Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana

It’s a fierce argument that splits some Connecticut families and friends and it doesn’t involve the Yankees and Red Sox baseball rivalry. In the New Haven County that debate includes who makes the best pizza – Frank Pepe’s or Sally’s. Not being from the New Haven County, I haven’t participated directly in that debate, but have heard about it often.

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana is a third-generation owned and operated pizzeria.

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana is a third-generation owned and operated pizzeria.

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana is a third-generation owned and operated pizzeria. It has seven locations in Connecticut, one in Yonkers NY and will be expanding into Boston soon. The establishment’s history began nearly 90 years ago in 1925 with the first location in the Wooster Street neighborhood of New Haven, CT.

The establishment’s history began nearly 90 years ago in 1925.

The establishment’s history began nearly 90 years ago in 1925.

Frank Pepe’s grandson Gary Bimonte carry’s on the family tradition using the recipe, methods and passion for the Napoletana style pizza that patriarch Frank Pepe grew up with in the town of Maiori, on the Amalfi coast of Italy.

Frank Pepe’s grandson Gary Bimonte carry’s on the family tradition.

Frank Pepe’s grandson Gary Bimonte carry’s on the family tradition.

According to the rules proposed by Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, neopolitan-style pizza’s dough may be no more than three millimeters thick and baked in a stone oven. Frank Pepe’s follows that tradition.

Frank Pepe’s follows the neapolitan pizza tradition.

Frank Pepe’s follows the neapolitan pizza tradition.

Last week I had the opportunity to sample Frank Pepe’s pizza when the West Hartford location celebrated its one-year anniversary.

I had the opportunity to sample Frank Pepe’s pizza when the West Hartford location celebrated its one-year anniversary.

I had the opportunity to sample Frank Pepe’s pizza when the West Hartford location celebrated its one-year anniversary.

We were treated to a selection of Pepe’s popular thin-crust, coal-fired Neapolitan style pizzas, including their award-winning white clam pie.

The award-winning white clam pie!

The award-winning white clam pie!

The Pepe’s menu offers diners the opportunity to build their own pizza from a variety of toppings.

Pepe’s menu offers diners the opportunity to build their own pizza.

Pepe’s menu offers diners the opportunity to build their own pizza.

Additionally, the menu offers several specialty pies that include: Pepe’s original tomato pie; white clam; white spinach, mushroom and Gorgonzola; and margarita.

The menu also offers several specialty pies.

The menu also offers several specialty pies.

From July to September the menu also includes Pepe’s fresh tomato pie.

Pepe’s fresh tomato pie.

Pepe’s fresh tomato pie.

While I enjoyed a slice of several different pizzas, my favorite was the white spinach, mushroom and Gorgonzola specialty pie.

My favorite was the white spinach, mushroom and Gorgonzola specialty pie.

My favorite was the white spinach, mushroom and Gorgonzola specialty pie.

Following the classic, Italian restaurant style, Pepe’s serves wine in stemless, four-inch glasses. Some people use these glasses for juice or other beverages. They are a great casual alternative to regular wine glasses, completing the old school charm.

Pepe’s serves wine in stemless, four-inch "juice" glasses, completing the old school charm!

Pepe’s serves wine in stemless, four-inch “juice” glasses, completing the old school charm!

The generosity of the Pepe’s team continued with a beautiful tray of traditional Italian desserts. The platter included pizelles, angel wings and pumpkin cookies. I felt right at home since my mother makes pizelles and angel wings, which she calls rosettes.

Pizelles, angel wings and pumpkin cookies - my favorite Italian desserts!

Pizelles, angel wings and pumpkin cookies – my favorite Italian desserts!

Often touted as a “New Haven Institution,” Pepe’s is ranked #1 in The Daily Meal’s “101 Best Pizzas in America” and claims several “best pizza” awards here in Connecticut.   I agree with the experts and give it “two thumbs up” in my book!

 

Have you tried Pepe’s pizza?

Where do you stand in the Pepe’s versus Sally’s pizza debate?

What’s your favorite pizzeria restaurant?

 

Disclaimer:  While I was invited to Frank Pepe’s complimentary anniversary celebration for the media, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience at the event. 

Jojoto, a Venezuelan restaurant and bar

Jojoto, a Venezuelan restaurant and bar

Last weekend, we took our taste buds on a Latin culinary adventure and attended a food blogger event at Jojoto (pronounced “hohoto,” meaning corn on the cob) restaurant in Branford, CT.

