Nestled at the farther end of a strip mall in Norwalk, right off of Rt. 7, is the newly opened eatery, The Dilly Duck Shop. Honestly, I feel it necessary to begin with the most obvious…what’s up with the name? “Dilly” is British slang for something notable or excellent, Duck is an homage to our fair state of Connecticut and the charm that flourishes here (ducks are also proud and colorful) and shop denotes “workshop”, as in a place of craft. So there you have it. The Dilly Duck Shop. It is not a store for winged fowl nor do they carve decoys. They sell food. Really good food.
Owner/Chef, Russ Zappala, who studied at the Culinary Institute of America and honed his craft at restaurants such as La Cremaillere (NY), La Panetiere (Rye, NY) and Dean and Deluca (NYC), took the leap and thought it time to create his own establishment. The Dilly Duck Shop thence was born and now nests in a homey yet tailored space. Warm, light-colored woods, benches, chalkboards, baked goods piled in glass cookie jars, light streaming into this space that casts a welcoming hello. Quirky ducks appear here and there in subtle spots and vibrant, colorful Mexican tiles line the wall behind the main counter where the coffee magic happens. And the common thread amongst the record album covers (the younger set are sure to say “What are those?”) hanging on the walls…food. Some of them might bring back memories.
Chef Zappala designed the bright and meticulous kitchen to be in full-view for the customers so that there is full disclosure of his techniques and ingredients, of which he takes great pride. Zappala tries to source locally from both Connecticut and also the whole of New England, wanting to showcase the wonderful food products from the Northeast region. He uses a mix of organic and all-natural meats and produce and in making everything from scratch, it allows him to keep cooking methods healthier all the while coaxing superior flavors. Soups, salads, breakfast items and baked goods are made fresh every day as well as chicken, beef, and pork which are roasted rotisserie-style. These super-moist and flavorful meats are either made into generous sandwiches (breads come straight from Balthazar in NYC) or can be bought to-go with any number of homey sides like roasted potatoes, fluffy cornbread, or crunchy cabbage slaw.
Try soups such as their unbelievably velvety Tomato Cheddar Soup, their Rotisserie Pork Sandwich (thin slices of juicy roasted pork with stewed tomatoes, provolone, and sweet onion bacon aioli-trust me, it’s divine), Loaded Fries topped with shaved beef, cheddar and Swiss cheeses, ketchup and (again) sweet onion bacon aioli, Falafel Fritter or Smoked Salmon Sandwiches…there is something for the carnivores or the vegetarians. Their pesto is even nut-allergy friendly because it is made with pumpkin seeds, not the traditional walnuts. All aspects of all ingredients are thoughtfully considered.
Breakfast offerings include delight such as Oatmeal Brûlée which does indeed have a crackling caramelized crust on top, yogurt parfaits with house-made granola, egg white or classic egg sandwiches (enter those rotisserie meats!) and Haymaker Hash. Muffins, scones, and biscuits are ever-present because baking is a passion of Zappala’s. Ever have a White Chocolate and Blueberry Jam Rice Treat? Or a Cornflake Vanilla cookie (a crunchy, shortbready, slightly sweet cookie that’s not-to-be-missed)? Or the fudgiest-creamiest Chocolate Brownies that only needs a tall glass of cold milk to make them perfect? Go ahead, try ‘em. They are worth the splurge.
And lest we forget the drinks. Their coffees are carefully selected from Connecticut roasters: Banjo (Stamford) and Saccuzzo (Newington) and special coffees are often highlighted-when I visited, I tried their Pumpkin Spice Delight that was topped with a hefty swirl of whipped cream, complete with a mini Pumpkin Spice Donut Muffin poking out of the top. I proclaim that to be The Best Stirrer in the world. Craft beers, ciders, and wines are chosen for their seasonality and rotate with the menu items. All have been careful chosen to truly enhance and accompany the flavors that appear on the menu. Teas are from Harney and Sons, Foxon Park Sodas are from New Haven and you might also want to try their “fizzes”: Lemon Fizz, Farmer’s Fizz, or a Fizzy Palmer, which use fresh squeezed juices, house made mint syrup, iced tea, or a splash of cream. Wilding refreshing.
Along with Chef Zappala, there are less than a dozen staff and that speaks to the intimate and family-like nature that he is cultivating here. Stop in, enjoy great cooking with a hearty dose of flair. Integrity, good food, care, and pride filter into everything they do.
Just ducky, I tell you.
666 Main Ave., Norwalk
Eat in, take out, order online or call for pick-up