Stamford Downtown always does a killer job with their events and Winter Restaurant Weeks 2014 is no different! Not only are we talking about nicely priced lunch and dinner prix fixe menus from 32 different restaurants, but the deals will be going on for two whole weeks. Yes, from 2/17 until 3/3, you can get great deals at some of your favorite places or try out new restaurants like the Irish-pub-iness of Castle Bar & Grill, the Mexican-ness of Tomatillo Taco Joint, the gastropub-iness of Cask Republic, and the seafood-iness of F•I•S•H•.
Stamford Winter Restaurant Weeks 2014 kicks off with Signature Winter Cocktail Showcase and 32 Participating Restaurants7 Feb
There’s always something great going on in Downtown Stamford, ya know? Whether it’s restaurant weeks, charity events, their yearly outdoor sculpture exhibitions (this year it’s “Downtown Abstractions”), Santa gliding down a building, or Alive @ Five, Downtown Stamford is the place to be. And, now we have another reason to love Stamford: the first ever ARTWALK that’s starting Friday (6/14) and goes into Saturday, 6/15. ARTWALK 2013 will feature 95 artists from the Northeast who are presenting their art in various styles and mediums. This weekend event is free to the public and if you’d like a copy of this map, just register at the ARTWALK booth on Spring Street. Time it perfectly by going to the opening celebration on 6/14 @ 5 pm, have some refreshments, and join many of the artists, gallery owners, local business owners, and restaurateurs…then pick up the map!
Most of that art that’s on display will remain up for viewing at restaurants and businesses until July 7, so even if you can’t make this event, you’ll have another chance for viewing. Plus, if you really love something, you can purchase it! In addition, there are special events (full list here) and exhibits up for you to check out:
Here’s a nice, interactive map we’ve created for you so you can figure out your dining options around Alive @ Five in Downtown Stamford. Some of our faves in this area are Columbus Park Trattoria, Fin II, and Riviera Maya, which all offer outdoor seating. Advantage? You can eat, enjoy the nice weather, and won’t need to deal with smelly sweathogs. Also, there’ll be a food court with Remo’s Pizza, Jenna Marie’s Deli, Maui Wowi, and Sundance Cafe for you to get your nom on.
Need info on Alive @ Five? Just $10. Begins at, duh, 5. Here’s the lineup, week by week:
June 23: Third Eye Blind, Reverse Order, Black Taxi
June 30: Lee DeWyze, Corey Crowder, Stalking Sally
July 7: MC Hammer, Stereo Crowd, The Mad Things Featuring The Good Doctor
July 14: Dennis De Young: The Music of Styx, Jerry Pia & SilkStuf, Fighting the Influence
July 21: Vertical Horizon, Mission Hill, Seth Adam
July 28: Five for Fighting, Ian Axel, Blip Blip Bleep
August 4: The B-52s, Woodloch Pines, MiniBoone, The Mungers
The Missing Link in Downtown Stamford: Gelato, Crepes, and Awesomeness. Volta Gelateria Creperia- Stamford, CT19 Jun
The Missing Link
Downtown Stamford has bars, Italian spots, Chinese spots, burger spots, and McDonald’s, but I don’t think Stamfordites realized what was missing until Volta showed up. Downtown Stamford has always needed a nice, chill, hip spot for people to sit, relax, and surf on the net while eating. Downtown Stamford has needed a change for a while, and Volta will bring it with its crepes, salads, drinks, gelato and great service. Here’s the skinny (well, maybe slightly plump) on Volta and all they have to offer.
A Tour of Volta
To start, it’s amazing to see how packed Volta was before it was even technically opened. We stopped by on two of their soft opening days and the dining room was packed as was the outdoor seating. It seemed though, that the energetic and knowledgable staff moved things along nicely. Giovanni, one of the owners of Capriccio Café, took us on a tour of his baby. First stop: Laboratorio del Gelato. Seriously, that’s the name of the room. Packages of fresh fruit are waiting there to be transformed into gelato and sorbet. All the equipment was imported from Italy and you can see the pride on Giovanni’s face as he talks about how their gelato is made. Fresh ingredients, made right, made the Italian way, made right at Volta!