Jojoto, a Venezuelan restaurant and bar

Jojoto, a Venezuelan restaurant and bar

The petit restaurant and bar, which seats 40, is located in the beachy shoreline community and has a vibrant, high-energy, Latin-infused locale for authentic Venezuelan dishes. Venezuelan food is very flavorful and has a lot of European influences (especially Italian, French and Spanish).

The petit restaurant and bar, which seats 40, is located in the beachy shoreline community of Branford, CT.

The petit restaurant and bar, which seats 40, is located in the beachy shoreline community of Branford, CT.

Victor and Nicola Figueroa opened the restaurant in early August. Victor was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela and while schooled as an accountant, he was greatly influenced by his mother’s home cooking.

Victor and Nicola Figueroa opened Jojoto in early August.

Victor and Nicola Figueroa opened Jojoto in early August.

The Figueroas have teamed up with chef and entertainment powerhouse Neil Fuentes, aka The Singing Chef. Also raised in Venezuela, he combines his passion for food and entertainment, which have led his popular persona, “The Singing Chef,” to appearances on Connecticut Style on WTNH, Food Network’s Chopped, Sabra Hummus’ Recipe Makeovers, and Food Channel’s Hot Spots. Together they have created a restaurant that features the cuisine both Victor and Neil grew up with in Venezuela.

Chef Neil Fuentes, aka The Singing Chef, is executive chef at Jojoto.

Chef Neil Fuentes, aka The Singing Chef, is executive chef at Jojoto.

Upon entering the restaurant, the warm and friendly wait staff immediately greeted us with a glass of champagne. Within in moments, a round of “Pasapalo,” which means nibbles or appetizers in Venezuelan, began circulating. The appetizers we tasted were miniature versions of Jojoto’s traditional food items.

The passed appetizer selection included a variety of empanadas and arepas.

The passed appetizer selection included a variety of empanadas and arepas.

P1010913

The passed appetizer selection included a variety of empanadas and arepas.  Empanadas are a deep fried corn patty most commonly stuffed with cheese or meats. Arepas are the most popular Venezuelan dish and considered a staple in the culture. These corn cakes, which can be baked, fried or grilled, are split and filled with cheese or meats.

We were asked to take our seats and true to his stage name, Chef Neil Fuentes serenaded us by singing the Bobby Darin popular 1950’s song “Mack The Knife.” He has a wonderful voice! It was such a treat.

Chef Neil Fuentes serenaded us by singing the Bobby Darin popular 1950’s song “Mack The Knife.”

Chef Neil Fuentes serenaded us by singing the Bobby Darin popular 1950’s song “Mack The Knife.”

After his performance, he explained his background and cooking style. He then showed us how to make one of Jojoto’s best selling appetizers – a Toston.

Chef Fuentes demonstrated how to make one of Jojoto’s best selling appetizers – a Toston.

Chef Fuentes demonstrated how to make one of Jojoto’s best selling appetizers – a Toston.

A toston is a plantain fried twice. It can be eaten as a snack of side dish.

A toston is a plantain fried twice.

A toston is a plantain fried twice.

Chef Fuentes explained how this dish smells like vacation to him. As a kid, his family would rent a house at the beach for a month and they would eat toston with coleslaw. The version he prepared in the demonstration was topped with shrimp and a light Cajun sauce.

Chef Fuentes' toston was topped with shrimp and a light Cajun sauce.

Chef Fuentes’ toston was topped with shrimp and a light Cajun sauce.

Then Chef Neil headed into the kitchen to plate our second course, which was a sample of Jojoto’s appetizer menu. We were able to have a bird’s eye view into the kitchen through the use of the Facetime app. It was cool to see him work with the kitchen team.

Our bird's eye view into the kitchen through FaceTime.

Our bird’s eye view into the kitchen through FaceTime.

The sampler plate included mini versions of Ensalada Mixta (mixed salad), Venezuelan Caprese (similar to the popular Italian dish), Venezuelan Sandwiches (a mini burger with everything including a quail egg), Toston (in the center), Mejillones (mussels) and Guacucos (clams stuffed with pasta salad). Each item was amazing!

The sampler plate included mini versions of Ensalada Mixta, Venezuelan Caprese, Venezuelan Sandwiches, Toston, Mejillones and Guacucos.

The sampler plate included mini versions of Ensalada Mixta, Venezuelan Caprese, Venezuelan Sandwiches, Toston, Mejillones and Guacucos.

