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Pho Saigon: Real Pho. Really off the beaten path. 

If you like Italian cuisine (I mean real Italian) and you haven't been to Fortina in Armonk yet, something is ALL wrong. 


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Entries in Italian (74)


Napa & Company Gets a New Chef: Adam Truelove at the Helm

Since opening in 2006, Napa & Co. has received numerous accolades as one of the best restaurants in Connecticut with a creative and inventive menu. Co-Owner Mary Schaffer told CTbites that her vision from the start has been the “wine country cuisine of Northern California…flavorful, fresh, simply prepared food with its roots based from the European influence of wine growers coming to the area from Spain, France and Italy over the last 100 years.” The restaurant prides itself on “blend(ing) the cultures” of various cuisines. Schaffer also has a keen eye for culinary talent and last year she hired and handed oversight of the kitchen to Executive Chef Adam Truelove.

Chef Adam earned a degree in Mathematics before following his culinary passion and enrolled at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan. After graduation, he honed his skills at Town and Esca Restaurants before returning to the FCI as a Chef Instructor. He relocated to the Fairfield County area as the opening Sous Chef at Tarry Lodge in Port Chester, the Executive Chef at Pine Social in New Canaan and eleven 14 Kitchen in Greenwich as the Chef du Cuisine. Last year Napa & Co. reached out to Chef Adam and asked him to join its team to oversee the kitchen as Executive Chef.

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Barrique Bistro & Wine Bar: Top Notch French with a Twist in Stamford

It’s the corner where downtown Stamford’s sidewalk café scene began. Bedford and Spring streets. Barrique has the best location in downtown Stamford, in a quaint stone building a few steps from the Art Deco Avon Theatre (date night recommendation--an independent film and Barrique’s bistro food).

In summer, Barrique’s large, wood doors fold open on both sides of the corner. For 14 years, it was Chez Jean-Pierre, and under new ownership since June, Barrique’s dining room has lost the humorous Renoir-esque mural of Jean-Pierre and his friends in favor of a subdued white and gray palette -- white-washed brick walls, café chairs, wrought iron chandeliers, and bare, dark wood tables. It’s a casual, relaxing atmosphere.  And there’s a new bar room at the back of the restaurant, a cozy spot where jazz is played Wednesday evenings.

Executive chef/co-owner Louis Barresi’s menu mostly focuses on France, with Italian, Spanish, Latin, Asian and Latin influences. Barresi is a co-owner of Doppio Artisan Pizza in Greenwich, New York City and Long Island. Manager and partner Danny Silver is the sommelier. Barrique means “barrel” in French, and if you have questions about the 41 wines served by the glass, ask him. He’s the former sommelier at A Voce in New York City. 

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Da Pietro's Chef Pietro Scotti Talks About 25 Years in Westport

Chef Pietro Scotti…on 25 years in Westport!

On the day after Michel Nischan sadly announced the closing of The Dressing Room, I was sitting in the cozy dining room off the kitchen of Chef Pietro Scotti’s home talking with Pietro and his wife, Janine, about the changes in the restaurant scene and in particular dining in Fairfield County.  

An anchor in Westport for over 25 years, Da Pietro’s Restaurant on Riverside Ave was one of the first “fine dining” establishments in Fairfield County, and immediately become popular as the “go to” place for special occasions and romantic dinners.  Reviewed as “Perfection ” by The New York Times and  “Excellent” by Wine Spectator, the intimate 25 seat restaurant specializes in fresh pastas, creative starters and hearty and seasonal entrees.  

Pietro, known for his big smile, warm personality, and unfailing generosity to local community events and causes, has helmed Da Pietro’s since the beginning and can still be found in the tiny restaurant kitchen every day during both lunch and dinner.   

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Valbella: Old School Italian Elegance in Greenwich

I never go to Italian restaurants in Connecticut because I was lucky and spoiled enough to have eaten in Italy - a lot - and I always feel disappointed in the American version of Italian cuisine. So when a friend begged me to review VALBELLA in Greenwich, I was reluctant to say the least. The pastry chef, she claimed, was world renowned and his food art simply had to be reviewed. I did some research and decided to acquiesce. For more than 20 years, the stately, Victorian Valbella has been the archetype for excellent but old school Italian cuisine in the Greenwich/Riverside area, and has successful sister locations in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District and Midtown. And I can understand why. It is in no way funky or hip or cool but is extremely elegant and the food, though I am hesitant to admit it, was outstanding. 

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"My Signature Dish," Chef Jodi Bernhard of Fortina in Armonk

"My Signature Dish" is a new CTbites column featuring a rotating cast of chefs, and the dishes that define their cooking style, or simply make them happy to fire up the stove. 

Jodi Bernhard hardly hesitated when choosing her signature dish at Fortina, Christian Petroni’s "casually hip" Italian restaurant in Armonk.  Her eyes gleaming, she said, "It's our Pork Braciole." Braciole, hip? 

If you grew up Italian, you probably hold memories of Braciole near and dear.  This classic rolled, stuffed meat roast, usually serves as centerpiece for those sprawling homemade Italian dinners that lazily linger across Sunday afternoons into evening.  Braciole invokes home.  And family.   Instant Nostalgia.

Ok, so how does a chef modernize a memory?  Autograph a treasured family photo? 

“That is the gist of our approach at Fortina,” Jodi explained. “ We try to not stray too far from ‘mom's’ version, but still make it a restaurant dish with our stamp on it.  We are true to simplicity and flavor.”

The notion of putting  “Mom’s dish” on Fortina’s playful, hip menu was Christian’s, one of the restaurant’s owners.  (Patroni and and Jodi once cooked together at Barcelona in nearby Greenwich.) Though she and Christian work as collaborators, the task of “restaurantizing” this homey meal was largely up to Bernhard.  

