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« Bobby Q's Beer & BBQ Event / Menu Update | Main | Bill Taibe's "The Whelk" Opens in Westport in 2 Weeks »

Carpe Diem Opens w/ Northern Italian in New Canaan

Food lovers of New Canaan rejoice! Carpe Diem, a Northern Italian inspired restaurant by Alan Basaran, has opened and the housemade pastas are delicious. As CTBites presented earlier, Basaran, a North Stamford resident and owner of Carpe Diem Restaurant in New York City, is excited about creating delicious Northern Italian cuisine in New Canaan, his wife’s hometown.

After studying finance, Basaran followed his lifelong passion and entered the culinary world, advancing through the kitchen hierarchy of line chef, sous chef and ultimately head chef. His love of interacting with customers brought him to the front of the restaurant and this rare combination in all aspects of the restaurant over the last twenty years is evident at Carpe Diem. 

Carpe Diem’s newly redecorated space on Locust Avenue is divided into three dining areas. The most informal space is to the left of the entrance and includes a five seat bar plus several tall tables. For those looking for after dinner drinks, ample standing room is available; and on weekends the atmosphere is vibrant. The main dining area to the right offers a white-table clothed dining experience for up to forty-five in a very relaxed and pleasant atmosphere. The last area in the center of the restaurant contains a semi-private area for up to twenty customers. The rooms are separated by floor to ceiling two-sided built-in wine racks. The walls are decorated with numerous photos of wild horses as Alan and his wife are both horse lovers; these photos add an openness to the rooms. Overall I found the rooms incredibly inviting and relaxing and I am looking forward to warmer weather when the front patio will allow for al fresco dining.

To oversee the kitchen, Basaran tapped Chef Victor Pastuizasa, the chef from his New York’s location for the last fourteen years. The long-standing relationship between the two culinary professionals allowed this duo to immediately present delicious food at the newly opened New Canaan location.

The menu includes a wide selection of appetizers including soups, salads, cheeses, cured meats, plus a few delicious seafood and chicken options. Entrées include a wide variety of pastas, meats, seafood and chicken. Basaran is currently sourcing from local purveyors and is in the process of developing and expanding his relationships with several others. The menu will vary slightly as seasonal ingredients become available and Chef Pastuizasa is excited about his flexibility to offer these in the daily specials.

Current appetizers include a Mozzarella di Buffalo with roasted red peppers and Prosciutto di San Daniele. The wonderful flavor of the prosciutto paired with the creamy mozzarella and sweet pepper offers a delectable start of the meal. The Carpaccio Palmito includes several paper thin slices of raw filet with avocado, hearts

of palm and a few drops of truffle oil. The rich flavors of the beef are supplemented by the earthiness of the truffle oil. The Ahi tuna tartare with crostini delivers diced tuna presented atop of a guacamole of avocado, jalapeño peppers, capers and onions. The flavors of this appetizer are bright with just a hint of spiciness. For those with a bit of an adventuresome palate, the fried artichoke offers a unique experience with the whole trimmed artichoke quickly fried to present a crispy exterior with the artichoke heart maintaining its wonderful character. In the coming weeks Carpe Diem will add a house made Burrata to the menu.

The long pastas and all of the sauces are made in house. Of particular note are two delicious choices. The first is the Spaghetti with shrimp, scallops, mussels, little neck clams, arugula, and radicchio in an organic tomato sauce. The two jumbo scallops are perfectly prepared, the two extra large shrimp are sweet and delicious and the shellfish add a nice richness to the dish. The addition of the arugula and radicchio bring a nice peppery background to the dish.

The second is the Penne with sausage and peas in an organic tomato sauce with just a touch of cream. The pasta is perfectly cooked to barely al dente, the house made sausage is delicious and the addition of the sweet peas creates a truly delightful choice. The Pappardelle with a Bolognese sauce is also delightful. The pasta is cooked al dente and offers a perfect texture that is complemented by the mild flavors of the veal and the beef Bolognese. The Spaghetti with green peas and prosciutto in a pecorino cheese sauce is also delicious. The saltiness of the prosciutto and the sweetness of the peas are enhanced by the creamy sauce to create a rich and flavorful dish. 

My favorite of the entrée choices is the Veal Piccatina, medallions of veal that are quickly pan seared to create a crisp exterior while maintaining a moist and tender interior. The lemon sauce is bright and the acidity of the lemons is complemented by the saltiness of the capers. Accompanying the veal are light and fluffy mashed potatoes, prepared simply with garlic and rosemary. The grilled and sliced Prime Ribeye steak is served over a mound of fresh greens, lightly tossed with the house dressing. The steak was perfectly grilled to medium rare and seasoned simply with salt and pepper. Likewise pan grilled lamb chops are served with a potatoes gratin.