He showed us his gelato, 20 flavors in all, served the old-fashioned Italian way: rather than scoop it up, they take two spatulas and form the scoops. Volta is all about doing things right and staying true to Italian roots. We felt like we were back in Italy for a few hours, roaming the streets of Rome-no pun intended, but certainly hilarious of course.
First of all, just like Italy’s gelato shops, here you pay first, then you select your gelato. Don’t be the dummy to mess things up, listen to our advice. Give ’em your order, paesanos: piccola ($4); media ($5.50); grande ($7); or a Coppe Speciali. Step over to the gelato counter and drop your jaw in awe of the beauty of what is set before you. They also have Coppe Speciali (special cups) that look sinfully good such as Coppa Romana: gelato al fior di latte, hot chocolate, whipped creamed, and biscotto. Well, we’ve been naughty and have come here two nights in a row so we’ve had 6 of their flavors. Let’s give you a sampling of what they have:
What We Tried
Cioccolato: Holy chocolate batman, dark, strong, and so damn good
Gianduia: A light chocolate flavor with great hints of hazelnut
Coconut: Fresh coconut taste with flakes mixed in, delicious.
Banana: Tasted like smashed up bananas in creamy goodness. Wow.
Caffe: Good and medium flavored coffee taste, would get again
Raspberry sorbert: Bright, summery flavors, seeds mixed in for a fresh taste.
What We STILL Hafta Try!
Stracciatella, Hazelnut, Bacio, Vanilla, Strawberry, Pistachio, Chocolate Mint, Biscotto, Nutella, Cream Caramel, Nocciola
Sorbets: lemon, orange,
Yes, Volta’s not just about gelato, they have sweet and savory crepes, salads, desserts, waffles, fresh squeezed juice, drinks, and that cool Italian cafe experience. There’s free wi-fi and it’s just oh so chill. We haven’t had a chance to try their food yet, but we’ll be sure to write up a post for our Omnomivores so you get the downlow on this new Stamford hotspot. As for the Noms, if we based it solely on gelato, we’d give it a 4.5, but until we try their other goodies,
we’ll have to hold off. Ciao, buona notte.
Cost: $$Volta Gelateria Creperia Address: 30 Spring Street Stamford, CT 06901 Phone: 203-883-8841 Website: http://volta.us/
The Bar (and the vino of course)
• The place was hopping, so we had to saddle up to the bar for some wine while we waited. Chris, the bartender, was excellent. We were able to order a bottle at the bar to take to our table and luckily Chris had a good knowledge of wine to help us choose. He suggested the Apothic Red, a complex and lovely Zin, Syrah, Merlot blend off their “Interesting Reds” list. Wow, this wine rocked with dark red fruit flavors and a hint of dark chocolate. YUM!
• They have a nice selection of fresh mozzerela here: bufala, Wisconsin, burrata, affumicata, and stracciatella. We went with the burrata and we were damn happy about that. The inside was creamy and melted away the second it touched your tounge, while the outside of the burrata was softer and denser–but not too dense. All mozza is served with fresh and delicate prosciuto, eggplant, roasted peppers, and olives (and of course the bread you get before the meal).
The Small Plates
• We started with the fried ricotta cakes. The breading was crispy, seasoned well, and coated the filling well. Oh, and the filling. Ricotta was mixed in with some sauce, giving it a pink color. It had a similar taste to ala vodka sauce, but the ricotta kicked it up and brought a much creamier taste. It did come out kinda luke warm, not hot, but this was still only their third night of service. The greens that came with it were starting to brown over so they weren’t the freshest, but the tomato sauce for dipping was good and added another great contrast.
• Creamy lobster polenta! Seriously, folks…this is a must try if you love seafood and polenta. The lobster was in nice, big tender chunks cooked perfectly. The polenta was creamy and so flavorful. Even better? Nice, creamy, melty mozzarela pooled in the middle! Dip the polenta into the mozz here and there for the win.
• Osso bucco with a vegetable ragu sauce. The osso bucco here falls off the bone, so no knife is needed. The sauce is earthy, but also tangy from the tomatoes in the sauce. A nice balance to the lobster polenta.
• Spicy calamari with white beans and roasted tomatoes. The flavors in here were a nice mix, the calamari was cooked perfectly, and the white beans added some texture contrast to the calamari. We spoke to Nick Jr. about this after our meal and we said we really liked this dish, but wished it was spicier. He said that next time we should ask for it cooked in the hot oil. Tip for Omnomavores: hot oil.