To accompany our appetizers, Cecelia demonstrated how to prepare a passion fruit jalapeno martini.

Cecilia makes us a passion fruit martini.

Cecilia makes us a passion fruit martini.

All of Jojoto’s cocktails are made from scratch, including the infused vodkas.

All of Jojoto’s cocktails are made from scratch.

All of Jojoto’s cocktails are made from scratch.

The martini paired well with the appetizer sampler plate.

The martini paired well with the appetizers.

The martini paired well with the appetizers.

Chef Fuentes introduced the Platos Fuertes, which means main course. It consisted of four different entrée items.

El pabellon crillo is a simple dish typically consisting of shredded meat and black beans served over rice. It’s known as the Venezuelan national dish and Chef Fuentes explained how the dish’s ingredients correlated to the Venezuelan flag colors and stars. Chef Neil put his spin on the dish by making the meat component a short rib.

El pabellon crillo

El pabellon crillo

Gallinita is a dish created by Chef Fuentes. It includes citrus juices with shrimp fume and vegetables over crispy chicken with leeks and sweet plantains.

Gallinita

Gallinita

Next up was Chef Fuentes’ take on short ribs. In preparing the meat, he first sears it to lock in the flavor. Then he slow roasts it for over six hours with red pepper, onions, celery, tomato, paprika, cumin, crushed tomato and wine. The short rib is served over polenta and leeks. The dish was amazing. Everyone was savoring the flavors with every bite and gladly accepted the offer for seconds.

Chef Fuentes’ take on short ribs.

Chef Fuentes’ take on short ribs.

And if that wasn’t enough, out came the largest pan I’ve ever seen of paella

Out came the largest pan I’ve ever seen of paella!

Out came the largest pan I’ve ever seen of paella!

The paella was chock full of a variety of seafood and sausage – Chef Fuentes’ style.

Chef Fuentes’ style paella

Chef Fuentes’ style paella

To cap off the meal, we were treated to a dessert sampler plate that included three of Jojoto’s summertime items.

The dessert sampler plate included three of Jojoto’s summertime items.

The dessert sampler plate included three of Jojoto’s summertime items.

On the dessert plate was churros dusted in cinnamon sugar, tres leches with a hint of banana flavor, and coconut custard cake. The cake was one of Chef Fuentes’ mother’s recipes. He showed us a video with he and his mother making the dessert on television.

The entire Jojoto’s team made us feel like their family throughout the dining event. The team’s motto is that they are “hosting not serving” you at the restaurant, hence the family sentiment.

The entire Jojoto restaurant team.

The entire Jojoto restaurant team.

Jojoto’s is located at 130 Shore Drive in Branford, CT. There is a tiny parking lot (10-15 spaces) behind the restaurant otherwise there is street parking on the road prior, near the post office. Reservations are recommended, especially for Thursdays through Saturdays. The restaurant is open for dinner on Mondays thru Saturdays. It serves lunch on Tuesdays thru Saturdays. There is Sunday Brunch from 10 am to 3 pm.

If this post has tickled your taste buds for a true Venezuelan adventure, then I suggest you book your reservation now before the rest of the state gets a whiff.

Another important note: make sure you have plenty of room in your belly for your meal at Jojoto. You will savor every bite and not want to leave anything on your plate – even if you are full!

 

Have you ever eaten Venezuelan food? If so what’s your favorite item?

Have you ever been to a dinner where there’s also entertainment as part of the experience?

Have you seen Chef Neil Fuentes on television?

 

Disclaimer:  While I was invited to the blogger dinner by Jojoto’s marketing team, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience at the event. 

Dish Bar & Grill

Dish Bar & Grill

Dish Bar & Grill is one of the upscale restaurants in downtown Hartford. It’s located on Main Street amidst the vibrant energy you’ll find in the city.

Dish Bar & Grill is located on Main Street in downtown Hartford.

Dish Bar & Grill is located on Main Street in downtown Hartford.

For those who may remember, it occupies the former Sage-Allen flagship department store building, dating back to 1898. And while the street level façade has been updated, if you look up above the door you will see reminders of the beautiful historical building, which for me bring forward fond memories of day-long shopping trips into the city.

Dish occupies the former Sage-Allen flagship department store building, dating back to 1898.

Dish occupies the former Sage-Allen flagship department store building, dating back to 1898.

Inside the restaurant you’ll find a large, chic industrial-style space. There’s a cool bar area with plenty of seating for any size Happy Hour group.

Dish has a cool bar area - great for Happy Hour!

