Spring Street, all of a block long, was once anchored by Bennet's Steak House and Andy Robustelli’s World Travel services. Both were venerable downtown institutions, but dowdy matrons against the vibrant young rialto of restaurants and bars around the corner on Bedford Street. In their place Spring Street this year welcomed Mary Schaffer's luxe Italian Bar Russo and Giovanni Gentile's sleek euro-style café, Volta.
Designed by Giovanni himself, Volta’s pop interior complements the hip crowd, who one recent night were dining on such kewl stuff as brie and bacon crepes, grilled vegetable tartines, duck confit salads, and creamy sweet potato vichyssoise. With an Amy Whitehouse track in the background, “My life a wreck you’re making,” a beguiling model delicately sampled a gelato stracciatella while her debonair date sipped Remy XO.
In Volta, Giovanni has confected a trendy mashup of creperie, bistro, and gelateria. (He also owns the hot-spot Capriccio's on Bedford.) If anyone in Stamford can sense a dining vibe, it's this stylish emigre from Italy’s Southwest coast.
One such trend is crepes. They have re-emerged as a major food fad 40 years after the hay-day of the popular Magic Pan creperies that once were all the rage, but faded in the 80’s. Crepes Redux, like so many things culinary, started in Manhattan a few years ago. Light, fast, cheap, and a healthy alternative to sandwich bread or wraps, the thin French style pancake is a perfect urban food. Add “whimsical” and “social” to the medley and you've got Volta.
Chef Philippe Gudet has created an imaginative menu that features over 30 assorted sweet and savory crepes. Classical buckwheett pancakes embrace his mélange of savories, like those in Volta’s signature crepe: Prosciutto, layered with scrambled egg and mozzarella. Many like the Smoked Salmon and a lace of horseradish cream, shallots, chives and radishes.
While most of the pillows hide the goodies inside, there are some "outies" -- such as a jumbo egg done sunny side up, afloat over a sky of buckwheat clouds, filled with warm swiss cheese and black forest ham.
Now, when I first tried a buckwheat pancake, the crepe seemed somewhat bland. But I've found it's an acquired taste, and serves as a really light, subtly flavored delivery system for the varied savories. My favorite: Volta's grilled chicken copanata, married with ricotta cheese, and complemented by a cleanly dressed green salad on the side.
As an alternative for crepes, Volta has just introduced a “Tartine" menu. Many of the same crepes savories are instead lavished on a variety of breads and served open-faced to cut down on calories and cholesterol. Unlike the delicate crepes, the bread platform stands up to heartier ingredients, like rib steak mounded over a slice of whole wheat or a turkey, ham, and bacon piled atop a seven grain bread. Dagwood goes to Paris.
But if calories aren't of concern, Volta’s gelato master Salvatore Scuro has concocted 30 different flavors from his own original recipes The scoopers encourage sampling and ordering half and halfs.. Or customers can choose from a dozen different sweet white crepes, including a decadent banana and nutella. Or why make a choice at all? Go for an Italian-French fusion. the crepe of your choice becomes a warm bed for a scoop of your favorite gelato. La Dolce Volta.
But if you’re weary of sweet young things, there’s the Grande Dame of Crepes, herself, Suzette, enrobed in caramel, orange juice, and flambé of Grand Marnier. When her liqueur is lit, the old gal elicits the same oohs and ahhs from the Volta crowd as when French Chef Henri Charpentier first introduced his ingénue to America in the 30's. Proof that matrons need not be dowdy and can light up any room.
On Saturday and Sundays, Volta opens for brunch, offering family fare like scrambled eggs, Belgian waffles, and french toast. "Maybe we'll even have balloons," Giovanni suggests. "For the children."
During the warm months, both Bar Russo and Volta provide al fresco dining. When the night is filled with conversation, music, and wafts of sweet and savory flavors, once frumpy Spring Street becomes downright alluring, Stamford’s one block rue du Printemps.
Volta 30 Spring St. Stamford, CT 203 883 8841