• Potato gnocchi in a butternut squash cream sauce. Our absolute favorite here. And while the gnocchi wasn’t handmade fresh like we prefer it, it was still one of the best gnocchi dishes ever tasted by OmNomCT in the states. The dish, at first, looks like mac & cheese, but as you dig in you get butternutafied. The sauce is buttery, sweet and creamy coating the hearty gnocchi. Think of how comforting and tasty Thanksgiving is and you understand 10% of the gnocchi’s awesomeness. Kristien swears she could eat a vat of this dish if Zaza could provide it. I’d have to help her with that, if she doesn’t bite my fingers off.
• Canoli dip. We saw a person eating a canoli and we knew what we had to do. The plan changed, though, when we saw canoli dip on the menu. Our waitress brought a bowl of smooth and creamy canoli filling with bits of canoli crust to dip into. This was a fun dessert to end with and wasn’t too heavy at all.
The Final Verdict on Zaza Italian Gastrobar
As we waited for Bar Rosso and Zaza to open up in Stamford, we honestly thought that Bar Rosso would have an advantage over Zaza. Well, we were wrong when we tried Bar Rosso and had the Racanelli’s new restaurant to compare it to. Zaza is clearly beating Bar Rosso so far with the flavors, seasonings, and service. We realize that Zaza is another iteration of Molto in Fairfield, but that has only seemed to make Zaza stronger. Italian spots in Stamford, take notice: Zaza‘s in town. ;)
Zaza Italian GastrobarAddress: 122 Broad Street Stamford, CT
Phone: (203) 348-2300
Site: www.zazagastrobar.com Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001854911680 Twitter: http://twitter.com/zazagastrobar
You can tell when the weather is nice again because Capriccio Café on Bedford Street in Stamford is poppin’! People sitting outside buzzing with conversation, enjoying some nice Italian food and wine, relaxing, and people watching. Yeah, seeing the crowded outdoor dining on Bedford Street is a way better indicator of spring and summer than weather.com.
After we got to check out Zaza with Nick Racanelli Jr., we were jonesin’ for some food. Capriccio Café has always been a nice go-to spot for dependable food in a nice atmosphere, so we were down to enjoy the beautiful night. We started with one of our favorites, the antipasto misto. A nice mixture (misto) of prosciutto, dry sausage, bresaola, speck, parmigiano, arugula, olives, and roasted peppers that’s big enough to share with two people. Our favorite thing to do is take little bits of meat and cheese then stack that on the fork with the olive or the roasted peppers, then take a sip of wine.
For our meals, Kristien had the Gravina bruschetta and I had the Boscaiola pizza. As our ritual, we take some shots of the food to make OmNomCT look oh so pretty. Well, a funny thing happened. One of the owners came by and said he just saw us talking with Nick Jr. at Zaza down the street. We are pretty sure that he thought we were secret agents, working for Nick, ready to steal the recipes of Capriccio Café. We assured him that we were just taking pics for our blog, but we’re still not sure if he believes us. Do ya believe us now?
So, the Gravina! Kristien’s face dropped in defeat after uttering the words just a few minutes before, “This will be a nice light dinner.” Hahaha, no freaking way. The thing was piled high and only cost $9. I’ve got to hand it to her, she had lots of self control and didn’t knock it all down. The bruschetta crust was nice and doughy, served cold, and was piled with gooey glops of goat cheese. Fresh tomato chunks, soft cannellini beans, onions, and arugula all jived well together on top. This dish would have been top notch if a real nice aged balsamic was sprinkled on top. Instead, it was a good dish that could use a flavor spike, not a great dish.
My pizza, however, rocked it. Ever since going to Italy, I’ve been obsessed with arugula and will even eat it alone now just for that peppery, earthy taste. Whatever–don’t judge, don’t hate. :) Also for $9, you get a nice pie, served with tomato sauce, mozzarella, sausage, portobello mushrooms, and–damn skippy–arugula. The crust was thin and crispy, setting off nicely with the earthiness of the mushrooms, the savoriness of the sausage, and the peppery taste of the arugula. I had no problems at all devouring it. They were light on the sauce, but I like it that way. Too much and I feel like I’m swimming.
