Stephen Clemente found an appropriately tasteful way to honor his full-blooded Italian grandmother on her 100th birthday three years ago. He opened Extra Virgin Oil Store in Mystic.
“She taught me everything I know about food and cooking,” says Clemente, a New Haven-born-and-raised publishing executive turned entrepreneur. She also followed the daily routine of her own Neapolitan mother.
“My grandmother drank an ounce of olive oil every morning to coat her stomach, then an ounce of vinegar at night to aid digestion,” he
says. “The store was an homage to her.”
Clemente claims that the small-business gods were smiling on him not long afterward when the adjacent storefront became available. “We knocked down a wall, doubled our size, and opened Semolina Pasta Shop,” he says. So next door to proprietary olive oils and specialty vinegars resided homemade pastas, sauces, and prepared Italian entrees. “The only thing we were missing was wine.”
Clemente filled that void in January when he unveiled the most novel of his triumvirate of family-owned businesses, Frizzante Wine Bar & Speakeasy, about eight miles north in North Stonington. “There are plenty of places to buy wine, and nearby wineries for tasting local wines, but we wanted a relaxing atmosphere where people can try wines from around the world,” Clemente explains.
Instead of familiar wines from France and California, Frizzante features varietals from South America, South Africa, Oceana, and other out-of-the-ordinary producers. Customers can sample from his list of nearly 100 wines, which rotates seasonally on the oenophile’s calendar, as well as tapas-style plates of fresh food. “You can always find something different,” Clemente says.
Going farther out on the entertainment limb, he stages 1920s-themed events on nights throughout each month. Harking back to the Prohibition era of speakeasy clubs, Frizzante invites customers, via members-only psst texts, to show up in period attire to sip champagne cocktails and nosh from a tasting menu into the wee hours.
Clemente’s grandmother will turn 103 later this year, and he’s got something new up his gustatory sleeve to help celebrate the occasion. Referring only to “the next thing,” he says it will follow in the same Italian foodie vein. Stay tuned….