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CTbites Speaks With Lidia Bastianich

Like Oprah or Madonna in pop culture, Lidia is one-name-famous to foodies,  a television star  (Lidia's Italy -- PBS), renowned restaurateur (Felidia, Eataly, Delposto, Becco), a worldwide brand  (Lidia's Sauces and Pasta), bestselling author (Lidia’s Commonsense Guide to Italian Cooking is her latest), mom, grandmother, whew,  one name so many roles. 

So CTBites was delighted that Lidia carved out time from her hectic schedule to chat with us prior to her book signing this Saturday at Stamford's Fairway Market (details below.)

Incidentally, Lidia is no stranger to Connecticut.  Her son Joe and his family live in Greenwich, she tapes her PBS show in Norwalk, and of course the Bastianich clan is associated with Tarry Lodge in both Westport and Port Chester. 

We began the conversation, wondering what Lidia the little girl would think if she could peer into a crystal ball and see the famous Lidia of today.   

“When I was nine years old we had fled from Communist Yugoslavia and my family was in a refugee camp,” she told us, “I think that little girl, her mouth would be open at what I’ve accomplished.”   Then Lidia thought about that youngster for a moment and resolutely stated, “But you know, I always had confidence I was going to amount to something   And food was so very important to me, because we didn’t have much.”

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Locali Pizza Bar + Kitchen Opens in New Canaan 


Three words to describe the outstanding cuisine that Locali Pizza Bar + Kitchen, the latest addition to New Canaan’s Restaurant Row. This twenty-eight seat restaurant / pizza bar is already making its mark on the culinary landscape of New Canaan.  

Executive Chef Mogan Anthony and his team are creating vibrant flavors and textural contrasts in many of their dishes, intermingled among other selections that are pleasantly soft and mild.

The interior design, with a strong focus on organic materials, creates a cozy and inviting environment with guests choosing between table or bar seating. In full view of the dining and bar area is the beautiful, hand-crafted ceramic encased Stefano Ferrara wood-fired brick oven.

Joining Chef Mogan in the kitchen is Chef de Cuisine Ruben Liriano and Chef Antonio Legato oversees the wood burning pizza oven. Chef Mogan gained his training at the Four Seasons Hotel in Singapore and subsequently under Chef Jean Georges Vongericthen in three different locations, plus the Bedford Post and Village Social in Mt. Kisco.

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Bar Sugo in Norwalk 2.0: Enter Chef Paul Failla

Slightly more than a year ago, restaurant Bar Sugo opened on Wall Street in Norwalk featuring a variety of owner/Chef Pat Pascarella’s fantastic pizzas, meatballs and delectable pastas. Pascarella recently handed the reins of the day-to-day culinary oversight to Chef Paul Failla, and CTbites re-visited to taste Chef Paul’s cuisine and his creative spin to the menu.

Chef Faillia attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park before accepting a position at Burger Bar in South Norwalk. His culinary training continued at Dolce in Norwalk, The Atlantic Grill in Manhattan and The Saltwater Grille in Stamford, where he met Pascarella. He subsequently worked with Chef Dan Kardos at The Whelk and was one of the opening chefs with Chef Kardos at NOLA Oyster Bar.

When Pascarella first approached Failla about joining Bar Sugo, he was looking for a successor to continue his vision of “food that Italians eat every day” while allowing the new chef to add his individual flair to the dishes.


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Cooking with Fire: Fortina in Armonk

Cooking with wood fire has a preternatural, almost primal appeal. You could argue that as cavemen, it was our first foray into comfort food. The intense heat and smoke has the power to transform otherwise unassuming ingredients. The six-month old Fortina in Armonk, begins with this deceptively simple ethos–Italian food, cooked simply, in wood fired ovens–and elevates it with a thoughtful culinary execution and a familiar, if familial, disarming vibe.

There is a complexity to the simplicity,” said Rob Krauss, one of Fortina’s three partners along with John Nealon and Christian Petroni, nailing what makes the restaurant’s cuisine tick. I’m fairly certain Krauss is also referring to the restaurant’s team, an extended family of sorts that works equally hard at the food as they do cultivating the culture at Fortina

More than the sum of its wood-fired parts, Fortina relies on the culinary prowess and Italian heritage of partner and Executive Chef Christian Petroni, formerly of Barcelona Greenwich, as both muse and ringleader. “My background is Italian, I grew up spending summers in Ponza. One of my favorite restaurants is Peasant. As a young cook, Frank de Carlo was an inspiration as a chef. I was intrigued by cooking in wood ovens. There is something about it that is so gratifying. It’s a beautiful thing.” Along with chef de cuisine Jodi Bernhard, formerly of Barcelona, the kitchen has the creative chops responsible for its daily printed menu.


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Meriano's Bake Shoppe Introduces Connecticut's First Cannoli Truck in New Haven

The Cannoli Truck from Meriano's Bake Shoppe
Cuisine: Italian Bakery, Food Truck
Price: $3 per Cannoli 
The Highlights: Traditional, Oreo, seasonal flavors
Online: |

The first time I heard the phrase "Cannoli Truck" I was convinced it was a New Haven urban legend. The city has trucks and carts filled with almost any cuisine you can imagine, but a truck filled with Italian pastries? This seemed too good to be true. Lucky for New Haven, the truck exists, and its pink and leopard-trimmed reality is far superior to any Italian pastry-filled mirage you can conjure.

I discovered the truck early this summer, first as a hot tip from a New Haven friend excited to have a new truck to add to the city’s burgeoning food truck and cart scene. And then as luck would have it, the truck frequently parks in the neighborhood near my New Haven office, so I’m lucky to “stumble” into it, in all its 7 cannoli-flavor glory.

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