Dish has a cool bar area – great for Happy Hour!

For your mealtime, there are a few beautiful dining areas lit with a relaxing blue hue and dressed with elegant white linen.

Dish has a few beautiful dining areas lit with a relaxing blue hue and dressed with elegant white linen.

Dish has a few beautiful dining areas lit with a relaxing blue hue and dressed with elegant white linen.

Additionally, there is counter seating for the bird’s eye view into the kitchen.

The counter seating offers a bird's eye view into the kitchen.

The counter seating offers a bird’s eye view into the kitchen.

Dish Bar & Grill is one of three restaurants in the Dish restaurant group. It’s cuisine focuses on upscale interpretations of classic comfort food. At the beginning of September, the restaurant began serving Sunday Brunch from 11 am. to 5 pm. Last Sunday, the restaurant held a grand opening for the new brunch menu and I was invited to attend. To make it a fun event for the family, there was a special appearance by Anne Cubberly’s night fall puppets. The masks were incredible!

To make it a fun event for the family, there was a special appearance by Anne Cubberly’s night fall puppets - great masks!

To make it a fun event for the family, there was a special appearance by Anne Cubberly’s night fall puppets – great masks!

The Sunday Brunch menu contains a wonderful mix of breakfast and lunch menu items. It’s divided into sections consisting of: shares (sticky buns, fruit salad); starters, entrees; designer omelets; sides and brunch beverages.

Dish's new Sunday Brunch menu.

Dish’s new Sunday Brunch menu.

Our group decided to make it a “boozy brunch” and started with a round of adult beverages. While the menu does feature some of the classic brunch beverages – e.g., mimosa and bloody marys, it also features some adventurous ones too!

The brunch menu features some of the classic brunch beverages – e.g., mimosa and bloody marys.

The brunch menu features some of the classic brunch beverages – e.g., mimosa and bloody marys.

Sunday brunch mimosa

Sunday brunch mimosa

The “Bull’s Blood” is a variant from the traditional Bloody Mary with tequila, cilantro and jalapeño added to bring a kick to your morning.

The “Bull’s Blood” is a variant from the traditional Bloody Mary with tequila, cilantro and jalapeño added to bring a kick to your morning.

The “Bull’s Blood” is a variant from the traditional Bloody Mary with tequila, cilantro and jalapeño added to bring a kick to your morning.

To accompany our beverages, we opted to begin with the charcuterie board, as recommended by our server. It featured a beautiful assortment of locally sourced cheeses from the Mystic Cheese Company and charred bread slices.

We began with the charcuterie board as recommended by our server.

We began with the charcuterie board as recommended by our server.

Additionally the board included a house made Pate de Champagne of ground pork, bacon and cognac topped with mustard seed. I don’t normally enjoy pate as it’s usually made from liver, but this version was very flavorful.

House made Pate de Champagne.

House made Pate de Champagne.

The Sea Change and Melinda Mae cheeses were of similar consistency to Brie with one having a little more flavor and the other slightly milder. “Sweet dreams are made of cheese, who am I to dis a Brie” – ha! (I saw that somewhere and couldn’t resist including it!) I enjoyed the pairings of dried fruit and honeycomb.

The Sea Change and Melinda Mae cheeses were of similar consistency to Brie.

The Sea Change and Melinda Mae cheeses were of similar consistency to Brie.

The Mystic Melville cheese (named for Herman Melville the author of Moby Dick) is the first cheese from cheese maker Brian Civitello and co-owner Jason Sobocinski (whom I recently met at Popover Café and Boulder Knoll Farm dinners). This cheese was inspired by the Stracchino family of cheese from Northern Italy and is known for its smoothness and excellent melting characteristics. It’s taste is similar to a mild mozzarella and was paired with almonds.

The Mystic Melville cheese.

The Mystic Melville cheese.

For our brunch entrees, the group was tempted by several choices, making it difficult to select just one. We decided to each order something different so we could have the best tasting from the menu. After much contemplation, Mike ordered the cornflake crusted French toast. Made from Challah bread, the French toast was flavored with cinnamon and vanilla and drizzled with local maple syrup.

The cornflake crusted French toast.

The cornflake crusted French toast.

He paired the French toast with a side of the double cut bentons bacon. It was cooked crispy, just the way we like it!

Double cut bentons bacon was a great side.

Double cut bentons bacon was a great side.

