Tag Archives: Italian

An Italian Gastronomic and Wine Lovers Wonderland. ZAZA, Stamford

27 Dec

Photo by Alex Racanelli

Update, 6/2/11:  ZAZA is now open and here’s our review.  Also, Nick Jr. took us for a private tour and here’s the goods.

We all know that Stamford has a ton of Italian restaurants, so the choices can be quite overwhelming. As you listen to people’s recommendations and try each of them out, you notice that many of them are just the same old boring formula:  drab pizza, expected salads, bland pasta, and some rubbery chicken parm.  Who is brave enough to break this boring monotony in Stamford?  Well, there are two newcomers to the scene that will prove to add some gusto to Downtown Stamford.  First, we’ve got Bar Rosso that’s opening up in 2 weeks and we’ve got ZAZA, who we’re also so damn excited about!

What’s the big deal?  Let me break it down for ya, paesan.  The owners (Nick  Racanelli Jr. and Sr.) are the creators and operators of MOLTO in Fairfield, CT.  Nick Sr. is the same person who created and built Remo’s Brick Oven Pizza and Lucky’s on the restaurantly-rich Bedford Street.  So, there is clearly amazing culinary experience  and passion going into ZAZA.

Photo by Alex Racanelli

Let’s get onto the kind of food that ZAZA will have to offer.  To begin, ZAZA is going to be an Italian gastrobar.  You can think of a gastrobar as a restaurant that serves gourmet bar food, unlike most bar food that goes for hot oil baths and takes you down for the count.  The menu will be quite similar to the one at MOLTO, with a focus on small plates, table sharing, and their famous thin-crust, brick-oven pizza.  I’m excited about the white clam pie and also the hot oil pizza, which is always killer.  Something else that I’m hoping for is that they’ll carry over their plates of mozzarella (5 different kinds) that come with olives, roasted peppers, and eggplant.

Now, you also need something to wash all that Italian yumminess down with, right?  Why not try one of their over 100 different bottles of wine?  As of right now, Nick Jr. is telling us that there will most likely be over 40 of those bottles available to buy by the glass.  That’s a really great variety, and with the glasses going from $5-$15, you can get your drink on without going broke.  The bottles will also prove to be quite affordable, starting at $20.

The meals will also  be quite inexpensive with $10 pizzas and a ton of entrees under $20.  I have a feeling that this will quickly become a Stamford favorite, especially for the 30+ crowd.  You’ll have great quality food, an excellent dining experience, a plethora of wine choices, and all for not too much money.  This is the perfect formula for a restaurant to thrive upon so I definitely think that Nick Jr. and Sr. know what they’re doing!

Expect to indulge in rich mahogany, a stunning white carrera marble bar, and plush red leather booths.  So, let’s all welcome ZAZA to Stamford.  I’m starting to have dreams about this place already…opening Spring, 2011.

ZAZA
Address:  122 Broad Street
Stamford, CT
Phone:  203-348-2300
Site: http://zazagastrobar.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/zazagastrobar
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001854911680&ref=ts
 
 

ZAZA Italian Gastrobar on Urbanspoon

Ya Ain’t Scena-it All ‘Til Ya Seen Scena Wine Bar & Restaurant, Darien

4 Dec

Darien Restaurant Week led us to discover a star that’s been shining in Darien since September 1, 2010:  Scena Wine Bar & Restaurant.  Scena is the brainchild of the same owners of Cava in New Canaan and 55° Wine Bar & Restaurant in Fairfield.  When we arrived, we enjoyed Scena’s decor, which had a modern sensibility to it, similar to the food.  It’s rooted in real, classic Italian dishes and kinds of flavors, but it’s more than that.  The food is deeper, more complex, and is even playful…more on that when we get to the Nutella Filled Crepe.

First, we looked through the extensive wine list for a nice red to go with our meal.  There are bottles to go with anybody’s budget, low to high.  We stuck with a nice $38 bottle of 2006 Masi Campofiorin from Verona.  It was a nice bold red, but not too overpowering, with plenty of dark fruit flavors and a hint of chocolate at the finish.  The perfect match to this was the Scena Antipasti that I ordered.  House-made mozzarella lay before me, covered in a wonderful tomato jam.  Next to that was an eggplant caponata whose smoky taste came from some pignolas.  Add in some prosciutto di parma, two slices of parmesan, and sopresetta and I was feeling good.  I give my compliments to the chef for this because the cheese and meat was fresh.  There’s nothing worse than getting poor quality meats and cheeses in your antipasta…I think we’ve all had that experience.  Kristien enjoyed the Crispy Fried Artichoke Salad with goat cheese, arugula, and pumpkin seed pesto.  The salad was a perfect blend of ingredients and textures, though the pesto stood out in a good way and brought the whole starter together.

The main dish, Seafood Pan Roast, is what I was dying for and when it arrived I took a few deep breaths.  Two perfectly cooked and seasoned scallops awaited me, towering above shrimp, lobster, clams, and mussels.  All of this stood atop a beautifully prepared and slightly buttery herb risotto.  Chunks of tomato were strewn about through the dish with a red broth, and added a nice acidity to the dish.  The portion for this was nicely sized, but I couldn’t help but want more of the risotto.  One pet peeve of mine, though, is that if you’re ordering a seafood dish, you should be given a bowl to put the shells in.  I did a McGyver and put the shells on my bread plate–who says a Stamfordite can’t improvise?  Kristien had the Wood Fire Roasted Free Range Chicken with spicy sausage, mushrooms, spinach, cherry peppers, and a side of whipped potatoes.  The skin of the chicken was crispy and flavorful, even a bit peppery.  The meat remained moist and wasn’t dry at all.  It was hard to tell, though, if there was sausage in the dish.  We would have loved to have that flavor pushed more forward into the plate along with more of a kick from spicier cherry peppers.

