After 20 years as a Sono institution, Barcelona Wine Bar has moved up the street and officially opened its doors in Norwalk’s new Waypointe complex. Their new home looks and feels much like the creative dining spaces guests have come to expect from Barcelona’s five CT locations, but as SVP Adam Halberg says “ Waypointe will feel familiar, but there are some key areas that make this new location quite unique.” The open kitchen, massive 40 seat bar, and a new menu approach will take their authentic and distinctive Spanish tapas menu even closer to the markets and restaurants of Spain.
Entries in Tapas (11)
I have an affinity for those underexplored sweet spots that are slightly off the beaten path, tucked away, or unheard of. For whatever reason, Taberna, a Mediterranean tapas and wine bar located in the Brick Walk in downtown Fairfield hasn’t been widely discovered. Although I hadn’t heard of it many have, and those who have sing its praises.
Some of you might be familiar with the name, thinking it’s not in Fairfield, it’s in Bridgeport! And you would be correct, sort of... Prior to opening the Fairfield location, Chef Daniel Lopez and his brother Jaime owned and operated the Bridgeport restaurant for 8 years. Upon hearing that it was closing, longtime diners were happy to follow to the new larger venue with light-filled dining area, large bar and outdoor patio.
I was able to sit down and chat with Chef Lopez who was born and raised in Ecuador who revealed to me that he had been enamored with the flavors and cuisines of the Mediterranean since he was a child. In 1994 he and his brother emigrated to the states and immediately began working in the restaurant industry - for many well-known Fairfield County favorites.
Even though it’s one of the largest cities in Connecticut, Danbury was once regarded as a restaurant wasteland. The downtown eateries catered to a family demographic who sought a reasonably priced menu that took few culinary chances. Very mid-century. However, in the past few years, a vibrant international food scene has burgeoned on the city’s west side. The cuisines are sophisticated, diverse, and creative, reflective of 21st Century dining.
Many credit Richard Reyes’s Mezón Tapas Bar and Restaurant with transforming Mill Plain Road into destination dining. The year was 2011. Reyes was then a former Wall Street Executive who decided to come home to Connecticut and open a restaurant where people could dine on food prepared in the Latin tradition of his family. From the heart. From the home. Richard was all of 25 … and Mezón posed far more of a risk than even the stock market. At the time, Mill Plain Road was dotted with a string of mostly red-sauce Italian/American restaurants. “Sure, we were taking a chance,” he recently told us, “But we helped break the mold.”
Rich invited CTbites to sample some of the Latin and Caribbean fare that has attracted Mezón’s diverse and discerning clientele from across the region. Though the Paella and the Churrasco are the most popular dishes on the menu, Reyes had other ideas for our feast.
Zaragoza, a new tapas and craft cocktail bar, is scheduled to open at 31 Bank Street in New Milford in the spring of 2016. Zaragoza represents the next adventure by Newtown resident Artie Praino, who previously owned the Newtown Deli, Sandy Hook Deli, Sideline Café, Woodbury Deli, and Bayside (NY) Salumeria.
Praino is following his passion for Spanish cuisine combined with small bites to be shared with friends and family. “Tapas are simple, but hearty and unpretentious food. Our ingredients and recipes will be fresh and robust, beautiful to look at, and mouthwatering to eat. Tapas to me means friends and family enjoying food and flavors on shared small plates -- a warm and familial dining experience.”
Going out for a meal can be an incredibly rewarding experience. There is a reason restaurants are a popular spot for a night out and a number of people proudly refer to themselves as “foodies.” However, it can also be a downright chore. Do I brave the downtown traffic? Where do I park my car? How do I get there? Will there be a table for me?
Lugano Wine Bar and Salumeria, newly opened in Greenwich, alleviates all of those hassles. The Italian inspired restaurant sits just off of exit 6 from I-95 on East Putnam Avenue in Riverside, far removed from the droves of people downtown. It has its own lot next to the restaurant for easy parking as well as a valet service.
Indoors, the space is approachable, yet impressive. When you walk through the front doors, you enter a spacious bar with plenty of seating and room to stand and mingle. Wine glasses elegantly line the bar’s counter, as if inviting patrons in for a drink.
Just off of the bar to the right is a large dining room with high ceilings and a dome that serves as a skylight. It is light and open, lined with large windows. Lugano even boasts a private dining room for special functions, or for guests who prefer a quiet dining experience.
