A pleasant surprise is always welcome – especially on the third rainy day in a row at the end of April.
That is why Taberna Food & Wine Bar, tucked away in a residential neighborhood on the Fairfield Bridgeport line, was such a good find. For a recent lunch date we entered through the upscale bar area into a bright, tasteful white-tablecloth dining room and immediately noticed we were the only diners. Never a good sign, my companion and I wondered out loud how they could possibly serve a decent lunch when only two diners make up the lunch rush. As the meal progressed two more tables filled, both business lunch types, but by then our initial reservations had abated, as we were deep into a delightful and delicious meal.
Brothers Daniel and Jamie Lopez opened Taberna Food & Wine Bar in October of 2008. Word of mouth has not seemed to catch on despite the fine food, strong reviews and tasteful setting. I think the location has something to do with Taberna flying under the radar, but hopefully our CTBites readers will change all that.
The Taberna website calls their food Neuvo Latino, to us it was Spanish Mediterranean with Italian influences. On the menu, you will find quite a bit of very well prepared seafood and fish, along with house made pastas, which are rustic and terrific, and savory meat dishes surpassing the obligatory Paellas, (which truth be told may be one of Taberna’s weaker dishes).
On this particularily gloomy day, we started out lunch with Grilled Calamari and Chicken Brocheta. One of the nice features at Taberna is that one of the Lopez brothers are always on the floor. On this day, Daniel Lopez was actually our server as well as the maitre d. With a proud sense of ownership, he checked in often to make sure we were enjoying our dishes and did not seem at all interested in the fact that we were photographing each and every morsel. Much to our luck, Daniel was momentarily distracted when we ordered our two antipastos and he accidentally brought out a third. All three were delicious. The accidental Sauteed Shrimp was served in a garlic sauce and red wine demi glace. Minced garlic was flavorful without overpowering the depth of flavor that the demi glace offered.
Like most of the food at Taberna, our grilled octopus was simply seasoned and expertly cooked. In this case, what was really showcased was theperfect grilling of the squid. Sprinkled with a few crispy garlic chips and served with a simple arugula salad this generous portion could have easily been a light lunch. The greens had a wee bit of a wilt, the kind I would serve at home but would rather not find on a served plate, they weren’t spent, just under fresh. While both seafood dishes were satisfying and flavorful, the Chicken Brocheta was my favorite. Skewered and grilled to perfection, the chicken was so moist it had my companion and I guessing that it had been brined prior to grilling. And it had a divine smokiness as well. Served over garlicky sautéed spinach it was just scrumptious.
As our entrees, we opted for a House Made Pasta and the restaurant critic’s great equalizer, Salmon. Again, we could not have been more impressed. Again, perfectly cooked. The wild salmon was moist and pink and not at all fussy. Drizzled with a piquillo pepper sauce and served over that garlicky spinach it was another simple and very well executed dish.
A House Made Fettuccine served with house made Fennel Sausage and Broccoli Rabe rounded out our lunch. Finished with caramelized garlic and a bit of Spanish olive oil it was a flavorful and interesting. When it was served, I noticed that lack of sauce, but again, the simplicity of the dish allowed the flavor of the sausage to shine. I might have liked a touch more olice oil, but other than that, it was another well executed dish from the Taberna kitchen.
At one point my lunch date said that she would not have been surprised to find these dishes at a much more upscale restaurant and for a much higher price. I must concur, the food at Taberna was spot on and when we got up to leave, the sun had come out too, not that the Lopez brothers had anything to do with that, but since we did not have time for dessert, it was a sweet end to a wonderful lunch.
Taberna is closed Mondays and serves only Dinner on Saturday
Taberna Food & Wine Bar 1439 Madison Avenue, Bridgeport 203.338.0203
In addition to the main dining room, Taberna has an additional small dining room for private parties.