For dessert Carpe Diem offers several choices and my favorite is the Tiramisu which is light and creamy with a light touch of Cointreau. The individual apple pie is also delicious. The nutty and lemony dough is full of flavors and is served with a mild vanilla gelato. The Crème Caramel is another excellent choice and delivers a creamy texture complemented with a delicious caramel sauce plus several gelato flavors including chocolate and my favorite, the blackberry Cabernet are also available.

After only a few weeks on the New Canaan restaurant landscape, Carpe Diem is presenting many delicious choices in a relaxed and inviting environment.

Carpe Diem

26 Locust Avenue

New Canaan, CT 06840


[Photography courtesy of Jane Beiles Photography]

Carpe Diem on Urbanspoon

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    Response: alto
    Carpe Diem Opens w/ Northern Italian in New Canaan - CT Bites - Restaurants, Recipes, Food, Fairfield County, CT
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    Carpe Diem Opens w/ Northern Italian in New Canaan - CT Bites - Restaurants, Recipes, Food, Fairfield County, CT
  • Response
    Neat Web site, Stick to the fantastic work. With thanks.

Reader Comments (18)

Thanks for the great review. Can't wait to go to the restaurant next week. I already know what I am ordering. You helped me make my decision in advance.

January 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusan W.

I hope you have the Pasta with sausage & peas on your list Susan. It was wonderful.

January 9, 2012 | Registered CommenterStephanie Webster

Vivid descriptions, lush photography, who needs a menu? Looks like NC gets another great resto.

January 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLou

We went there for an early dinner New Years Eve. The service was outstanding and the veal dish was delicious but crusty mealy mashed potatoes came with my veal dish. Mentioned to the waitress and she immediately showed to owner. Impressed! On way out owner asked " who complained about the mashed potatoes". He then responded that he had made them himself at 4:30 and next time I should order something different. Next time I will go some place different!

January 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie S

@Leslie S

I reached out to the owner who remembers the discussion. He would like to assure you that his thoughts were that he is extremely flexible in meeting the requests of customers and that he was offering you and all customers the option of ordering a different accompaniment to the dish if any is not to the customer's liking.

January 11, 2012 | Registered CommenterJeff "jfood" Schlesinger

We had a VERY special evening here with friends including one who is a most discerning foodie and not so easy to please. He declared that this was one of the BEST meals he's eaten in a very long time and loved it! He had the tuna tartar & veal chop and thought both were outstanding. Beet & goat cheese salad was perfection.
Just by happenstance we were seated at the "chef's table" - a single table in a semi-private area that made the meal even more memorable AND quieter than the main DR. You can request the table in advance I believe. Wonderful evening; we will be sure to go back. Thanks for the recommendation ctbites!

January 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaida Webster

A web-site like CTbites is a great tool to have but only works when people are completely honest in their review in order to help others in pursuit of a good meal. That being said.......four of us went last week for dinner. We had not been there before but were certainly aware that it had only recently opened. The restaurant is very classy looking and the wait staff was very friendly. I am sorry that I don't know the gentleman's name but I believe it was the owner who at one point got involved when I inquired as to what ingredients they had on hand to make a specialty cocktail that I love, an espresso martini. This gentleman made the drink himself and inquired as to whether I liked it after I had tried it. I told him that it was great ! A little while later he inquired as to whether I would care for some more and I told him I was all set. He said he was asking because he had some remaining in the shaker from the first batch. I said," in that case , I'll finish what you have". More on that later. This gentleman really was great in his approach and checking on us during the evening. Upon leaving the restaurant, the four of us spoke in the car about what we all thought of our visit. We all agreed that we would love to come back and try it again and that our first visit yielded more positive feedback regarding the appetizers than the entrees. Finally, as we were going through the line items on the bill in the car to discuss them, it was noticed that the last item on the bill was 2 espresso martinis, which means he had charged me for the second drink after telling me he was simply bringing me the leftover from the first drink he made......not a huge deal, but it did leave a bad taste in my mouth. But, do patronize the restaurant and share your comments with the CTbites community on your experience!

January 16, 2012 | Registered Commentertst

JFood - looks & sounds awesome. What are the hours? Is it open for lunch? The website isn't fully functional yet with the details.

