“When people heard I was opening a pizza place, they said, ‘Here we go with $40 pizzas.’”
For Tim LaBant’s new venture, simply named, Parlor, that could not be further from the truth. Even he laughed as he uttered those words, fully aware that most locals associate him with his popular fine dining restaurant, The Schoolhouse at Cannondale.
LaBant’s idea for Parlor started five years ago when he, as he puts it, was bitten by the pizza bug. A year later, that notion became an obsession. Before even considering opening an actual pizza parlor, he knew he had lots of research ahead of him. LaBant will openly admit to being a novice when it comes to the craft of Neapolitan style pizza, he did know that he really enjoyed eating it, mentioning Motorino, Roberta’s and Franny’s as some of his favorites.
His curiosity and pizza dreams ultimately led to studying and tinkering with everything from dough recipes, mozzarella making, ovens, and cooking temperatures. “I learned that temperature and time matter just as much as the flour and other ingredients,” he said.
Later, he got to pick the brains of pizza world icons like Nancy Silverton, Chris Bianco, and a few Roberta’s alum, who shared their mozzarella recipe with him and gave him their contact info in case he needed a quick consult.
The result of all the dough knowledge, and plenty of advice from a welcoming pizza community, has come to a reality at Parlor, located in the same shopping center as the Stop & Shop on River Road.
“I didn’t want this place to be perceived as pretentious,” LaBant said. “I want it to be about Wilton and the surrounding areas.”
The 32-seat Parlor is so not pretentious. It’s a come-as-you-are, lively atmosphere, that’s suitable for families. The dining room spreads that casualness with a bare-bones Greenwich Village pizza joint look; hanging halo lights, a wood slab bar, and a clear view of the restaurant’s bright red Forza Forni Pavesi oven. Noticeable, too, by the pizza counter seating is a stack of books that pay tribute to pizza royalty; Pizza Camp by Joe Beddia, Mastering Pizza by Marc Vetri, and Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish are notables in the pile.
Speaking of pizza, the ones at Parlor, they’re NOT $40. In fact, nothing on the food menu is more than $18. It’s what LaBant wanted it to be…simple.
Parlor’s introductory menu starts with an “Eat Your Vegetables” section boasts three salads including a Caesar with a soft, yolky egg and fresh toasted croutons. A couple of piping hot veggie dishes currently available are roasted cauliflower (taleggio cheese, bread crumbs, capers, lemon) and an almost yam-like roasted butternut squash drizzled with pumpkin seeds, sage, sunflower, a creamy dollop of whipped ricotta, and drizzled with honey.
Then there’s the star of the show, the pizza, each cooked for 90 seconds or so in an oven that can rise to temperatures between 900° and 1000°. LaBant’s ideal pie, besides being tasty, should be one that won’t leave you feeling overstuffed. So far, the blistered, light Neapolitan pies they’re firing up include classics like a margherita, plain cheese, and pepperoni and mozzarella. Others are a spicy pie (tomato, rapini, garlic, pickled hot peppers), a clam pie (lemon broccoli rabe, parsley), mushroom (taleggio, scallion, black pepper), and sausage with onion and smoked mozzarella.
Soon, the menu will expand a little with three different “Quick Bites;” bread & butter (or EVOO), chips & dip, and olives & focaccia. Desserts will follow with the likes of zeppole with Nutella and lime posset with berries.
Oh, and don’t worry, there’s booze. LaBant was particularly excited about the wine list that was put into place by James Beard nominated and multi-award-winning wine writer Dr. Vino. There will be three wines on tap, 12 more available by the glass (btw, glasses will be a pour and a half for $7-$8!), and a bunch more by the bottle, bringing the total to around 40 different vinos. Local, rotating craft beer will occupy the other three taps. Cocktails will eventually make an appearance.
There are still kinks to work out at Parlor, according to LaBant. Their menu still isn’t fully orderable, and they know they’re still tightening things up in the dining room. They have a sense of humor about it all.
“I don’t have it figured it out yet,” LaBant said. “What’s important is that I do it all fairly, kindly, honestly, making sure my employees, and customers, are happy.”
5 River Road; Wilton
(203) 762-6142; http://www.parlorwilton.com/