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Feeding Fairfield

Feeding Fairfield is our guide to great Gold Coast eating

Long before Tarry Lodge opened its doors, Westporters were whispering behind trembling menus, “I heard Mario Batali is coming.” The very thought of a chef of such renown opening a restaurant in their beloved town drove them a little mad with desire. Of course, they promised each other they’d still go to Mario’s and Tavern on Main, but this … this smacked of Nirvana.

Then the whisperers embraced Todd English and the space in the luxurious Inn at National Hall. This became the beautiful Miramar, overlooking the Saugatuck River. Diners clutched their hearts.

What could be next?

During this period of lustful salivating, up the coast in Fairfield and Southport Village, foodies were pouting and eyeing their real estate. They’d suffered through the tease of fine restaurants that appeared on the stretch of Post Road between Westport and Southport—and which, after gaining passionate regulars, disappeared. The cozy and exquisite Amadeus, for example; bright and welcoming V; and Promis, with its New York City attitude.

Restaurants

There was a need, and smart restaurateurs, chefs, and investors saw it. The hungry stretch of coastline off Exit 19 on I-95 was starving for attention.

It starves no longer.

Savvy restaurateurs have brought experience rivaling any celebrity chef, along with a valuable understanding of (and respect for) New England sensibilities. Paci, for example, an Italian restaurant more Manhattan than suburban and located on the eastbound side of the Southport train station in a renovated freight depot, is family-owned and operated. Liana’s Trattoria, a few miles away, is the personal dream-come-true of Liana herself. Born in Italy, she says she’s lived in Connecticut “forever.” She knows her customers.

Downtown, Quattro Pazzi is another completely different, take on Italian, owned and passionately operated by Chef Biagio “Gino” Riccio, who opened Osianna a few blocks away and who bought into the “revival” of downtown early on, when town officials partnered with the private sector to power up Main Street.

The appeal of discerning diners lured Match (Norwalk) and the Spotted Horse (Westport) up the highway. Partners Scott Beck, Kevin McHugh, and Chef Tom Carvey opened The Gray Goose Cafe (Southport), The Chelsea (downtown Fairfield), and Little Goose Cafe, a tiny free-standing sweetheart of a restaurant on Commerce Street that used to be Tucker’s. For that beloved neighborhood joint, eager crowds upwards of 10 people used to wait outside on the street for a table. They still do.

Marty Levine has a history of feeding Fairfield. The much-appreciated Pane Vino on the Post Road was his. Then he made the town happy by reviving the popular dining spot that once was Breakaway, transforming it into a French bistro called Martel, a comfortable neighborhood “Cheer’s” with consistently good food.

A new arrival called Tazza on Post Road in Fairfield was recently rated EXCELLENT by The New York Times, and a visit there not long after the review made it clear that people are paying attention.

Once an intermittent Sahara of dining opportunities, now the foodie action is back in Fairfield.

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