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Trying to decide on the “best” pizza place is a good way to start World War III—at our house and yours. But here are some major contenders, including Pepe’s and Sally’s, kings of the New Haven-style thin crust, and Darien’s Post Corner. known for its deep-dish Greek goodness.
Brooklyn, (860) 774-7289 (johnnyspizzabrooklyn.com)
The Little Rendezvous
Meriden, (203) 235-0110 (thelittlevous.com)
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
New Haven, (203) 865-5762, and other locations (pepespizzeria.com)
Middletown, (860) 343-3300 (mondomiddletown.com)
Torrington, (860) 618-0875 (pizzeria-marzano.com)
Post Corner Pizza
Darien, (203) 655-7721 (postcornerpizza.com)
New London, (860) 443-2619 (therecoveryroomnl.com)
Derby (203) 735-0494
New Haven, (203) 624-5271 (sallysapizza.com)
Sweet Evalina’s Stand
Woodstock, (860) 928-4029
Upper Crust Cucina Italiana
New Milford, (860) 350-0006 (theuppercrustcucina.com)
Calamari: Carl Anthony Trattoria
Monroe, (203) 268-8486 (carlanthonys.com)
One of chef Sam DeVellis’ signature dishes at this “modern day meets Old World” trattoria, the description on the menu says it all: delicately crispy, chewy rings, deep fried but not greasy, served sweet and spicy with hot peppers and balsamic sauce or classico, with marinara. Calamari is an appetizer here, but why not make a meal of it with a side of spaghetti squash or, if you’re daring, some grilled octopus.
Clam Chowder: Swanson’s
Fairfield, (203) 374-1577 (swansonsfish.com)
We know we’re flirting with sacrilege here, but the Rhode Island chowder at Swanson’s in Fairfield is enough to make you forget you were ever a New England-style purist. Cream-free with a peppery zip, it’s chock-full of red-skin potatoes and fresh clams, celery and onion. This is one zesty soup. But all the chowders are stars here. Known for its consistently fresh fish and all the fixings, this operation has been at it for 40 years (but for a brief spell a few years ago after a fire). An impeccable, pleasant environment and knowledgeable fishmongers will greet you.
Fish-And-Chips: Sea Swirl
Mystic, (860) 536-3452 (seaswirlofmystic.com)
The “Squirrel” is arguably Connecticut’s best-known clam shack, revered for its whole- belly clams—and sunsets. But we happen to think very highly of the fish-and-chips as well. Cod fillets are coated in an English-style batter and fried to golden perfection. The coating puffs up crisp keeping the fish moist and succulent. Served with fries, tartar sauce and slaw, it’s awesomely good—and even better when eaten during one of those spectacular sunsets.
Lobster Roll: Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock
New London, (860) 439-1741 (captscotts.com)
Seems like wars have been started over less-heated arguments than, “Which is better: hot lobster rolls (with drawn butter) or cold (with mayo)?” Captain Scott’s plays Switzerland in this debate (neutral). Says restaurant manager Sue Tierney, laughing, “We serve both because we like both.” Locals sure love the Captain, a seasonal outdoor restaurant (April to October) that’s overlooked Shaw’s Cove for 18 years. Lines are 30-people-long some weekends, and lobster rolls sell to the tune of 200 a day. (Like the majority of customers, we like ’em hot.) This year, you can enjoy them in two sizes—standard hotdog roll ($10.95) and foot-long ($15.95).
Raw Bar: Liv’s
Old Saybrook, (860) 395-5577 (livsoysterbar.com)
Deemed “excellent” by The New York Times, Liv’s offers a selection of shellfish—oysters, littleneck clams, cherrystone clams, shrimp—that make a great prelude to a memorable meal. But those who just can’t get enough of unadulterated fruits de mer must order the Shellfish Sampler, your choice of a half-dozen oysters, a half-dozen clams and five shrimp for $39.
Darien, (203) 614-8183 (dariensocialct.com)
Darien Social claims to be “What an American bar and restaurant should be,” which means “no gimmicks” other than great food and drink. With 31 beers on tap, a bright, open bar and dining room, and a menu heavy on casual fare, pizzas and comfort food—all locally sourced whenever possible—it’s easy to see why this two-year-old eatery has already become an old favorite in town.
First & Last Tavern
Hartford, (860) 956-6000 (firstandlasttavern.com)
We’re betting it’s the fantastico linguine and clams—not to mention the manicotti doused with béchamel and homemade marinara sauces—that have kept the locals gathering at this trattoria-style favorite since 1936. We’ve also become addicted to the meatball sliders, handmade three-cheese ravioli and seasonal fruit crisp (ahh, the strawberry-rhubarb, served warm from the oven).
Stonington, (860) 535-3925 (noahsfinefood.com)
For more than 30 years, Noah’s has been welcoming diners from Stonington and beyond who are seeking a great meal in a cozy, friendly atmosphere. Chef-owned and operated, Noah’s is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and prides itself on creating hearty dishes “from scratch.”
Sandy Hook Diner
Newtown, (203) 270-5509
This small diner and community gathering place has been serving old-fashioned breakfasts and lunches since 1935. The friendly vibe and those hearty breakfasts keep us coming back for more. Specials include the Bull’s-Eye (French toast with a fried egg in the middle) and the Sadie Hawkins omelet full of bacon, mushrooms, spinach and Cheddar.
Milford, (203) 877-7327
Milford Center has seen a flurry of new restaurants in recent years, but Seven Seas has been a mainstay on New Haven Avenue since the Smith family opened it in 1965. The Smiths are still there chatting with patrons while dishing out their famous fish-and-chips and hot lobster rolls.
Shelton, (203) 924-2220 (veraceshelton.com)
Verace’s site opens with “Come in and become a part of our family!” And that’s what happens at 100 Center Street. Regulars love that Matt Calandro and manager Lou pay as much attention to what’s on their minds as what’s on their plates—in this case, delicious Italian fare.
Litchfield, (860) 567-8307 (village-litchfield.com)
Located on the green in the heart of Litchfield, The Village plates hearty American cuisine—The Village Meatloaf, grilled filet mignon, lasagne ala vodka—along with upscale pub fare that appeals to families and friends as well as foodies. Both dining room and taproom offer a welcoming atmosphere that’s sure to bring you back again and again.
Lakeville, (860) 435-0578 (thewoodlandrestaurant.com)
The Woodland calls itself “A Country Restaurant,” but its menu—featuring sliced hanger steak and sesame-seared tuna to steak tacos and sushi—and convivial atmosphere would be welcome in any city. Add in an extensive wine list, well-appointed dining room and heady dessert menu (bananas foster and root beer floats), and it’s not surprising that this eatery has a loyal cadre of passionate fans.