Deciding where to go for lunch has always been a highly situational dilemma for me. The right place can depend on my mood, the purpose – are we going just for fun or is there work to be done, the number of people involved and the occasion, if any. Too often, my stable of choices has seemed just one horse short of a winner. Recently, however, I had two excellent lunches at Pizzeria Molto in Fairfield, one for work and one for pleasure; the food and the atmosphere were just right on both occasions.
Molto occupies a large, corner space in the Brick Walk Promenade and despite its size it is immediately warm and inviting. The front of the room holds an assortment of tables with café chairs; then leads to an expansive space lined by a row of booths on one side and a lengthy bar with red leather studded bar stools on the other. The vibe is reminiscent of a French Brasserie, where you’d be greeted with a hearty “Bonjour”, but the menu and the food definitely shout “Mangia”.
While the name is Pizzeria Molto, this is a restaurant that will work for many occasions and dining moods. The menu is broad, offering tapas, panini, salads, two types of pizza and entrees. Molto also has a mozzarella bar with four types of mozzarella: Bufala, Wisconsin, Burrata and Affumicata, and three antipasto plates: salami, cheese and vegetable. The possibilities for mixing and matching among all the offerings seem endless. Within each menu category, including Salads, the selections have been thoughtfully chosen to satisfy everyone from meat eaters to vegetarians. Panini, for example included Mozzarella, Grilled Verdure, Pollo, Bistecca, Veal Parmigian and a Kobe Bar Burger; entrees included chicken, veal, lamb, salmon and shrimp dishes.
We started our lunch with a salad of white beans with crispy pancetta. It was dressed with lightly salted olive oil and just the right amount of red pepper flakes that added an occasionally pleasing spark to the palate. The Calamari Salad is presented in thin strips of calamari rather than rings, which is a nice change in form, and served with white beans, garlic and tomatoes. The calamari was tender and all the elements worked well together. We deemed the dish “absolutely delicious” and we each eyed the last strip trying to be somewhat polite in determining who would stab it first.
Pizzas can be ordered in two styles: 12” Brick Oven or 14” New York Style. When we inquired about the difference, we learned the NY Style Pizza is a traditional, round pizza with sauce ladled first on the dough, then topped with cheese, etc. and baked in a regular oven. The Brick Oven Pizza is, of course, baked in a brick oven, shaped in a rounded rectangle, and to keep the crust crispy, the cheese is laid down first to prevent the sauce from making direct contact with the dough. Based on our very crispy spinach and eggplant pizza, the recipe is a success. The vegetables were bright and tender, and the cheese incredibly fresh and delicious.
On another visit, my Salmon Salad was excellent, perfectly dressed with just the right amount of salmon for a lunch serving. One friend raved about the Fried Artichokes and another had a hard time conversing in between bites of his Linguini Carbonara. While I can’t comment on the taste of the Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage, it looked so good when it was brought to a neighboring table that it sparked a lengthy conversation about the appropriateness of asking complete strangers for a taste of their food.
Another surprising change in form came with dessert. The Molto Cannoli Dip is a deconstructed cannoli that solves all the problems I usually associate with sinking my teeth into a pastry cylinder full of sweetened crème: the pastry falls apart, there’s too much filling, and the powdered sugar residue lingers. This cannoli is served with the pastry already broken into pieces and drizzled with a touch of chocolate, surrounding a small pot of the crème filling. So, in the manner of chips and dip, you use the pastry to scoop the exact amount of filling desired. In keeping with Molto’s something for everyone thoughtfulness, this dessert allowed a table of women to enjoy just as much of this sweet ending as each wanted without all the plate passing and fork stabbing that usually accompanies dessert sharing.
Pizzeria Molto Winebar does not take reservations for lunch or dinner. I did not have a problem getting a seat at noon, but by 1:00, the restaurant was hopping. Dinner reports from some CTBites readers have noted long evening waits and less than stellar service. While this was certainly not my lunch experience, it may help to arrive before 8 pm until the restaurant finds an evening service groove to match its more positive noon-time performance.
Pizzeria Molto Wine Bar 1215 Post Road Fairfield. 203.292.8288