Tag Archives: wine bar

Authentic Italian Hits Bank Street with Cotto Wine Bar + Pizzeria – Stamford, CT

27 Nov

We went to one of our favorite places in the world during our honeymoon:  Italy.  It’s where our ancestors are from and it’s the one place where we’ve both always dreamed of visiting.  To be honest, we didn’t know if we were more excited to visit for the food, the sites, or the culture.  Well, turns out we loved every little thing about Italy, but one of our favorite things was our long, expansive, wine-filled meals.  See, over there, you could sit for hours while you eat and drink to your heart’s content.  Believe it or not, sometimes a bottle of water cost more than a nice local wine.  Yeah, our kind of place, how about you?

So, we get nostalgic from time to time when we think of our waiter in Venezia (Venice) who looked a lot like Stephen Colbert and who eagerly invited us back the next day after we had way over-tipped…stupid Americans.  Or, when we think of walking home bloated and full on Chianti, strolling through the streets of Firenze.  That’s Florence to you noobs.  So, yes, we get nostalgic for how great our trip was and how amazing the food was.  You best believe that when we find a great Italian restaurant, we hold onto it for dear life.  See, unfortunately every Italian spot we eat at now has to be measured in our minds against the places that we ate at in Italy.

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Going gaga over Zaza: A sneak peek! Zaza Italian Gastrobar-Stamford, CT

26 May

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 

ZAZA Italian Gastrobar on Urbanspoon

Hallelujah! A feast worth waiting for? Bar Rosso – Stamford, CT

15 May

Many people count down the days to, say, a vacation, or the holidays, or  a wedding, a due date, whatever. We… we countdown to restaurant openings. Yeah. So it’s no surprise that every time Bar Rosso in Stamford announced a new opening date, we were on the phone desperately trying to make reservations, only to be bummed out by another false alarm. But, hey, we know how it goes with renovations, contractors, licenses, training, and all that other craziness required to open a new place so no hard feelings. Especially no hard feelings after finally experiencing the divinity last night.

Now we only went to Bennett’s once (the restaurant that use to be in this spot), so we don’t remember exactly what it looked like, but when we walked in we were amazed at how incredibly different it looked. It is so much more open and contemporary. A much younger, hipper vibe with with a nice large bar, funky modern glass light fixtures, a beautiful stone wall, an impressive stainless steel and brick pizza oven, and subtle, clean colors.

We were 15 mins early for our reservation but the host was able to take us right to our table – a nice little two person booth and table set up. Score! Not even a minute into being seated a waiter asked us our preference on water, then no more than three minutes after that another waiter, Fedrico, was at our table asking us if we had any questions on the drink menu. The waiter seemed knowledgeable about the wine menu… impressive.  After ordering the Castello Monaci Piluna 2007 Primitivo, Federico showed up with our bottle in just another two minutes along with some fresh bread and olive oil. Yay! There’s nothing I hate more than having to wait for wine, and then having nothing to gnaw on to go with it. The wine was a nice, full bodied red, similar to a Zinfandel with the taste of dark red fruit. A solid choice to go with a variety of dishes, because after looking at the menu we knew we were going to be trying a whole lotta dishes!

So what about the menu you ask? Wait for it. Waaaaait for it. Overall, the menu was really nice! A large variety of traditional and unique Italian fare including pizzas, pasta that could be ordered in half or full portions (love that), salads, larger entrees, meat and cheese platters, and a ton of small dishes that could be mixed and matched. Oh wow, where to begin?!  After much deliberation (as alwaaaays), we went wild. First, a meat and cheese platter of some of our go-to faves: prosciutto, sopressata, coppa, peccorino (organic) and homemade mozzarella. Then onto small plates: polenta fries (based on the Foursquare recommendation), greens and cherries, and beets agrodolce (because we never say no to beets). Next up, clams and pancetta from the apps menu, cooked in a saffron and white wine, and herb broth. Aaaand last but not least (because there was also dessert) a half portion of the Bucatini pasta with braised pork, tomatoes, olives, and fava beans. Phew, ok, breath.

So remember how I was raving about how fast the service was. Um yeah, that ended after we got our wine… which is an indication that the waiter was probably good, but the kitchen was backed up. Yeah, all in, were we there for three hours. But, we’re not going to judge them on this because it was their first weekend so we have to cut them a break. Ok, back to the food…

The meat and cheese platter came out with a cheat sheet explaining everything we ordered. Cool! They did a great job sourcing the meats and cheeses because everything was fresh, tasty and flavorful. Their homemade mozzarella was semi-soft and quite tasty, though I prefer soft, juicy mozzarella. Everything also came with a delicious strawberry jam. Mmmm.

Next up, the small dishes. The beets agrodolce (meaning sour and sweet) came in a cute little mason jar. And while they were not at all sour OR sweet (weird) they were tasty. A bit too salty (you’ll notice this is a theme) but still quite good. The greens and cherries too had a nice flavor with a pretty hefty helping of garlic (I’m not complaining) and a spicy kick, which we later found out was Calabrian (Calabria represent!) chili oil. While this dish tasted nice, we couldn’t eat too much because they were drenched in too much oil. Now onto the pièce de résistance, the polenta fries. Oooey gooey bricks of buttery, fluffy polenta fried in a nice light batter with salt (again, a bit too much, but it didn’t bother us as much here). OMG, these were frickin’ good. We highly recommend them.