I debated for quite some time over the heirloom tomato pie but then decided upon the shrimp and grits. The dish contained six seared shrimp on top a bed of buttery grits in a light, flavorful sauce with hints of bacon and scallions. It was the perfect southern comfort food for a chilly morning.

Shrimp and grits was the perfect southern comfort food for a chilly morning!

Shrimp and grits was the perfect southern comfort food for a chilly morning!

Liking every component listed in the dish, Greg chose the “Green Eggs and Ham” entrée. It was a kicked up version of traditional eggs benedict with elevated flavor from the basil hollandaise and prosciutto. He was impressed with the perfectly cooked poached eggs and beautiful presentation.

“Green Eggs and Ham” entrée has basil hollandaise and prosciutto.

“Green Eggs and Ham” entrée has basil hollandaise and prosciutto.

Intrigued by the name and ingredients, Terri chose the red flannel hash. It too was an upscale version of traditional hash with locally sourced beets and corned beef. The sweet flavor of the beets paired well with the other ingredients. The hash had a nicely roasted char.

The red flannel hash is an upscale version of traditional hash with locally sourced beets and corned beef.

The red flannel hash is an upscale version of traditional hash with locally sourced beets and corned beef.

Overall, the service, food and ambiance were wonderful. I think Dish Bar and Grill’s Sunday Brunch has gotten off to a wonderful start. Diners will appreciate the comfort food focus with the fall chill in the morning air.

 

Have you dined at Dish Bar & Grill or any of the other restaurants in the Dish restaurant group?

Where’s your favorite place for Sunday Brunch?

What’s your favorite food to eat for Sunday Brunch?

 

Disclaimer:  While I was invited to the grand opening of Dish’s Sunday Brunch by their marketing team, the opinions and views expressed above are my own and describe my personal experience at the event. 

Treva Restaurant & Bar

Treva Restaurant & Bar

The girls from work and I headed out for another Happy Hour adventure. Treva restaurant and bar in West Hartford center was our destination.

Treva restaurant and bar is located in West Hartford center.

Treva restaurant and bar is located in West Hartford center.

Treva is one of two restaurants owned by Chef Dorjan Puka, a veteran chef for the Max restaurant group. Treva features chef-inspired Northern Italian innovative cooking.

Treva features chef-inspired Northern Italian innovative cooking.

Treva features chef-inspired Northern Italian innovative cooking.

We sat in the bar area, which is quite cozy. While there are several booths and counter seating, the booths are mostly for parties of 2 people with only two tables that could fit four maximum – not a Happy Hour destination for larger groups.

The Happy Hour menu features a nice selection of fun cocktails, wines and beers for $5 – 6. Additionally there is a great selection of Happy Hour appetizers priced at $2 and $5.

The happy hour menu has a great selection of  appetizers priced at $2 and $5.

The happy hour menu has a great selection of appetizers priced at $2 and $5.

We enjoy ordering several items from the Happy Hour menu and sharing. Once we’ve tasted several, we then determine if we will try others or order more of the same.

Dicasa salad and homemade gnocchi.

Dicasa salad and homemade gnocchi.

We each started with the Dicasa salad. It has very fresh mixed green lettuce with a wonderful balsamic dressing. It’s salad like I had growing up – nothing elaborate, but fresh and delicious!

We also ordered the gnocchi and Tuscan fries. The Tuscan fries are flavored with rosemary, truffle oil and Parmesan Reggiano cheese. They were so delicious that we wanted to eat the excess cheese that remained on the plate after the fries were all gone!

The Tuscan fries are flavored with rosemary, truffle oil and Parmesan Reggiano cheese.

The Tuscan fries are flavored with rosemary, truffle oil and Parmesan Reggiano cheese.

The gnocchi were handmade and served with a light sauce that consisted of truffle oil and Parmesan. They melted in your mouth. We ordered a second helping!

The gnocchi melted in your mouth!

The gnocchi melted in your mouth!

We shared the flatbread which contained mozzarella baked into the thin and crispy crust. It was topped with arugula and freshly-sliced prosciutto.

The flatbread contained mozzarella baked into the crust and was topped with arugula and prosciutto.

The flatbread contained mozzarella baked into the crust and was topped with arugula and prosciutto.

You know you’re in a great Italian restaurant when the cured meats are hanging across from the bar counter, and the prosciutto is being sliced fresh to order — right in front of you!

The prosciutto is being sliced fresh to order right in front of you!

The prosciutto is being sliced fresh to order right in front of you!

Finally we ordered the Treva signature burger. It was topped with Vermont cheddar and arugula. It was cooked exactly as we ordered it and was large enough to share among three.

