It was one of the worst times in history to open a restaurant. 4 Seasons Mediterranean Cuisine opened in early 2020, and before the restaurant, which specializes in Italian food, could establish a customer base, the coronavirus entered the U.S. and the shutdown began. “Nobody knew us back then; nobody knew that we were there,” says manager Charly Cano, whose father-in-law, Jose Marin, owns the restaurant with Cano’s brother-in-law, chef Segundo Chicaiza.
The restaurant’s location in a nondescript storefront on a stretch of Route 37 near Danbury’s border with New Fairfield doesn’t exactly encourage walk-in business in the best of times, and while the owners have decades of experience in the New York dining world, they didn’t have a built-in fan base in the area.
In the delivery-only early days of the coronavirus, the restaurant struggled to stay viable. But as first outdoor then in-person dining resumed in the strange pandemic summer and still-strange pandemic fall and winter, the restaurant began to build a name for itself thanks to something that can keep a restaurant afloat even in the most difficult of environments: great food.
Both owners spent many years working in New York restaurants, but both lived in Connecticut and were hoping to open something closer to home. The team has brought a big-city quality to their Connecticut restaurant, offering an array of dishes that can go toe-to-toe with the best Italian restaurants in the state.
The housemade pasta dishes are a highlight of the menu. From rigatoni bolognese to gnocchi in a brown mushroom sauce and delectable lobster ravioli, the pasta here is good enough to fulfill all your wildest pasta dreams (and if you’re like me, you have plenty of pasta dreams). “Chef makes those every day by hand,” Cano says, noting they are among the restaurant’s best-selling dishes.
But they are not the only highlights. The chicken Parmesan is exactly what you want when you order this dish. Soft, tasty chicken accented by red sauce, cheese and, of course, a side of housemade pasta. The fried calamari app is another classic dish that is done to perfection here. Forget the chewy over-breaded calamari you’ve had at all too many restaurants; here the calamari are lightly breaded, perfectly cooked circles of deliciousness.
The eggplant rozini appetizer is 4 Seasons’ take on eggplant Parmesan and also hits all the right marks, once again providing exactly what you want and crave when ordering this type of dish. The lobster bisque and the Calabria sausage are both must-tries as well.
While Italian is the specialty, the restaurant also incorporates Spanish, French and other Mediterranean influences. You’ll find a portion of the menu devoted to paella. I have trouble forgoing the pasta dishes, but I’ve had and enjoyed the chorizo paella.
For dessert, Cano recommends the cheesecake or the cannoli, both of which are housemade and customer favorites.
The space now occupied by 4 Seasons was previously home to several different Indian restaurants, most recently Amba Palace. Before opening, the 4 Seasons team did extensive renovations and the atmosphere now is classic, with white tablecloths, yet relaxed and inviting. There is ample outdoor seating and the restaurant offers curbside pickup and works with some delivery services.
Since the most difficult days more than a year ago, Cano says they’ve developed a following. The restaurant hasn’t done any advertising and only a little promotion on social media. For the most part, however, Cano says people have found them the old-fashioned way: word of mouth. “Someone comes to us and they always love our food. Then they tell their neighbors and their neighbors tell their neighbors. Everybody comes in and goes, ‘Our neighbor told us about your restaurant.’ ”
4 Seasons Mediterranean Cuisine
54 Pembroke Road, Danbury
Hours: Open for lunch and dinner Tue.–Sun.