January 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaster of Light Chick


Long time. Glad you are still on the foodie circuit. I am not sure about the hours, but I would guess 7 days. They are open for lunch.

Go and enjoy some really good pastas.

January 17, 2012 | Registered CommenterJeff "jfood" Schlesinger

My wife and I ate here last night and we were both very impressed with the quality of the food. My wife started with the crispy artichokes which were very tasty. I kicked things off with the carpaccios with hearts of palm and avocado. delicious. to follow up, our entrees were the penne with sweet and hot italian sausage and my wife had the pasta with prosciutto and peas. Both were great. For dessert i had the flan and she had the berry gelato. Great way to end a very nice meal. We'll definitely be back. And by the way, the restaurant was packed last night, a tuesday.

January 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLW1

LOL JFOOD - still on the foodie circuit? Please, I eat out 24x7...just don't post as often.

I've been really liking the sweet little Sugar & Olives for lunch. Try it sometime if you haven't been. They have some lovely French wines too not freely found in the area.

So looking forward to Carpe Diem. I'd go now but am feeling lazy.

January 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaster of Light Chick

Sugar & Olives is a gem. Try their brunch. It is one of the best around.

January 18, 2012 | Registered CommenterStephanie Webster

I agree that the food is excellent but I think the owner needs to work on his 'table side' manner a bit. I had an encounter not dissiimilar to the incidents described above. I told the owner upon putting on my coat (when he asked if I had any comments) that I would have preferred some lower priced wine options as nearly all were 40-80 dolllars (in reality, no wine is going to help the already amazingly delicious spaghetti carbonara I enjoyed so I just don't need to buy a great wine to complement my menu choices). My wine teacher will smack me on the head when he learns that I paid $55 for a pedestrian Pinot Grigio (though in fairness it was an accident as it was dark and I couldn't read the menu clearly). So, when I quietly raised the issue at the door, the owner loudly asked whether I would rather him buy and sell $6 dollar bottles of wine for my enjoyment. Well I didn't appreciate this obviously. Great food, great service, nice people but the owner needs to mellow out a bit and not insult his departing patrons, particulary when they just spent $100 / pp on dinner.

January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNCDiner

JFOOD - went last night and really wanted to love it. Especially, as the photo of the paglia e fieno pasta dish above has been one of my favorites since I was about 10 years old. However, I'm beyond bored of $18 / $19 pasta dishes that are merely "ok". Sadly, I didn't even care to finish mine - it was way too cheesy.

I'm also bored of $15 / glasses of wine that are only "ok" too. I'm happy to pay more for a kick ass by the glass selection. In NYC over the weekend, I even dramatically exited a luxe establishment over an incident with a $20 / glass of wine - lol! BTW, Posto in Fairfield has great by the glass wine. Idyllic actually.

The desserts do look absolutely magnificent I have to admit. You can tell they are all homemade and delicious. And the salads and appetizers were nice.

It's a lovely space and al fresco dining there will be magnificent. I so wanted to fall in love, I really did. :-(

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaster of Light Chick

Oh, btw, they are open for lunch and offer the same menu, for the time being, as they do for dinner.

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaster of Light Chick


Not to worry, different strokes and all that. Yes the pasta paglia e fieno is a rich dish with a good amount of cheese. And rightly so since this is a dish that traditionally thrives on the richness of its sauce of cream and lots of cheese.

February 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterJeff "jfood" Schlesinger

Sunday brunch is very nice for 17.95 fixed price. Choices include omelets,French toast, eggs Benedict, etc and all orders seemed to come with fried potatoes, toast, and a side of meat plus a mimosa or bloody Mary.
Mixed berries were listed at the end of the brunch menu , but were not included in the price for some reason.
All four of us were quite content and the service and atmosphere were very upscale.Would recommend.

March 4, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkwr

Saturday night, the restaurant was only half full when we arrived, but packed by the time we left. It wasn't bad and I don't think it was over priced, BUT. It was very loud. Our corner table for 2 was so small you couldn't get your wine glass out from under the main course plates. My fried calamari had a hair. We were never offered ground pepper or cheese with our main course (1 lamb, 1 pasta). There was NO seasoning on the lamb or the potato gratin which both were in need of salt at a minimum (no salt or pepper on the table). Why no veg with a main course? There was a sample dessert platter, but they couldn't be bothered to bring it to our table. I hope they read these comments and make some improvements. Oh yes, and our wine which we ordered by the glass should have been decanted.

April 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterejc

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