Later, when we finished, we talked with the same owner again because we noticed that Volta gelato was on the menu. DING DING…after going to Bar Rosso we were mystified by Volta Gelateria Creperia next door. Well, Capriccio Café is opening up Volta next door and we got a glimpse into what it will be like.
So, what it comes down to is you can always count on having a nice, quick, pretty cheap bite to eat at Capriccio Café. Enjoy the nice spring, summer, and fall days sitting outside and watching the people stroll down Bedford Street.
Address: 189 Bedford Street
Phone: (203) 356-9819
UPDATE: Now open! See our review on their awesome gelato.
When we stopped by Bar Rosso for their opening weekend, we couldn’t help but notice a nice ‘lil goodie coming next door. Guess what? Stamford’s getting Volta Gelateria Creperia! So, of course when we got all excited we immediately went home and searched for more information like the good little bloggers we are. Unfortunately, their website seems to be about as “under construction” as their storefront, so it was a deadend.
So, we basically gave up on finding out any more information, until the other day when we just so happen to be eating at Capriccio Cafe (see our review)after a private tour of Zaza and noticed that Volta gelato was on the dessert menu. So of course (again being good little food bloggers), we called over the owner to ask him about it. As suspected, they both have the same owners. Apparently, much like Capriccio, there will be outdoor seating, with room for about 50 people. On the menu? Yep, you guessed it gelato and crepes, but it doesn’t stop there. They’ll also serve wine and beer along with lighter cafe fare like salads and sandwiches with a French twist. This will be a nice little place to hang out and a good change up from the normal kind of pub and Italian dense restaurants in Downtown Stamford.
We were told that they’d be open in about two weeks, but after looking at the outside and the construction going on, we’d have to say more like a two months, but I guess we’ll see. We’re excited to try out the gelato and get our crepe on. They’ll be open for lunch, dinner, and-wait for it-brunch. Boo yah. We all need more brunch spots.
Stay tuned for updates our beloved Omnomivores!
Volta Gelateria Creperia
Address: 30 Spring Street
Stamford, CT 06901
Update: Benny’s Fast Break has closed.
Bennet’s might be gone and Bar Rosso in its place, but you can’t keep a good hot dog down, or is it you can’t keep a bad hot dog down? Either way, Benny’s Fast Break remains an awesome little shop, owned by NBA ref Bennett Salvatore. Last summer we stopped by one night and saw the man, himself, in all his glory, talking with his staff and customers. You got the feeling that he cared about his staff, the people who ate at his spot, and was just a nice guy. Maybe not all the NBA players thought so with a whistle blow here, a hand gesture there, but I don’t know if they’ve ever had his burgers, fries, dogs, and shakes. If they haven’t, that’s a foul.
I had a nice and thick strawberry milkshake. The ice cream they used was great, giving the shake a strong strawberry taste. Kristien’s root beer float was also darn good. Once again, they did things right and give a nice big scoop of vanilla ice cream atop the float. Isn’t it a major bummer when you get a root beer float and you have two little scoops of ice cream that are eaten up in four bites? Yeah, not here at Benny’s Fast Break.
I ordered the cajun fries. Hafta say, we’re big fans of these fries. Shoestring, cut nice and thin, crispy on the outside, but still soft in the middle. The cajun seasoning added a nice spice and kick to them. So good (gasp) I didn’t need ketchup. Kristien had the cheese fries, smothered in ample amounts of cheese, which she loved. Next time we’re going to try the sweet potato fries and especially the mac & cheese bites. Holla.
Breaking down the court, we went for the game. We both had burgers and I had a dog, a very special dog. Kristien had your everyday cheese burger, stacked with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, ketchup, and mayo. But, it was more than everyday…it was a good, solid burger. A bit juicier than Burgers, Shakes & Fries and just a few notches below Filling Station Company. I had Special Burger #5, smothered in a subdued provolone, A-1 steak sauce, mushrooms, and grilled onions. At first, we were skeptical about the provolone in there, but it worked very well and wasn’t overpowering at all. I had asked for medium-rare, but got a well done burger, so that was a bit disappointing, but there was still good flavor in that burger.