As we were thinking of dessert we began to have a nice conversation with the people next to us. Claude Priolet and  Karen were the kind of people you’d want to share every dinner with.  Kind, polite, and well spoken, they treated Kristien to an amazingly smooth Taylor Fladgate port and me to a strong shot of Grappa di Montalcino “Banfi.”  Thanks, again, to both of you!

So, with that nice warm feeling of port and grappa creeping down our bodies, a divine crepe descended from heaven to our table. First of all, you’ve got banana gelato, drizzled with caramel, and sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts.  Really, that’s all you’d need, but they aren’t happy with the same old standard.  Enter some delicate crepes that are filled with nutella and you’ve really got a meal ender to end all meals.

We went back with a great couple, Megan and Ron, last night (10/22/11)and we all had an amazing meal.  We just had to bump up the Nom rating from 3.75 to 4.25!  We decided that we’re definitely headed back because there were more “secondo” and freshly made pasta dishes to try.  We’re talking 3.75 Noms with $$$ for price.  This is definitely a place that has great, reliable, quality food that is worthy of return visits.

Noms:  4.25

Cost:  $$$

Scena Wine Bar & Restaurant
Address:  1077 Post Road, Darien, CT  06820
Phone: (203) 662-3226  Fax: (203) 662-3227
Email: info@scenawinebar.com
Site:  http://scenawinebar.com/
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Scena-Wine-Bar-RestaurantDarien/173433756010597
Twitter:  http://twitter.com/#!/scenawinebar
 

Scena Wine Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The anticipation is killing us – Bar Rosso, Stamford

13 Nov

Update:  Bar Rosso is now open! Check out our review for the Omnomability!

Maybe we’re a little obsessed, but we’re counting down the days to the grand opening of Bar Rosso in Stamford (where Bennett’s Steakhouse use to be). In case you haven’t heard, (what, you’re all not as infatuated by food as we are?), Bar Rosso is a new Italian tapas restaurant started by the ingenious creators of Napa & Co. Not too many details have been released yet, other than a wood burning pizza oven, over 250 wines (OMG), homemade pasta, homemade limonecello, and a 50 ft. bar that’s sure to be quite the scene! Our fingers are crossed that the menu and wine selections are as creative and exciting as Napa & Co, but at a more affordable cost so we can eat there OFTEN!

You can follow the progress with us on their blog.

Bar Rosso
Address:  24 Spring Street
Stamford, CT 06901
Phone: (203) 388-8640
Site:  http://www.barrossoct.com/
 

Bar Rosso on Urbanspoon

New Italian spot offers inventive menu – Tappo, Stamford

7 Nov

Ah, to try new restaurants, in hopes that you might find the one that becomes your favorite, that jewel to place in your proverbial crown (or something like that).  Tappo, only opened a few weeks ago, and based on our friend Dave’s recommendation, we were really wishing this would be true.  When we arrived, we were struck by how nicely the dining room was decorated.  The space is small, with a limited amount of tables.  We checked in with reservations, but still had to wait, though the hostess was very friendly about it.

To start, we ordered the Insalata di Rucola con Pomodorini e Scaglie:  arugula, cherry tomatoes, and shaved grana.  The lemony/acidic hints of the dressing were cut nicely by the earthy and sharp taste of the grana cheese.  By itself this was a very good salad, but we added the softest, most delicate Prosciutto di San Daniele from their nice menu of Italian meats.  Making this combination ourselves was good and made up for a limited amount of salads to choose from.

For my main dish, I didn’t have much trouble deciding on the Guanciale pizza.  This dish really had everything that I love in the world on it:  browned fingerling potatoes, cured Italian bacon, white cheese sauce, and a sprinkle of truffle oil.  Start with a light, fluffy crust that isn’t too thick or too thin.  It reminded me of the consistency and taste of a zeppole.  All the tastes together synced so well and were amazing.  The only thing that I wished was different was varying textures because everything was soft/chewy.  The Italian bacon was in strips and few parts were crunchy.  If the chunks were smaller and crisped up a little before putting on the pizza, I think this would be a killer dish.  It was a bit hard to swallow when you were down to the last slice, so this is a dish that would be better to be shared.

Ending off the meal, I had a nice thick and strong duo shot of espresso and had two scoops of gelato:  chocolate/hazelnut and olive oil.  The scoop of chocolate/hazelnut was definitely strong and had a nice light hazelnut taste, though there was quite a strong after taste of cinnamon that I didn’t particularly enjoy.  I was left with that “gritty,” “drying” taste that cinnamon can often have.  On the other hand, the olive oil gelato was creamy, fresh, and had that nutty, fruity taste of olive oil.  It was surprisingly good and left me wanting more.

In all, this restaurant has a unique and creative view on Italian food.  The food was great, but the wine was overpriced as compared to the price of the average dish.  We ended up paying $45 for a bottle that would probably cost $15 at a wine shop, and should cost $30 for a restaurant like this.  There was only a handful of wines under $50, the lowest being $35.  The dishes were reasonably priced, though, which brings us to a rating of $$$ out of 5.  Nomability?  We’ve got to give this new Italian a very respectable 3.5 Noms out of 5.  Ciao!

 Also, check out our review on their San Danielle pizza, featured on CBS Connecticut.
 
Noms:  3.5
Cost:  $$$
 
Address:  51 Bank Street
Stamford, CT 06901
Phone:  (203) 588-9870
Site:  http://www.tapporestaurant.com
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001655225989

Tappo on Urbanspoon

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