Geoff Lazlo, former Executive Chef at The Whelk in Westport,is heading back to his hometown of Greenwich, CT to open a place of his own. The restaurant will be located in the former Lolita Cocina space on Mill Street in Byram and will reflect the type of cooking he has done at esteemed venues such as Gramercy Tavern, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and The Whelk. Often seen walking into his kitchen with something freshly picked from his home garden, Geoff will continue to feature produce from local farms on the menu, but also bring the farm into the physical space and the surrounding neighborhood.With a strong focus on locally-sourced, seasonal American cuisine, Lazlo hopes to push this concept one step further by partnering with the Back 40 Farm in Washington, Connecticut.
There is a certain serendipity to Lazlo’s story. As a child, Geoff ate with his family at the Italian restaurant that originally occupied the space. Lazlo has a vision for the future role this restaurant will play in Byram. He hopes to build community and a destination here much like Danny Meyer did with The Union Square Farmer’s Market in New York. “I’m happy to be in this neighborhood because I hope to bring the positive influence of fresh food to the community we live and work in,” says Lazlo. His partner, Bill King, co-founder of the Old Greenwich Farmer’s Market, as well as the owner of the Back 40 Farm & Back 40 Mercantile, shares this aspiration.
Visually, Lazlo plans to “create something timeless, a space that is light, comfortable and feels like home.” Barn wood, herbs, lush plants, historical photographs and unique vintage metal will adorn the interior. The restaurant will include a casual space with communal tables and a raw bar, in addition to a more structured (but certainly not formal) dining room. There will be a 10 seat bar, an intimate lounge and an outdoor dining patio that will soon be filled with potted herbs for use in the kitchen.
The menu will take its cue from the local farms and their seasonal harvests, but Lazlo says “a wood burning grill will be at the center of the menu.” King’s Back 40 Farm will be heavily utilized for sourcing ingredients as well as other local CT and NY producers. The Modern American menu will draw on the cuisines of many cultures.
The menu is divided into several sections: raw bar, crudo, from the garden, from the sea, house made pasta and flatbreads, as well as wood oven roasted and grilled meats. Geoff is especially excited about the “from the garden” section where common broccoli or cauliflower can become the hero, while the "wood oven roasted" will feature whole poultry or a lamb shoulder, to share, to create a “home cooked” experience to the food.
Craft cocktails will also take their inspiration from the farm, and while nothing is written in stone yet, when asked, Lazlo thinks for a moment and says “I’m thinking about a Rhubarb Swizzle or possibly a vodka infused with beets.”
The spacious kitchen will host cooking classes based on trips to the Back 40 Farm as well as programming for kids.
We look forward to seeing the final product which should be open in spring 2015. CTbites will keep you posted along the way.