A Feast of Classic Rustic Italian with Modern Flare @ Bar Sugo – Norwalk, CT

5 Mar

How’s this for a greeting while you’re waiting at the bar for your table?  A manager comes up to you, gives you a plate of prosciutto-wrapped truffle fries, then gives you the following message from the chef:  “It’s about damn time.”  Yeah, it was about damn time we got down to Bar Sugo in Norwalk and Chef/owner Pat Pascarella had the right to call it like it is!  He had invited us several times and had even invited us to the inaugural Vinsotto wine event, but the world always seemed to conspire against us going.  Yet, here we were at the cozy and rustic Bar Sugo, ready for what would be a meal of epic proportions.

We decided that we’d take it easy, sampling a few things on the menu.  Starting off, we’d go with three cicchetti (Italian for small snacks) that were $7.50 each, 3 for $20, or 5 for $30, we’d go for three mozzarellas (same pricing as the cicchetti), the meatball sampler, and we’d end up with the cavatelli that both Mark Famous and Andrew Dominick recommended when they saw our check-in.  It’s cool to have foursquare friends who love to eat!  Well, that was the plan anyway.  Yes, we got our dishes, but Chef Pat provided us with even more so we could get a full taste of what Bar Sugo was all about.  By the time we were done, we tried 24 different items on the menu (that includes the Barrel Aged Negroni and the wine).  Ugh, we think we’re still full! Ready for the most epic review ever captured on our blog?

Asparagus with duck prosciutto, and black pepper

The asparagus came two ways:  raw and pickled.  Having both on the dish was a nice idea, but we really loved the vinegary pickle vs. the bitterness of the raw.  The duck prosciutto was really great and wasn’t overpowering despite the saltiness you expect from a cured meat.

Rabbit loin with lentils, prunes, and mustard oil at Bar Sugo in Norwalk

Rabbit loin with lentils, prunes, and mustard oil

There was a nice gentle saltiness from the prosciutto that was wrapped around the rabbit loin.  The rabbit, itself, was cooked nicely and remained moist.  The prunes added a great balance to the dish with a sweetness and the lentils added a creamy earthiness… all which helped to take away from the slight gaminess of the rabbit.

Mozzarella "in carozza" with stewed baby tomatoes at Bar Sugo in Norwalk

Mozzarella “in carozza” with stewed baby tomatoes

A very rich and decadent dish…the mozzarella was deep fried and lightly breaded (in carozza) and had a nice golden crust.  Cutting through that creaminess and richness was the stewed tomatoes that added a nice amount of tartness to the dish.

Grilled calamari with harissa, chick peas, chorizo, and celery at Bar Sugo Norwalk

Grilled calamari with harissa, chick peas, chorizo, and celery

There was a nice and gentle spice behind this dish, coming from the harissa:  a mixture that typically has chilis, garlic, cumin, and other seasonings.  This coated soft and nicely cooked chick peas, flavorful chorizo, and perfect rings of calamari.  Again, like most of the dishes from the night, this had a great balance of textures, flavors, and even colors.

Octopus alla piastra with frisee, fingerlings, and salsa verde at Bar Sugo Norwalk

Octopus alla piastra with frisee, fingerlings, and salsa verde

Beautiful char marks from the grill, yet the octopus remained soft and cooked perfectly. The salsa verde paired with the frisee was fresh, bright, and added a nice contrast to the octopus and the potato.

Prosciutto wrapped truffle fries

Prosciutto wrapped truffle fries

The prosciutto was delicate and wrapped around warm and crispy fries. There was a nice amount of truffle oil on top just to give that nice earthy truffle hint. An odd combo, but it worked.

Brussels sprouts with pancetta, smoked sea salt, and pearl onions

We can’t help ourselves around these green veggies. They were caramelized very well and that richness was cut by the sweetness of the onions and the vinegar. The pancetta also added a nice saltiness to the dish.

Scallops with sunchoke puree and caper-raisin-pinenut vinaigrette at Bar Sugo Norwalk

Scallops with sunchoke puree and caper-raisin-pinenut vinaigrette

Again, perfectly cooked seafood with a nice golden sear. The sunchoke purée was light and creamy, while the raisins were a nice touch. These reminded us of the scallops from Olio, which means we loved them!

Meatball sampler at Bar Sugo Norwalk

“Mommy’s” meatballs with beef, tomato, and grana padano

Moist, your tradition meatball, not too beefy.  A good meatball if you’re entry-level Italian or just want the real deal.

Pork meatballs with red wine tomato sauce and whipped ricotta

The sauce was rich which contrasted nicely with the fresh whipped ricotta.  This was definitely porky and was almost like biting down into a tasty sausage rather than a meatball.

Rabbit meatballs with grilled scallions and pistachios

Having braved through a rabbit breast a year ago, Dan felt he was ready.  The meatballs were cooked perfectly and the meat remained moist, quite different than the rabbit he first had elsewhere.  The flavor wasn’t overpowering and we decided it’s a great entry into game if you’re nervous. Kristien’s not so much a fan of the rabbit.

Ox Hollow Farm beef meatballs with melted gouda, red onion jam, and truffle oil

Without a doubt, Kristien’s favorite of the sampler.  The red onion jam has a strong, sweet cippoline onion flavor and was very rich.  Again, the meatball was very moist and juicy.  The cheese and jam, also, added a very exciting flavor contrast. YUM!

Crispy veal and ricotta meatballs with Calabrian chili aioli and frisee

This was a very light meatball with a very soft texture because of the ricotta.  The flavors were all there, the skin of the meatball was very crispy, but we had mixed reactions.  Dan found the texture interesting, but Kristien didn’t enjoy it.

