Cafe Silvium has been open nearly 18 years. I first heard about it six months ago. Yeah, stuff like that happens. I couldn’t possibly know about every single restaurant in this part of Connecticut, could I?
What bugged me about Cafe Silvium is the number of random people who dropped it in casual conversation. And there was no collusion here. Every mention of it came from different aspects of my life or from loosely connected friends. The first whispers of Cafe Silvium came from a Bumble match. No, we didn’t ever meet up for a meal there, in case you were wondering.
That failed match was just the spark of what ended up being a slew of Cafe Silvium talk that fed the flame. A handful of chefs brought it up—shout-out to Jared Falco, who knows his Italian restaurants— then it was random friends who talked it up even more.
“You’ve never been?!”
“Best restaurant in Stamford!”
“OMG. Cafe Silvium is my favorite.”
I’m not kidding, this happened on at least a bi-weekly basis for half a year. It built, and built, until I couldn’t take it anymore. I figured that this had to be the work of some red sauce joint wizardry, thrown into the universe, telling me to get my ass in there.
I did what anyone would do and made a reservation a few weeks out. Correction, my friend Tiffany made the reservation. In previous food chats with her, I brought up Cafe Silvium and asked if she—a Stamford native—had been. She had and eagerly wanted to go again.
The upcoming reservation sparked me to do more research to help me solve why I’ve only recently heard of Cafe Silvium, so, I quizzed a few who first brought it to my attention. The consensus was that it’s kind of a local thing. Most of them grew up in Stamford, or they were introduced to this family owned, Shippan neighborhood haunt by someone who did.
More of the contributing hype was the chatter that Cafe Silvium has a full dining room on weeknights and how tough it is to get a table on weekends. In fact, they never used to take reservations—they do now, Monday through Thursday, but not on Friday or Saturday—so people would stand in line in the restaurant’s small parking lot awaiting a table.
So, I’ll chalk up part of my Cafe Silvium puzzlement to not being a Stamford native. But I’m no stranger to it either. Truth is, my family’s Stamford spot was Pellicci’s. It was my grandfather’s favorite, so we didn’t have much choice in the matter, not that it wasn’t excellent, he knew them, and he loved their food. He particularly enjoyed the “BIG portions!”
In 2019, almost two decades from their opening, my Cafe Silvium naiveté came to an end at 6 p.m. on a Monday, the day after Easter. The parking lot only had a few open spaces, and the dining room had a handful of free tables. By quarter past seven, almost every table had people at it and food on it. “A slow night,” the staff remarked.
When you look around, whether you’re seated in the darker, wine cellar-like dining room, or the more
sunlit back room, there are dates happening, families gathering, and special occasions being celebrated. The owners, Nick and Vincenzo Petrafesa, come out of the kitchen frequently. They know most of their customers on a first name basis, heck, even the customers know the other customers. That’s that neighborhood vibe right there.
Upon arrival, I wanted to check on another rumor regarding Cafe Silvium’s wine pours. Fans told me tall tales of pours so large that they’d make any lush blush. I can confirm that this legend is true, folks. To help soak up my large glass of red were a couple of baseball-sized meatballs like any Italian nonna might make. The creamy polenta and whipped ricotta, though, were an upgrade from grandma’s kitchen. We also couldn’t resist a fresh ball of burrata, made on the premises, with prosciutto and torn basil.
You’ll inevitably glance over at what everyone else is about to chow down on. It’s a big menu of Italian classics and you cannot possibly order it all. Spying on your fellow diners is simply human nature, isn’t it? No? Well, I dare you to cover your eyes when a thick-cut, bone-in, breaded-and-fried veal chop Milanese is so close you can hear the sizzle.
And that’s not even scratching the surface. Cafe Silvium’s lofty list of offerings is matched by a comparably long slate of rotating specials like the fall-off-the-bone pork osso buco with fluffy saffron risotto, a customer favorite, that should not be passed up. OK, maybe you’d be forgiven if you skipped the shank for a hearty plate of chicken scarpariello with juicy pieces of bone-in chicken, chunks of sausage, and hot peppers in a garlicky wine sauce.
But that’s if you make it that far. Carb fiends might argue that the stars of the show here are named lasagna, fettucine, cavatelli, ravioli, gnocchi, and orecchiette. They’re all made in-house. And the portions are hefty, and all are under $20 affordable. My grandfather would dig that. Hell, I dug it.
Not all their pasta is homemade, though. It’s all the fussy ones like angel hair, spaghetti, and penne that aren’t. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t order the hunger pang curbing Gnact Gnact; rigatoni tossed in vodka sauce with prosciutto, pancetta, and sausage. It’s unquestionably their guilty pleasure pasta bowl.
I may have missed almost two decades at Cafe Silvium, but I won’t miss the next 20 and beyond, and by the time this publishes, I will have already made my next reservation.
371 Shippan Avenue; Stamford
(203) 324-1651; http://www.cafesilviumct.com/