The Treva signature burger topped with Vermont cheddar and arugula.

The Treva signature burger topped with Vermont cheddar and arugula.

All of the dishes we ordered from the Happy Hour menu were wonderful. I can’t wait to go back and try some items from the full restaurant menu. Treva has several dining areas including two outdoor seating areas. Plenty of space for an elegant relaxed dinner for two or a larger group.  There is paid parking on the street or in the lot behind the restaurant.

As always, the girls have a great time catching up everyone’s lives in a setting outside of work. It’s great to relax and enjoy each other’s company! I wonder where we will be heading to next for Happy Hour?!?

 

Have you ever eaten at Treva restaurant & bar in West Hartford?

Where’s your favorite place for Happy Hour?

Rizzuto’s Restaurant & Bar, West Hartford, CT

Rizzuto’s Restaurant & Bar, West Hartford, CT

Rizzuto’s is one of five full-service restaurants in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square shopping and dining area. The Rizzuto’s brand has four locations in Connecticut – Stamford, Westport, Bethel and West Hartford, which opened in 2008. The West Hartford location is known for its rustic Italian menu and stone-fired Neapolitan pizzas.

Rizzuto's is one of five full-service restaurants in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square

Rizzuto’s is one of five full-service restaurants in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square

The restaurant offers Happy Hour specials Monday thru Friday from 4-7 pm and some evenings at later times.

The restaurant offers Happy Hour specials Monday thru Friday from 4-7 pm and some evenings at later times

The restaurant offers Happy Hour specials Monday thru Friday from 4-7 pm and some evenings at later times

I had been to Rizzuto’s happy hour previously, when they offered drink specials and complimentary counter snacks and nibbles. We enjoyed it then, but recently the restaurant revamped their Happy Hour menu and I think it’s for the better.

The Happy Hour menu now features many drink specials for $5; including sparkling Prosecco!

The Happy Hour menu now features many drink specials for $5; including sparkling Prosecco!

The Happy Hour menu now features many drink specials for $5; including sparkling Prosecco!

Additionally, it has a great small bites menu with most items priced from $3 – $6.

Rizzuto's has a great small bites menu with most items priced from $3 - $6.

Rizzuto’s has a great small bites menu with most items priced from $3 – $6.

My friend Katie and I recently went to Rizzuto’s for Happy Hour prior to attending an advanced screening of the movie The Hundred-Foot Journey, which we loved. It’s a beautiful movie – perfect for foodies, like myself. Be sure to eat before you go to this movie or you will be hungry!

We started out with a few Happy Hour nibbles. We ordered the crab and sweet corn fritters with cilantro and basil salsa verde. The fritters were nicely crispy and not at all greasy, but were largely the batter filler. They could have used more crab and corn inside.

Crab and sweet corn fritters with cilantro and basil salsa verde

Crab and sweet corn fritters with cilantro and basil salsa verde

We also ordered the Black Angus sliders with tomato jam, which were paired with matchstick fries. The burgers were very juicy and flavorful and set on top of a homemade bun. The matchstick fries were a nice accompaniment.

Black Angus sliders with tomato jam

Black Angus sliders with tomato jam

Lastly, we ordered the margherita pizza. It had a great crust that was crispy on the outside, but slightly doughy on the inside. The basil, tomato and mozzarella toppings were very fresh.

Margherita pizza

Margherita pizza

Knowing that we’d be at the movie until after 9, we opted to share an order of the baby arugula salad and the cavatelli pesto chicken entrée. We had tasted this pasta dish before and knew it was delicious – and it was again.

Cavatelli pesto chicken entrée, I snuck a bite from the corner before we snapped a pic - oops!

Cavatelli pesto chicken entrée, I snuck a bite from the corner before we snapped a pic – oops!

The cavatelli pesto chicken entrée has grilled chicken, basil pesto, roasted tomatoes and light cream. It’s a very rich dish – I’m glad we shared it.

We had a great selection of food before walking to the movie theater. Rizzuto’s Happy Hour is a fun stop in West Hartford’s Blue Back Square. I’m glad to have tried their mid-summer revamped Happy Hour menu and am sure we will be back again soon!

 

Have you tried any of the Rizzuto restaurants in Connecticut?

Have you seen the movie “The Hundred-Foot Journey?”

Where’s your favorite place for happy hour?