Sugo’s meatballs with beef, veal, pork, and sage “two ways”

These were a bit denser than the other meatballs, which likely made it harder to cook these causing the middle to be just a bit overcooked. Nice flavor though.

Mozzarella sampler at Bar Sugo in Norwalk

Mozzarella di bufala with fig jam

Delicate and soft, the cheese paired very well with the decadent fig jam.  Excellent choice.

Burrata with 12 year old balsamic

Smooth, creamy, and silky, this is another excellent choice from the mozzarella bar.  We just wish there was some more balsamic to go with the cheese.

Homemade mozzarella with truffle honey

The truffle honey is excellent with the truffle flavor not overpowering anything but adding a nice subtle note.  The cheese itself had good flavor but was on the denser side.  There was contention again…Dan likes denser mooz, while Kristien wished it was much lighter and softer.

Beet & gorgonzola dolce ravioli with poppy seeds, French butter, chervil, pistachios at Bar Sugo Norwalk

Beet & gorgonzola dolce ravioli with poppy seeds, French butter, chervil, pistachios

Kristien wanted to order this, but because Dan can’t stand gorgonzola, we had to compromise.  Well, she got it anyway.   This was an indescribably bizzare combination of flavors here that just didn’t work for us. Our least favorite of the night.

Spaghetti Neri with calamari, green chili, sweet garlic, and overnight tomatoes at Bar Sugo Norwalk

Spaghetti Neri with calamari, green chili, sweet garlic, and overnight tomatoes

Yes, squid ink pasta (Dan loves the stuff)!  It was rich, decadent, and the housemade pasta was perfectly al dente.  The calamari was cooked nicely, the tomatoes added a nice saucy tartness to the dish, and the chili added a nice subtle heat to the dish.

Osso bucco mezzaluna (half moon) with horseradish, brown butter, sage, and balsamic at Bar Sugo Norwalk

Osso bucco mezzaluna (half moon) with horseradish, brown butter, sage, and balsamic

The horseradish added something pretty amazing to the sauce here and kept it just slightly tart.  The osso bucco itself was tender and moist.  A definite winner.

Cavatelli with traditional bolognese, sage veloute, and ricotta salata at Bar Sugo in Norwalk

Cavatelli with traditional bolognese, sage veloute, and ricotta salata

The star of the night:  the cavatelli.  Starting off, this was the most delicate and fluffy cavatelli we’ve ever had.  Normally cavatelli sinks down to your stomach like 20 pound weights, but ahhh…so airy.  The ricotta salata on top (we love this cheese so much) added a great flavor and contrast to the meaty and savory sauce.  The secret to getting the ricotta salata’s flavor out?  Chef Pat and co. cook chunks in the pizza oven, then they shave it on top.  Without any doubt, this is the best cavatelli that we’ve ever had.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Barrel-aged Negroni

Near the end of our meal, we were given a cocktail to awaken our stomachs and to help us digest.  At first the vanilla flavor of the barrel comes through, but then you get a bright orange flavor.  The citrusy aroma and taste is enlivened because they light the peel on fire then throw it down into the negroni.  This also adds a slight smokiness to the drink.  While Kristien didn’t enjoy the drink, Dan contently drank hers too.

Citrus Tiramisu at Bar Sugo in Norwalk

Citrus Tiramisu

Tiramisu is probably one of the most popular and overused desserts at any Italian restaurant.  And, because of that, there’s lots of bad, dried out, or mushy tiramisu.  But, Bar Sugo’s taken this classic in a new direction, deconstructed it, then reconstructed it.  On the top there is a layer of creamy goodness, aka a moscato and marscarpone zabaglione.  At the bottom there are some chunks of tart grapefruit and orange in a simple syrup that get livened up with shreds of basil throughout.  The ladyfingers on top add that familiar taste and are great for dipping into the cream and fruit. Definitely much lighter and more refreshing than the tiramisu you’re used it, and we like it that way.

Final Thoughts

We walked into Bar Sugo expecting to have a light meal, but ended up having a massive feast and got to try a large part of the menu.  Having tried so many dishes, we can confidently say that Bar Sugo has a nice and solid menu that undergoes seasonal evolutions.  There are certainly some classic dishes, but there are also fun plays on the ordinary and expected.  Chef Pat’s use of fun, creative, local, and unexpected ingredients are also a major plus when you’re eating here.  At times, though, as we noted, it might have resulted in a strange combination, the vast majority of the food hit the mark.  Bar Sugo will soon be open for lunch and brunch, giving you more opportunity to come by and get your Italian on.  When the weather gets warmer, they’ll be making their own gelato and sorbetto and will be featuring some fine drinks from Raus Coffee.  And, they’re in the beginning stages of creating their own garden.  The seeds are in, the plans are set, and when all the veggies grow they’ll be put to good use on the menu.  In the meantime, Pat and the staff at Bar Sugo are taking farm tours and bringing home lots of fresh ingredients to use in their dishes.

All of these things highlight why Bar Sugo will continue to be a success in Norwalk:  their love of all things local, their love of Italian food, their love of pushing boundaries, and their love of bringing the community together through food.  Buona fortuna!

Bar Sugo

Noms: 4    4.25 We came back on 5/31/13 and the food was even better, causing Kristien’s parents to say that Bar Sugo was one of the best restaurants that they had ever been to.

Cost: $$$

Address: 102 Wall Street

Norwalk, CT

Phone: (203) 956-7134

Bar Sugo on Urbanspoon

30 Responses to “A Feast of Classic Rustic Italian with Modern Flare @ Bar Sugo – Norwalk, CT”

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