Chef's Night Out


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On their rare nights off, where do Connecticut’s culinary pros go to dine? We queried a select group and came up with some interesting—and sometimes surprising—answers. While some seek a culinary “experience,” others favor a simple meal shared with family or friends. Some forage for dishes they don’t prepare themselves. “There’s more than one reason to go to a restaurant,” says Roy Ip, chef/owner of Le Petit Café in Branford. “It’s a refuge. You go to get away, to enjoy your own time, for the atmosphere—it’s a combination.”

Matt Storch, Match, South Norwalk
“My wife and I go to Liana’s Trattoria in Fairfield whenever we get the chance,” says Storch. “We’ve known Liana [DiMeglio] and her husband, Tony, for years and they basically welcome you into their home for dinner, the pastas are handmade (my favorite) and the entrées are delish and classic. We can never pass on Liana’s chocolate cake, which I’ve been eating since I was a kid when she made it for Pasta Nostra [in South Norwalk].”

Chris Prosperi, Metro Bis, Simsbury
“I go to Oliva in New Preston,” Prosperi says. He loves the Mediterranean food prepared by chef Riad Aamar. “Riad is the chef, and his wife, Joanna Lawrence, works in front of the house. They are the nicest people you ever want to meet, and the food is so simply beautiful. I actually start thinking about what I want to order when I get in the car.”

Bryan Malcarney, Blue Lemon, Westport
“Great food that’s reasonably priced” is what draws Malcarney to the Valencia Luncheria in Norwalk, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant praised by The New York Times for its “Latin American specialties served in generous portions at shockingly low prices.” Malcarney often orders the chilaquiles. “It’s not always on the menu, but I ask them, and they make it if they have it,” he says.

Roy Ip, Le Petit Café, Branford
“When I go out, I want to have a quiet meal, close to my house, and to have time with my wife and son,” Ip says. He heads to Dalton’s in North Branford. “I know the Velez family [which owns Dalton’s]. They come to my restaurant, too. They’ve been in the business over 10 years; I have been in this location around 10 years.” At Dalton’s, he says, “The food is very standard, very straightforward. I enjoy being at their place when I have time.”

Bun Lai, Miya’s Sushi, New Haven
“Other than Miya’s, there’s not a restaurant I’ve eaten at more than Mamoun’s Falafel, which is half a block down the street from us,” Lai says. “Suleiman and Tarek Chater, the owners, and I have been best pals since we were 10. Their father started Mamoun’s a few years before my mother started Miya’s in ’82. Over the years, Suleiman has fooled me into helping him prep enough times for me to know my way around their kitchen—once, he convinced me to peel a 50-pound bag of fiery, eye-numbing onions. [Knowing my way around their kitchen] came in handy during the day of their father’s funeral. Suddenly, I ended up cooking at Mamoun’s for the day. If I am in town, there’s not a week that goes by when I haven’t eaten there at least a couple of times, mostly helping myself to the fridge. I mean it from my heart when I say that I often look forward to eating at Mamoun’s just like I do my own mother’s cooking.”

Adrienne Sussman, Adrienne Restaurant, New Milford
“My husband and I usually bring food home or I cook,” says Sussman. When they do go out, “There’s a sushi restaurant in town, Yokohama. They have some of the most creative sushi I’ve seen,” she says. She orders the Victoria and Yokohama rolls, and the “sushi pizza.” “This is stuff I don’t make,” she adds.

Bill Taibe, LeFarm, Westport
The man who is running Connecticut’s destination restaurant of the moment seeks a single item on his nights off: pizza. Taibe and his family frequent two parlors—Fat Cat Pie Co. in Norwalk and Pepe’s in Fairfield. The Fat Cat owners, Massimo Tulio and Tony Ancona, “are good friends of mine,” Taibe says. “I love the feel of the place, the simplicity of it.” He also admires “their approach to food.” The pizza he orders is topped with broccoli rabe and garlic chips. For dessert, it’s “butterscotch pudding—the best dessert on the East Coast.” At Pepe’s, Taibe orders tomato-mozzarella pie for his kids, and for himself two pizzas: white clam and bacon, and red clam and bacon. Why both? Taibe laughs. “My wife asks me the same thing.”

Debra Ponzek, Aux Délices, Darien, Greenwich and Riverside
“It’s really hard to narrow it down to one,” says Ponzek. “My husband and I tend to go in cycles. We’ll go to one place a lot and then we move on to another. Morello in Greenwich is a great spot. We went to brunch there just the other day. We enjoy going out with our three children, and it’s always great to go to a place where everyone can have something they like. The food is sophisticated and well-executed, but the kids don’t feel like they’re eating in a ‘grown-up’ place.”

Rebecca Kirhoffer and Reza Khorshedi, Rebeccas, Greenwich
“Viva Zapata [in Westport],” Kirhoffer says. She goes often “for the margaritas and the guac salad. Every friggin’ Sunday that we’re not busy. Our friends live in Westport—we drive up and meet them. It’s a husband and wife who own it, just like us. We’ve been going there for 12 years. I know all their kids. They have the best guac salad in the state.”

Chef's Night Out

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