Sorella Restaurant, Hartford, CT

Sorella, Hartford, CT

Earlier this year, I dined at Sorella restaurant before a UConn Women’s Basketball game. That night also coincided with the winter Taste of Hartford restaurant week. We had a great meal. So when the summer Taste of Hartford promotion returned, I was anxious to eat there again.

Sorella opened in November 2013. It is located on Main Street in downtown Hartford. The restaurant, whose name means ‘sister’ in Italian, is one of three in the Dish Restaurant Group.

Sorella restaurant is located on Main Street in downtown Hartford.

Sorella restaurant is located on Main Street in downtown Hartford.

As you enter the restaurant, you will notice that the décor is not their strong point. Although I do think the old-time Italian family photos hanging on the walls are charming, and the view of the Old State House from our table was delightful. But for foodies like myself, we aren’t hung up on the décor as long as the food and dining experience is top notch – and they were!

The restaurant specializes in simple Italian favorites – wood-fired Neapolitan pizza, fresh pastas and creative antipasti. The atmosphere is comfortable and family-friendly. The bar area takes up about one third of the restaurant and the remainder is for the dining room.

Because it was the Taste of Hartford restaurant week, we had our choice of items from the full restaurant menu and the special promotion menu. The Taste of Hartford menu consisted of a three-course meal (appetizer, entrée and dessert) for $25 – a great deal!

Taste of Hartford menu consisted of a three-course meal (appetizer, entrée and dessert) for $25

Taste of Hartford menu consisted of a three-course meal (appetizer, entrée and dessert) for $25

Christine and I decided to order from the Taste of Hartford menu. Mike opted for the full menu because the item he wanted wasn’t one of the price-fixe menu entrée choices.

Christine and I both started with the Prosciutto di Parma appetizer. It consisted of tissue paper thinly sliced prosciutto topped with arugula, locally sourced strawberries all drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar. The combination of sweet, salty and savory flavors made this appetizer “every bite delicious.”

Prosciutto di Parma appetizer consisted of tissue paper thinly sliced prosciutto topped with arugula, locally sourced strawberries all drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar

Prosciutto di Parma appetizer consisted of tissue paper thinly sliced prosciutto topped with arugula, locally sourced strawberries all drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar

Upon the waiter’s recommendation, Mike chose the garlic bread. The short loaf was loaded with mozzarella and provolone cheeses, and roasted garlic. It was served with a side of marinara sauce. It was a gooey and tasty.

The garlic bread was loaded with mozzarella and provolone cheeses, and roasted garlic, served with a side of marinara sauce

The garlic bread was loaded with mozzarella and provolone cheeses, and roasted garlic, served with a side of marinara sauce

For my meal entrée, I opted for the grilled Atlantic salmon filet. The salmon was placed on top of a bed of cold farro salad with light vinaigrette dressing. I asked for the filet to be cooked medium well and it was cooked as ordered. I enjoyed every bite!

Grilled Atlantic salmon filet

Grilled Atlantic salmon filet

Christine ordered the Fusilli Bolognese. The pasta was served with a hearty beef and veal red sauce topped with fresh pecorino cheese. The dish brought me back 20+ years because it tasted just like my Nona’s meat sauce.

Fusilli Bolognese

Fusilli Bolognese

Mike ordered the rigatoni saltimbocca. This is the same dish he had last time we dined here. He remembered it being so delicious and wanted to have it again. The saltimbocca sauce is made with ground veal, prosciutto, sage, wine and pecorino cheese. While it may not look like the most exciting meal, the combinations of flavors from the sauce are true to the dish’s name in Italian – “jumps in the mouth.” I had to steal a few bites because it is amazingly delicious! I found the recipe for this dish online so I’ll have to try making it at home.

Rigatoni saltimbocca

Rigatoni saltimbocca

Since Christine and I ordered from the Taste of Hartford menu, our meals did include dessert. There were two choices on this menu. We opted to each order a different one so we could try both.

She ordered the nutella chocolate tart. Mike and I had that last time we dined and remembered it was very yummy. The tart has a cookie-like crust with a rich chocolate center, dusted with sea salt and paired with vanilla cream. I love the chocolate and salty combination!

Nutella chocolate tart

Nutella chocolate tart

I ordered the Oleficino olive oil cake. I had never had an olive oil cake before, but I had seen a picture of it beforehand and I wanted to try it.

