Saturday, December 31, 2016

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 12: "Dining Out" in Connecticut

By James V. Ruocco

The other day I was having lunch in Westport at one of my favorite restaurants when the head chef approached me halfway through the meal asking, "Where's your new dining column, Jim? I looked everywhere online but couldn't find it. Have you written it yet?"
Good question, mate.
In actuality, I was hoping to launch my new Connecticut-based restaurant review column before the close of summer. When that didn't happen, I moved the launch date to the first week of fall. Sadly, ever-changing weekly work schedules, a very active social life, too much British telly and lots of business/shopping commitments completely derailed the entire column.
I was still dining out two or three times a week, but nothing was put on paper. Not even a note, a 5-STAR rating, a cheeky barb or a detailed expose about the actual meal.
Well, all that's about to change.

The start date will be relatively soon. Yes, really.
That is, unless I pack my bags, move to London or Paris, marry an international film star from France or Italy or sit down and write a play or two about my life in New York when I was a twentysomething.
By now you're probably saying, " 'What the fuck is going on here?' "  Or, " 'James, darling, you're completely off topic'."
Let's get back to business.
Here goes.

This column will reflect my dining experience, all across the restaurants of Connecticut.
I will take you out for brunch, dinner, breakfast and a lunch or two.
You'll get the full account of my experience at a given restaurant, the people, the staff, the menu, the pricing, the ambiance, the art, the design. And, oh, yes,  some very witty, stinging commentary about the dining elite themselves. Or whatever, strikes my fancy.

For example, "Do the people of Middlebury, CT really think they're from Westport? I should hope not. I think it's time for these Westport wannabes to have a good look at themselves in the mirror...They really are a bunch of silly nobody's including my cousin Patricia."
Or, "I didn't know the chef had the day off.....Oh, he didn't."
Anyway, back to business.
Or, simply put, "Where do I begin?"


Do I kick off the column in Greenwich, then, venture on to Westport, Darien or Fairfield?  Do I revisit some of my favorite places in Litchfield, Woodbury and Southbury? Do I take suggestions from friends and co-workers and travel to Mystic, Noank, Bristol, Cheshire and Norwalk?  Or do I simply  jump in my new car, call OnStar, get directions, and just "Go."

Until that decision is made, I've comprised a "special list" of Connecticut-based restaurants I hope to review, some of which, I've been to "many times" and "others" I plan on visiting for "the very first time."

The list: (in no particular order)

l’escale, Greenwich
Union League Café, New Haven
121 Restaurant at Oxford Airport, Oxford
Kawa Ni, Westport
Max's Oyster Bar, West Hartford
Crab Shell, Stamford
Gold's Delicatessen, Westport
The White Hart, Salisbury
The Village Restaurant, Litchfield
The White Horse Country Pub, Washington

The Wharf Restaurant at the Madison Beach Hotel, Madison
The Whelk, Westport
Mama's Boy, South Norwalk
Arethusa al tavalo, Bantam
Barcelona Restaurant, Fairfield
Parallel Post, Trumbull
The Restaurant at Rowayton Seafood, Rowayton
The L Restaurant, Middlebury
Elm, New Canaan
Carol Peck's Good News Cafe, Woodbury

Canoe Club, Middletown
South End, New Canaan
Sign of the Whale, Stamford
Abis Japanese Traditional Restaurant, Greenwich
The Cottage, Plainville
Antonio's on the Green, Southbury
The Goose, Darien
Centro at the Mill, Greenwich
Library Wine Bar & Bistro, Wallingford
Blue Oar, Haddam

Rive Bistro, Westport
John's Café, Woodbury
Sucre Sale, Ridgefield
West Street Grill, Litchfield
O'Connor's Public House, Torrington
Stonehenge, Ridgefield
Arugula, West Hartford
Soul De Cuba, New Haven
Fresh Salt at the Saybrook Point Inn, Old Saybrook
Apricots Restaurant & Pub, Farmington

Le Penguin, Greenwich
L’Orcio, New Haven
Market Place Kitchen and Bar, Woodbury
Darien Social, Darien
Ceviche Latin Kitchen, Middlebury
Ichiro Hibachi & Sushi, West Hartford
RSVP, , West Cornwall, CT
Fin Japanese Restaurant, Fairfield
Watch Factory Restaurant, Cheshire
Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough, Noank

Thomas Henkelmann, Greenwich
Baily's Backyard, Ridgefield,
Community Table, Washington                                                
West Street Grill, Litchfield
Viron Rondo Osteria, Cheshire
Zinc, New Haven
Blue Colony Diner, Newtown
The Lime, Norwalk
Zinc, New Haven
RSVP, Cornwall
Finalmente Trattoria, Westport
Spicy Green Bean, Glastonbury
Dottie's, Woodbury
Grant's Restaurant and Bar, West Hartford
Vespa, Westport
Bloodroot, Bridgeport
Thali, Ridgefield
Killer B, Norwalk
457 Mason Jar, Bristol,
Café Madeline, Fairfield
Organika Kitchen, Southport
The Melting Pot, Darien,
Asian Bistro, Shelton
The Spread, Norwalk
Sails American Grill, Rowayton
East Side Restaurant, New Britain
Le Penguin, Westport
The Venetian Restaurant, Torrington
Stonebridge Restaurant, Milford
Thai Spice, Orange
Harbor Lights, Norwalk
The Goose, Darien
The Spread, Norwalk
The Ginger Man, Greenwich
Le Pain Quotidien, New Canaan
The Capital Grille, Hartford
Sweet Mango, Southington
A'vert Brasserie, West Hartford
Min Ghung, Glastonbury
Little Kitchen, Westport
Fresh Salt, Saybook Point Inn, Old Saybrook
F.I.S.H., Stamford,
Goodfellas, New Haven
Pink Sumo, Westport
Bricco, West Hartford
The Hideaway, Ridgefield
Artisan, Southport
Heirloom, The Study at Yale, New Haven
Village Bistro, Milford
Crave, Ansonia
Right about now, you're probably saying, " 'Hmm, that's some list'. " Or " 'Good God, that's a lot of food for Jim to eat.' "
Not to worry.
I've done restaurant reviews before. And I didn't gain a single pound. I actually lost weight. 
It's true. I did.
The trick, of course, is not to over indulge. Skip a meal or two, in between. Don't be greedy. And take things in moderation.   

Until then, that's a wrap!
(Jim Ruocco welcomes your comments. You can contact him at