Just a little bit north off of exit 34 on the Merrit, Madonia is seemingly all by itself on Long Ridge Road. Which makes it the perfect place to go to escape the hectic Stamford downtown scene without sacrificing quality.
We have been wanting to try Madonia for quite some time now, but it wasn’t until we were invited to our very first press dinner that we finally got ourselves out there. We were super excited about it. Excited to meet other writers, excited to try the much talked about Madonia, and excited for a great meal. Except that, well, I’m an idiot and got the dates mixed up. The press dinner was next Wednesday. Doah! But no worries, when we got in we were greeted by the owner and chef, Enzo Bruno. He just so happened to have the menu on hand from last night’s press dinner, so he treated us to this complimentary tour of his culinary genius. How nice!
At first, we noticed there was a large dining room with a table in the middle that had grated cheese, quality olive oil, crushed red pepper, and other essential goodies to have at an Italian restaurant. What followed was one of the best Italian meals that we have had in Fairfield County. Our guide, Enzo, is a true Italian, coming over from Calabria, Italy 16 years ago. He opened up Madonia just a few years ago and has brought it to new heights with his culinary expertise. He also works as the sommelier for the restaurant because he feels that you need to understand your food to understand how to pair it. He’s the DaVinci of Italian food, we swear. So, signore e signori, come along on our viaggio through Madonia. That’s ladies and gentleman, take a voyage with us, for you non-paesans.
1st Course: Tuna Tartare
Fresh and tasty. The corn really brings nice texture contrast to the tuna and the creaminess of the avocado. Add the contrast of the sweet and spicy mango-wasabi drizzle and all the flavor spots will be happy. Enzo paired this with a dry and crisp Prosecco from Villa Sandi, which was a genius pairing. Not too sweet, nice and dry to compliment this complex dish.
2nd Course: Autumn Salad
The vinaigrette was one of the best we’ve had. It was a bit tangy with lots of hints of spices such as ground mustard seed and rosemary. The Autumn Salad had field greens, roasted beets and pears, figs, and some feta. All the flavors jived well together and it was another great pairing with a Torrontes 2010 from Tierra de Luna. Kristien totally nailed it when she described it as minerally and soft… a little like a steel aged chardonnay, but not quite. You should’ve seen her face light up when she saw this wine was a Chardonnay blend. She loves when she gets a wine right!
3rd Course: Sole Riviera
A beautifully cooked and delicate Sole fillet with charred peppers, peas, aceto di moscato, and fresh mozz all atop of Sardinian couscous. Sardinian couscous. We had no idea there was such thing, but there is. Just imagine bigger pearls of couscous. The couscous itself was cooked nicely with an earthy taste to it from the mushrooms. That added a nice balance to the fish. You come out with sweet and sour flavors bouncing you around. We wanted to have more tomatoes to give more contrast with the acids in the dish to contrast the heaviness of the couscous. Enzo gave us a 2009 Falanghina from Terredora that was slightly citrusy and matched nicely with the sole and the earthiness of the broth and mushroom couscous.
Palate Cleanser: Raspberry Sorbet
Yummy! Full of raspberry flavor that burst onto your palate. Whenever we hear palate cleanser, we think of Web Soup’s special part of the show after you are assaulted with “Things You Can’t Unsee.”
4th Course: Homemade gnocchi
Melt-in-your-mouth-awesomey-goodness! The sauce was tangy and tomatoes, not too sweet, just right. The gnocchi light and fluffy like it’s made in Italy: a real treat if you’re a gnocchi lover and you’ve never had it freshly made. Tip: when Enzo or your server asks if you’d like pepper or cheese, add some crushed red pepper for a kick and some freshly shaved park for bite. The 2008 Barbera d’Alba from Batasiolo Sovrana had a medium body and was fruit forward which cut nicely into the sauce and starch from the gnocchi.
5th Course: 5 hour short ribs
Delicate short ribs that flake at the smallest touch of your fork covered in a rich chianti glaze. OMG. It was served atop a helping of horseradish mashed potatoes and some cabbage. This was killer enough, but Enzo put a homemade onion ring battered with Peroni Italian beer. Yeah, just a ridiculously good dish. We were given a 2006 Super Tuscan from Coronoto to pair up with the short ribs that was jammy and had nice depth. A smart pairing for this rich dish.
Madonia won’t disappoint. Whether you go for their Tuesday-Thursday 3 course dinner at a mere $25, for a brunch with half off bottles of wine and live jazz, or you just want some great, authentic Italian food made with love…well, this is your spot. We plan to be back, take Kristien’s parents, and to recommend Madonia to people who are looking for Italian restaurants that rise above the rest in Fairfield County.
Madonia Restaurant & Bar
Address: 1297 Long Ridge Road
Stamford, CT 06903
Phone: (203) 322-8870