head to Pat’s Hubba Hubba, the pink and turquoise 1950s-themed diner on Cove Road that offers hot dogs, burgers and fries served up by the friendliest staff around. Pat’s famous chili, made with ground beef and his special blend of spices, goes on everything; try it on the onion rings.
There also is Lucky’s Classic Burger & Malt Shop, the retro-themed restaurant that sends kids and adults back to the future with a gleaming soda fountain and red booths with jukeboxes. Kids’ meals arrive in cardboard models of classic 1950s cars.
If you need something fast, head to Five Guys, known for its fresh, hand-formed patties with as many free toppings as you want (there are 250,000 possible combinations, they boast). That means burgers here can get big and messy for those who love it that way. The fresh-cut fries are browned in peanut oil for extra flavor. Free roasted peanuts are offered too.
Don’t forget Jake’s Wayback Burger, a franchise offering fresh (as in never frozen) meat and house-made chips. The signatures are the Cheesy Two Patty Burger and the absolutely over-the-top Triple Triple. Doing the math? That’s nine patties! But we’re mortals, so when we’re in a rush, we’ll stick with the Jake’s Cheeseburger, with lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles.
Bring in the Pros
A great way to predict what restaurants will come up with next is by observing what party planners are offering society heavyweights making the rounds in the Stamford party circuit. So we turned to a few leading caterers for a peek into what they are planning, no doubt a window into some food and party trends that will be coming soon to your neighborhood hot spot.
On the Marc
Chef Marc Warner's food appeals to people interested in the artisan movement. From a state-of-the-art kitchen, he makes everything from scratch (even the pickles). These days he’s finishing more dishes on site, involving guests in cupcake decorating and caramel apple-making stations. He focuses on bringing individual attention to the largest of events.
Susan Kane Catering
Known for the fresh flavors of her gourmet cuisine and attention to detail, Susan Kane caters everything from gala weddings to intimate dinner parties. Customers are asking for sharp, crisp clean food, she says. Recently, for a client celebrating a sixtieth birthday, Kane created a Caribbean-themed party for forty-four guests. The menu included Jamaican jerk-crusted filet mignon with green papaya relish.
David’s Soundview Catering
Latin is trending high, says David Cingari. He’s got paella pans big enough to serve 100. Guests love to watch him layer the seafood over the rice. Interactive bars are popular—letting the guests add avocado, peppers, onion and dressing. And surprise: Kale is the number one green ingredient. David’s prepares it raw in salads and sautés it with shallots, garlic, olive oil and wine.
Marcia Selden Catering
Marcia Selden started off in design school, so it’s not surprising her thirty-year-old award-winning catering company is known for creating vibrant, design-centric food. With daughter Robin on board as executive chef and son Jeffrey as managing partner, Marcia Selden Catering continues to come up with fun foodie ideas like a soup bar where guests can add their own fixing, or topping red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting—trend alert—with crumbles of maple-coated, extra-thick cut bacon.
Because we love Italian, can't stop eating it and never get tired of it
Ristorantes, cafés, trattorias, osterias. Southern Italian, Italian-American, Northern Italian, Old School, Contemporary; it’s all here, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. There’s Patrizia’s of Stamford, Italian-American all the way, and their specialties are big multicourse family-style meals with appetizers, pasta, an entrée, dessert and coffee. This is the first Connecticut outpost of this Arthur Avenue chainlet.
Eclisse is also known for family style meals and large portions but with a Northern Italian bent. Yes, they can handle large groups in the newly remodeled dining room.
For more authentic fare, try Siena Ristorante, a cozy, white-table clothed, windowed restaurant serving meals you’d get in Italy. We suggest a primi of homemade pasta (roasted veal and cheese in a light veal reduction and sage sauce) and a secondi of quail roasted with pancetta, Swiss chard and pine nuts. Fans praise the consistency of the cooking and the professional service.
Capriccio Café brings a contemporary, casual Italian cool to downtown with its quirky two rooms separated by an arcade setting and, in warm weather, a European sidewalk café scene. It’s a great place to people watch, and has a menu with lots of light choices, perfect for grazing. We particularly like the large selection of salads.
Café Silvium was an instant hit when it opened in 2001, and continues to pack families and Shippan neighbors into its small, casual dining room. We’re partial to their handmade cavatelli, either with shrimp, beans, spinach and garlic or tossed in light mushroom sauce or broccoli rabe.
Remo’s Brick Oven Pizza Co. believes its oven makes the best Neapolitan and New York-style pies in town. This delightful, contemporary pizza place pays attention to ingredients. Mozzarella is house-made, so are the sauces and dough. The signature pie is the Margherita, but the Parma, heaped with fresh spicy arugula, shavings of Parmesan, and prosciutto and white beans is our favorite.