Finishing up, I had Special Dog #1. They split this dog down the middle, then grill ‘um up. Right down the middle they throw in crispy bits of bacon, cheddar cheese (I 86’d it), and a spicy chipotle sauce. If you are an Omnomivore, then you might remember my aversion and extreme hatred of everything mayo. Well, the sauce had mayo in it, but you know what…it was actually very good. It was smooth, creamy, and had a slight smoky taste to it. The dog was good, but could have been grilled more to get more flavor and get a nice crispy skin.
Despite these two fouls, Benny’s Fast Break lands tons of great shots and won’t put a major hole in your pocket. The menu has lots of options to suit any kind of taste and you can even eat outside on some benches on those nice summer nights. So, if your mouth has been dribbling as you read and saw the pictures, get yo’ self down to Benny’s Fast Break. Also, come by Tuesdays for $1 hot dogs and even breakfast starting at 6 am. Seriously, better hope that Takeru Kobayashi doesn’t show up.
Benny’s Fast Break
Address: 17 Bridge Street
Stamford, CT 06905
Update: Zaza is now open and here’s our review!
A few months ago, we had a chance to talk with Nick Racanelli Jr., co-owner of the soon to be opening Zaza Italian Gastrobar on 122 Broad Street in Downtown Stamford. We’ve been watching the progress of this new spot on Facebook and by doing some drive bys–no, not the violent kind. Apparently sensing our anticipation, Nick so kindly invited us to get a sneak peak before they open! YAY!
So, if you were at the old place in this spot, 122 Pizza Bistro, then your impression is probably that this spot is dark and dreary. But thankfully this is sooooo not the case anymore! What a refreshing change Nick (and Nick) have made to this place!
First, before you even walk in, you’re attracted to the sleek, clean look of the exterior. A custom white marble tile mosaic runs up and down the building, with black tiles spelling out the restaurant’s name near the door. An industrial steel riveted sign that lights up from behind, reminiscent of signs in NYC’s meat-packing district. Custom white planter boxes to break up the space between the restaurant’s outdoor seating on the sidewalk and the road. Specially designed glass “doors” which are supposedly not even available in the U.S., seamlessly open up and tuck away in this cool little contraption to the right to invite people to come on in for some drinks and small plates of yumminess.
The sleek and clean look doesn’t end at the front door either. On the inside you’ll see handmade and one-of-a-kind red leather benches and chairs of all shapes and sizes with steel rivets to reinforce that modern industrial look, mixed with romantic crystal chandeliers and sconces with hints of red and black jewels. The contrasting, yet complimenting colors really make the place pop. Dark mahogany tables add a nice contrast, too. A projection of old black and white Italian films will play on the wall above the entry to the kitchen, and mirrors across the left hand side, above the booths are at an angle so everyone can feel like they’re part of the social activity of the bar.
And speaking of the bar, it’s pretty sweet. A sexy white carrera marble top sprawls across the entire right hand wall, with interesting details such as the metal flashing underneath the bar and mahogany shelving holding a plethora of wine bottles and various qualities of liquor. Nick says they’re going to start with about 50 bottles of wine then go from there based on what sells and what doesn’t. A good strategy if you ask me. Oh, and the coolest thing about the bar? The tap! In the pic you can see that it’s kept cool, but it’ll be even cooler during service. After two days of chilling, that tap will create a 2″ thick coating of ice around it. Damn right…ice cold PBR, Rouge Dead Guy’s Ale, and Delerium Tremens! Ahhh yes, craft beers, because the world is now full of hipsters!
Then to end on the decor front, a brief tour of the equally classy-looking bathrooms (hey, we leave no stone unturned) and a trip out to the nice brick back patio that won’t be ready for opening just yet, but someday in the future will be an ideal place for a romantic dinner.
Ok, so all of this info about the decor is well and good, but what about the food?! Yeah, we want to know that too, but it will have to wait for their opening sometime in the next few weeks. Here’s what we do know to whet your appetite… They will specialize in wood fired pizza and small plates of traditional Italian fare like chicken parm and hearty pastas at reasonable prices. In the words of Nick, they’re not trying to be some fancy, high-end restaurant, but rather a nice, reliable place you know you can come to any day for a really good meal and a good time without going broke in the process. Who can’t get behind a promise like that?
In the meantime, we promise to update you as soon as we know more! Stay tuned.Zaza Italian Gastrobar
Address: 122 Broad Street Stamford, CT
Phone: (203) 348-2300
Site: www.zazagastrobar.com Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001854911680 Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/search/zazagastrobar