Already a little full, we moved onto the clams and pancetta. Hey, no rest for the wicked! A nice helping of both crispy pancetta and fresh tasting clams in what seemed to be a slightly thickened broth of white wine and a bunch of great flavors really coming through, especially the saffron and garlic. Again a bit on the salty side, but overall a nice dish.

Barely hanging in there, and already a little tipsy, we made it to the last course, the Bucatini pasta. This dish was fantastic with al dente pasta topped with a heavy helping of incredibly tender slow roasted pork that was cooked in coriander for a very unique taste. My only critique here is I would’ve liked more tomatoes, but it was very good regardless.

Ok, I know what you’re thinking. There’s noooo way we had room for dessert, right? Well, you’re right, we had absolutely no room. Buuuuut, we went for it any way. Whatever, go big or go home people! The dessert menu looked too good to resist with hot chocolate cake, honey panna cotta, like ten different gelatos that all looked fantastic, and one of our favorites, pizza frite. Oh fried dough, so simple, yet so very very delicious. This one especially as it came drenched in Nutella and chocolate ganache with a side of caramelized bananas topped with nuts. Um yeeeeah. A perfect dish, with perfectly fried dough that was oh-so ooey gooey (ok, I used that twice in one post – minus 5 points). Washed down with some Illy coffee, it was the perfect ending to our feast.

Yep, a feast that was definitely worth the wait. And once they get all the kinks worked out to speed up the service and if they lay off the salt a bit, they’ll be great! But those two issues aside, the meal was delicious and we think Bar Rosso has a long, successful life ahead!

Noms: 3.25

Cost:  $$$

Bar Rosso

Address: 24 Spring Street

Stamford, CT 06901

Phone: (203) 388-9640

Reservations recommended (also on Opentable.com)

Site: http://www.barrossoct.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001687354172

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/barrossoct

Bar Rosso on Urbanspoon

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

The menu’s promising, but the food ain’t so rosy. Rouge Winebar, Norwalk (SoNo)

15 Dec

I think that the title says it all, but I feel that I have to defend myself here.  First of all, Rouge Winebar is a quiet and comfy place with beautiful brick walls and striking wooden floors.   They really set the tone when you enter as you see a lovely rack of wine bottles, inviting you in.  The bar is also impressive, especially the rouge light setting a halo around the liquor.  The menu, also, really impressed us.  Their philosophy is small plates and, look, we’re all for that.  It was really difficult to center in on just a few dishes, but we picked a select few that would awaken our tastebuds.

To start the party, we invited over a 2006 Marietta Zinfandel that was aged in French oak.  Quite a classy gal with a nice finish.  It’s no party with just one guest, so I asked the Greek Salad to join our table  He was smothered in a vinaigrette, and had some kalmata olives, cucumbers, red onion, peppers, and a dash of oregano.    The salad was good and certainly lived up to expectations.  Enough with the cheesy talk, let’s just get down to business.  We also ordered the Potato and Chorizo Croquette, covered in a garlic aioli.  Kristien wasn’t a fan, but I thought it was pretty good.  My main problem with the dish and many of the others here at Rouge is the lack of seasoning-or in some cases like the beef carpaccio, too much.  The croquettes could have definitely benefited from a bit more spice and kick.

The dish that I was most looking forward to was the Coffee Dusted NY Strip Steak that was draped over manchego mashed potatoes.  Top the steak with some demi glaze and put some sweet and sour onions on the side and you’ve got the golden ticket, right?  Well, sorta.  The steak was cooked perfectly at medium rare and had really beautiful grill marks.  What this dish gained in presentation it lost in taste.  The onions and mashed potatoes seemed to have more spice and flavor than the steak itself which disappointed me quite a bit.  It was still a good dish, but it wasn’t an amazing dish that you beg your dining partner to taste.

Finally, Kristien is a lobster risotto fiend, so when she saw that on the menu, she knew what she had to do.  Again, when it arrived, we were excited and we began to drool at the presentation.  The herbs, sauce, and parmagiano all combined to add a wonderful taste to this dish, but it couldn’t make the overcooked rice taste better.  I was having intense flashbacks to Gordon Ramsay yelling at budding chefs  on Hell’s Kitchen and blasting out, “You overcooked the risotto,” only I had no food or things to throw around.  

If you compared Rouge Winebar with Scena Wine Bar & Restaurant, I don’t think you’d really need to think twice.  Scena was just as nice on the inside, was around the same price, but the food was much better.  Plus, to boot, they are pretty close by each other, Scena being in Darien.  You can certainly have an okay meal at Rouge Winebar, but at that price you probably want an awesome or excellent one.

Noms:  2.75

Cost:  $$$

Rouge Winebar
Address:  88 Washington Street
Norwalk, CT 06854-3077
Phone:  (203) 354-4781
Site:  http://rougewinebar-ct.com/index.htm

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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

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