Rizzuto’s, the convivial multilevel Stamford outlet of this Connecticut chain features an open pizza kitchen where you can watch the chef roll out house-made crusts and layer them with toppings. We are partial to the prosciutto and fresh arugula, drizzled with balsamic reduction, or the fungi pizza, with oyster mushrooms, pancetta, roasted garlic, baby arugula and smoked mozzarella. But we also love the pasta; for real comfort food, try the pappardelle Bolognese.
This Italian category would be incomplete without Pellicci’s, serving hearty portions of Southern Italian since 1947, and still making their sauce the way Nonna Pellicci did, with imported Italian tomatoes. A recent facelift brightened the interior, but don’t worry, the stone waterfall in the lounge still stands.
Finally there’s Villa Italia, long known for a popular Mediterranean menu of specialties based on cuisine from Isola de Ponza. This just in: though recently redone, we hear it's moving soon to a larger space that will include a dining patio overlooking Mill River Park.
Whether you call them tapas, mezes, starters or appetizers, these stars of the small-plate revolution continue to take up more real estate on menus all over town. Maybe it’s because we can order several for the table and create our own tasting menu. We like that there's less guilt about overeating or pressure to commit to one entrée. So go ahead; plan your next small plate crawl. And to help you get started we studied area menus and picked some of our favorite small plates to try—in no order of preference, of course.
At the hip Moroccan-Med joint, The Fez, with its deep red walls, lively menu, and cocktails made with house-infused spirits, we are partial to spiced lamb chops and lollipop chicken with tamarind yogurt. On cool evenings, add the roasted eggplant soup, with pickled grapes, crispy shallots and curry oil, to your order.
Barcelona’s most popular Spanish and Mediterranean tapas are gambas in garlic and the albondigas, meatballs in zesty tomato sauce, but we have a special place in our heart for the quail egg crostini with foie-gras butter and Mangalica ham.
The busy ZaZa Italian Gastrobar offers Italian tapas including cheese from the mozzarella bar, the chicken osso bucco in a vegetable ragu, and the potato gnocchi in a butternut squash cream sauce. Don't skip the Tuscan tuna tartar, another fave; it comes with tomatoes, capers, basil and balsamic.
The long bar at Bar Rosso is a perfect place to unwind after work with a glass of wine, olives seasoned with orange zest and oregano, and a selection of Italian cheese. Add the beef carpaccio and truffle fries too; the view of the pizza oven may soon have you ordering a pie as well.
Cotto Winebar & Pizzeria teases with its imported prosciutto, soppressata, salami Genovese and bresaola. And when we gather with friends in this contemporary wine bar, we also like to share veal meatballs, lamb chops with rosemary, and broccoli rabe with sausage. And pasta. And stop us before we eat another order of roasted Marcona almonds with whipped ricotta and honey.
Harbor Point’s Harlan Social makes a memorable octopus, braised until tender and served in olive oil and lemon juice, with potatoes and celery over smoky eggplant puree. Also noteworthy are the cheese and the rock shrimp tempura, served in a slightly sweet coconut broth over peppery arugula.
Bar Q Saloon and its wood-lined walls and cozy cowhide inspired booths create a great atmosphere to quaff craft beer and eat Wood-Kissed Wings, beef taquitos, chipotle meatball sliders and Hot Honey Chicken and Waffles.
Some popular places are well known for their signature dishes, many of them among our favorites as well. We consider them our tried-and-true; we keep going back because we know what we are going to get and are rarely disappointed. But how about trying something new? Here are a few suggestions we think you should try next time you make a reservation.
Known for: Fettuccine Mitty, homemade pasta in pink Cognac sauce abounding with shrimp, scallops and crab
Next time try: Chicken Scarpariello, with mushrooms, hot peppers, onions, potatoes, lemon and white wine
Known for: Homemade ravioli filled with porchetta, sauced with brown butter and a drizzle of vin cotta (simmered balsamico)
Next time try: Homemade mafalda pasta with braised rabbit, porcini, favas, Parmesan cream and onions
Mitchel’s Fish Market
Known for: South Georgia Islands Chilean sea bass, certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council
Next time try: Island Jerk Chicken with a fresh mango-serrano sauce
Known for: Prime rib eye, center-cut sixteen-ounce steak, cooked just the way you want it, and hot chocolate cake for dessert
Next time try: Sea bass filet with jumbo lump crab, lemon butter and asparagus, and homemade Key Lime pie
Known for: Maryland crab cakes made with lump meat, fried (choice of cocktail or tartar sauce) or sautéed (served with roasted red pepper sauce or pesto cream)
Next time try: The baby back barbecued ribs, smoky, sweet, sticky, and not spicy, made from their own barbecue sauce.
Known for: Pizza, of course, especially their organic whole-wheat pie with house-made mozzarella, and craft beer
Next time try: Breakfast pizza! Two eggs, sauce, cheese and your choice of toppings. (Check out the bourbon menu too.)