I have a fondness for the town of Stratford, having coached boys track at Bunnell High School two decades ago. Fine restaurants come to Stratford (Plouf, Tristan, Abalone), but all too often they don’t find enough support in this blue collar town. Thus, it’s good news when someone brings an appealing new restaurant to Stratford, but even better news when it looks as if it has a real chance to succeed.
I recently attended a press dinner at newcomer Assaggio Ristorante,
which occupies a spectacular waterside location on the Housatonic River in the shadow of the Washington Bridge that connects Stratford with Milford. The restaurant has extensive outdoor seating overlooking a marina full of pleasure boats.
We received a warm reception upon our arrival.
We awaited other guests at the bar, enjoying drinks,
some of the best fried calamari I had tasted in Connecticut,
and an impressive antipasto platter stocked with prosciutto di Parma, bresaola speck, sopressata, Gorgonzola, fresh bocconcini, Parmigiano Reggiano, Gaeta olives, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, and roasted peppers.
Soon the restaurant was rocking with rousing Dean Martin tunes courtesy of Jack Lynn, a musician with similarly golden pipes.
I rousted myself from my bar stool to take some photographs of the surroundings. The setting could hardly have been more tasteful, the lighting more perfect. We particularly loved the photographs of Stefano Caporalli.
were accommodated as comfortably as pairs.
There were even circular booths ideal for intermediate gatherings.
Credit for the restaurant’s classy but comfortable ambiance goes to owner Waldir Correia (left) and his talented architect, Ira Grandberg.
Shortly after, all of my compatriots had arrived, and we too were ensconced in a circular booth.
The company of old friends Linda Kavanagh
and Todd Lyon
guaranteed a warm and entertaining evening. A round of drinks didn’t hurt, either.
Soon our meal began in earnest. Bread was brought,
as well as tapénade and extra virgin olive oil.
The 2007 Argiano NC Rosso Toscano, Italy also shown above, a “super Tuscan” blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese grapes, was so beautiful, soft and food-friendly that I stayed with it throughout the meal. Seemingly, no detail was overlooked.
The parade of culinary delights was endless. There was an asparagus rollatini with prosciutto di Parma and Fontina cheese,
shown here in close-up;
and sweet roasted peppers stuffed with dolce latte Gorgonzola and drizzled with balsamic reduction,
shown here in close-up.
So many courses were planned that the kitchen, in the interest of closing before two in the morning, combined onto a single plate. So here you see three courses combined onto the same plate,
which individually were a tuna carpaccio with wild arugula, red onion and a caperberry in a citrus dressing;
a crêpe with wild arugula, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, and speck (smoked prosciutto);
and finally, bresaola topped with wild arugula, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, extra virgin olive oil and lemon.
Forming our next course, two pasta dishes were plated together.
Individually, they consisted of fresh orecchiette sautéed with prosciutto di Parma, wild mushroom, fresh cherry tomato, artichoke hearts, black truffle paste, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano;
and fresh squid ink linguine sautéed with sea scallops and sweet roasted Italian peppers in a garlic and extra virgin olive oil sauce, then finished with fresh wild arugula.
We took a breather with a mâche salad with goat cheese, green apple and artichoke hearts in an Italian citrus dressing,
before moving on to our fish course. The two fish dishes (which I did not photograph separately) were pan-seared halibut sautéed with artichoke heart, cherry tomato, Gaeta olives, capers and fresh herbs in a Prosecco sauce; and pan-seared swordfish sautéed with fresh grapes, caper berries, dill and shallots in a white wine sauce. The first fish dish was slightly salty, the second slightly sweet, making a nice contrast when presented together.
Twin meat dishes followed:
veal scaloppini with prosciutto di Parma, sautéed wild mushroom and sage in a white wine sauce with a touch of demi-glace finished with black truffle paste;
and grilled rib-eye steak topped with broccoli rabe and melted dolce latte Gorgonzola.
Lovely, slightly crunchy potatoes separated the two meat items.
And finally, we arrived at dessert, a square of tiramisù served with a couple of brandied cherries that knocked our socks off.
At the end of the meal, to the delight of all assembled, owner Correia and his partner, executive chef Miguel D’Onofrio, came out and took a figurative bow.
Assaggio Ristorante, 955 Ferry Boulevard, Stratford, 203-381-9200