The lovely space was the impetus for the restaurant.
Tapas remain such a hot trend that restaurants with no hint of Spanish heritage are salting menus with small bites and petite plates to share, partly because it’s so appealing to begin a meal with several appetizers (or to make an entire meal from a succession of tapas), and partly because small plates equal big business.
No harm in the best of one culture being imitated and adopted—but there’s also nothing like experiencing tapas in an authentic environment, prepared by a talented chef and served in an atmosphere that embodies a European cadence, with passion to delivering a superior dining experience the hallmark.
When all of that rings up at what can only be declared a bargain price—especially when contrasted with the threshold costs of fine dining in Connecticut circa 2015—it amounts to a mandate for discovery.
In this case, the restaurant to seek out is Bistro Mediterranean and Tapas Bar, which opened its third location earlier this year on Route 1 in Norwalk. The original is in East Haven, and thesecond bistro opened in Westbrook a year ago.
Many in the New Haven area mourned the closing of Ibiza last spring. The restaurant has been reimagined by former Ibiza chef Manual Romero who is now the owner and chef, reviving this modern Spanish tapas mecca for the city once again.
Our friends at Connecticut Magazine recently visited, giving it an excellent rating, and here's why:
When Ibiza in New Haven closed last spring, Connecticut lost a culinary treasure. Located on High Street, steps away from two famous art museums, it was itself a work of art, showcasing the best of modern Spanish cuisine in the state and on the East Coast. Busy, buzzy, frequently bustling, with a mile-long list of intriguing tapas and a devoutly loyal customer base, it vanished suddenly, as if it had never been. Rumors flew. Diners mourned. But within six months, the spirit of Ibiza rose like a phoenix in the same location but in a glamorous new guise, re-imagined and rechristened, Olea.
Barcelona in Fairfield has welcomed new executive chef Ian Kokkeler, with previous chef Helton DaSilva relocating south to man the restaurant groups second busiest restaurant in Atlanta.
Kokkeler hails from Austin, where he spent the last several years as executive chef as some of that city’s most well known restaurants including Uchi, Congress and the W Hotel in Austin He spent 7 years at Uchi, a Japanese restaurant, where plating and precision called upon his talents as an artist.
"I am artistic, and here at Barcelona we are rustic. I hope to blend these two with my plating style. As an artist, I like to paint and sculpt, and that translates well to cooking," said Kokkeler during our visit to Barcelona during his first full week on the job.
With a hip and lively environment, the Barcelona restaurants have consistently offered bold cuisine, inspired by the Iberian Peninsula accompanied with some of the best drinks and Sangria in the area. Each location adheres to the basic premise that a visit to Barcelona must combine great fun with great food. To continue in this tradition, Barcelona (SONO) recently introduced its new Executive Chef Wayne Homsi. Fresh from his culinary journey throughout Spain, CTbites stopped by to sample Chef Homsi’s new additions to the Spring menu.
Chef Wayne graduated with honors from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and joined The Waldorf Astoria Hotel where he became the youngest sous chef in its history. He subsequently worked at Picholine and then became the opening sous chef at its sister restaurant Artisanal Fromagerie and Bistro in New York. He next joined Il Barilotto as Executive Chef and Partner in 2002 before joining Barcelona SONO earlier this year.
The menu at Barcelona offers “Meat + Cheese,” “Tapas” plus a few smatterings of “Paella,” “Meat + Fish” and Mixed Grill.” The Tapas contains bar bites and others that are more closely described as small sharing plates.
Vinted Wine Bar and Kitchen
Cuisine: American, Tapas, Wine Bar, West Hartford
Price: Small plates range $3.95 - $17.95
Our Highlights: wine, charcuterie, tapas
Hours: Kitchen open Mon – Wed 4-10pm, Thurs: 4-11pm, Fri-Sat: 4-12pm (Bar open late Mon-Sat) Sun: Kitchen & Bar 4-9pm
Online: Official Website | Facebook
Small plates reach new heights at Vinted Wine Bar and Kitchen, where food is anything but secondary. Add 68 wines by the glass and you’re well on your way to finding that perfect pairing. Sister restaurant to The Federal in Agawam, Vinted burst onto the West Hartford dining scene in late 2012 when owners Ralph Santaniello and Michael Presnal launched their newest venture in Blueback Square. A classy vibe, inventive array of modern American tapas, and encyclopedic wine list leaves little, if anything, to be desired.