Oleficino olive oil cake with citrus curd and lemon sorbet

Oleficino olive oil cake with citrus curd and lemon sorbet

Olive oil cake is a rustic Sicilian cake that has a very moist center and a crispy crust. It came with a citrus curd and was topped with lemon sorbet. It was refreshing and delicious. Surprisingly, our typical chocolate-loving dessert family was won over by the olive oil cake as a new favorite.

The service was very friendly, attentive and courteous. I’d recommend reservations, especially when there are events in Hartford (e.g., UConn basketball) or pre-theater, as the restaurant is busy for dinner. The restaurant also serves lunch six days a week. There is street parking or a pay lot directly across the street, which is where we’ve parked.

We had another great dinner at Sorella. We will gladly return – and we may not wait until the next Taste of Hartford restaurant week!

 

Have you ever eaten at Sorella restaurant in Hartford?

Have you tried any of the restaurants participating in the Taste of Hartford restaurant week?

Lobster Landing, Clinton, CT

Lobster Landing, Clinton, CT

What a better way to spend the July 4th weekend than with a day trip to the CT shoreline!  After a weekend filled with errands and picnic hosting, I thought it was high time we left home and headed to the coast before the weekend ended.

Our journey south would include a stop at the Clinton Outlet Mall, because they were having great sales for the holiday weekend.  We were looking for a place to grab a quick lunch afterward.  I had read in the July edition of Connecticut Magazine a story on favorite summer dining places.

The July edition of Connecticut Magazine has a story on favorite summer dining places around the state.

The July edition of Connecticut Magazine has a story on favorite summer dining places around the state.

Before we left the house, I looked through the article to see if any were in that area.  I noticed a place called Lobster Landing in Clinton.  I mapped it and noticed that it was only four minutes from the outlet mall.  Perfect for our post-shopping dining!

Lobster Landing is built right into the Clinton marina. It reminded me of a New England fishing shack postcard.

Lobster Landing is located in Clinton, CT.

Lobster Landing is located in Clinton, CT.

The place is what I would call your typical “summer shack” style restaurant, complete with outdoor dining at picnic tables with plastic chairs shaded by white awnings, waiting in line to place your order and great simple food.  Inside the actual shack, is a fresh seafood market.

The menu is minimalistically simple.  There are three items on it – I kid you not!  Lobster Landing serves lobster rolls, hot dogs and sweet Italian sausage subs.  That’s it – plain and simple!  They also have an assortment of beverages, chip snacks and gelato/ ice cream.

Lobster Landing's The menu is minimalistically simple.

Lobster Landing’s menu is minimalistically simple.

We arrived at a great time – when we were able to find a parking spot on the road and the line to place your food order was short.  The parking lot is very small, but you can parallel park on the street, which we did.

There’s a group of friendly college kids who take your order and serve your food.  They have an efficient system and keep things moving quickly. So if there is a line, don’t be afraid to wait a few short minutes.

I ordered the lobster roll.  I had to try it since I had read online that this place’s lobster rolls were one of the top 5 in Connecticut and the best according to the readers’ poll in the Shoreline Times.

Inside of a toasted, top-loading foot-long roll is one-quarter pound of fresh chunk lobster that’s been steamed in a buttery sauce with a touch of lemon.

Inside of a toasted, top-loading foot-long roll is one-quarter pound of fresh chunk lobster that’s been steamed in a buttery sauce with a touch of lemon.

Inside of a toasted, top-loading foot-long roll is one-quarter pound of fresh chunk lobster that’s been steamed in a buttery sauce with a touch of lemon.  It’s not a lobster salad with mayo. The lobster roll was amazing and definitely stood up to all the claims I had read. I can still taste it as I write about it!

Mike and Greg ordered the sweet Italian sausage sub with roasted peppers and onions and topped with mustard vinaigrette.  It too was a good-sized sandwich, loaded with the toppings.

The sweet Italian sausage sub has roasted peppers and onions and is topped with mustard vinaigrette.

The sweet Italian sausage sub has roasted peppers and onions and is topped with mustard vinaigrette.

As we each enjoyed our sandwiches, we took in the beautiful view of Clinton harbor.

Our view as we ate.

Our view as we ate.

Lobster photo 5

The weather was picture-perfect – very few clouds in the sky, warm sunshine with a comfortable breeze.

A picture-perfect day on the CT shore.

A picture-perfect day on the CT shore.

Lobster Landing is a great summer find.  It’s plain, simple, no-frills food that’s purely delicious!  Be sure to try it this summer before it closes up for the season!

 

Have you ever eaten at Lobster Landing in Clinton?

What’s your favorite place on the shore for summer seafood?