Mangia Tutti!

There are many reasons to head to Table 104. First, al fresco on the patio, a warm-weather go-to spot that invites with its wood-slat floor, lots of umbrellas and sails to keep the sun off your face, comfy blue-and-white striped cushions on the benches, and sturdy granite-topped tables. Relaxing and lovely. Indoors, its modern yet still homey, with lots of wood and soft lighting that add to its cozy and welcoming ambiance. Then there is its location on the lower Long Ridge Road, that area of town between downtown and the country. Plenty of parking means easy access; always a plus in Stamford.

But the real reason is the food, which is consistently top notch. Authentic? You bet. It reminded us of dinners we enjoyed in Tuscany, minus the hills.

Everyone begins with a basket of bread. Yes, we know many skip the bread to save calories, but our advice is to dig in. Half of the slices are plain, the other half crusted with wheat berries and seeds, but no matter which you choose, know that this bread is worth a few extra minutes on the treadmill. And the accompanying olive oil is perfection—buttery and rich, with a slight pepper kick at the end.

The best place to begin ordering is from the top of the menu, the section titled “Boards,” all served with sautéed mushrooms, a mustard-fruit relish and grilled crostini. We picked two: a sweet and delicate prosciutto di Parma that proved to be an exquisite complement to the mozzarella di bufala, with its thin outside skin and creamy core.

We always judge a restaurant by its calamari, and Table 104’s was faultless. Not a rubbery bite in the batch, this calamari is tender and sweet. The batter is light, letting the baby calamari’s flavor shine through; the accompanying arrabbiata sauce gave it just the right amount of seasoning. We also ordered the meatballs, three good-sized globes of meat—not a filler in sight—that would be enough to make a lovely light dinner with a salad on the side.

But we were here to eat, so on to the pizza. There are six to choose from, but when one is named Hell, our choice was simple. We wished our crust was a little crispier, although it did have a wonderful flavor, more like a bread than a pizza crust. As for the toppings? Amazing!

The Hell pizza, with a serving of 104 Meatballs

We knew the pizza was living up to its name when the braver soul in our party took his first bite and his eyes started watering. He had hit a long hot pepper on the first bite, and he loved every spicy minute. Hell also features soppressata and tomatoes, and that wonderful buffalo mozzarella making a repeat appearance. We all agreed that “heaven” would have been a better title for this pizza, but we bet Hell gets far more takers.

For the entrées, we tried the rigatoni, served with Cajun chicken, borlotti beans and broccoli; and although everything was cooked exactly as it should be, we thought the chicken needed more spice to live up to its Cajun label. Out of curiosity, we also tried the whole wheat spaghetti because honestly, none of us have ever tasted a whole wheat spaghetti that we didn’t think was gummy.

Whole wheat spaghetti with zucchini, pistachios, and pecorino.

Based on our calamari experience, we thought we would give Table 104 another challenge, and this dish made us converts. It was excellent and served al dente with a sweet, rich olive oil sauce, zucchini and our favorite nut, pistachios. We need that recipe!

The Montauk fried calamari with arrabbiata

The grilled hanger steak was impeccably done. If not cooked properly, this cut can be tough, but that was not the case here. It is cut on the bias, served with a subtle parsley chimichurri and a warm potato salad with wilted greens. This is truly an impressive, delightful meal.

Grilled hanger steak with parsley chimichurri, warm potato salad and seasonal greens

We usually save room for dessert, but not this day. We were beyond stuffed, and took home lots of goody bags that made a meal the next day.

Guess you will have to head to Table 104 to sample the desserts for yourself. We’ve vowed to leave room for the next visit.

A server prepares for the dinner rush

Quick Bites

1. Social Hour:
Tue.–Fri.
4–6:30 p.m.
half off selected appetizers, pizza, well drinks, beer and house wines

2. Monday Nights:
50 percent off bottles of wine

3. Sunday Brunch:
Bottomless mimosas and mango bellinis, $14


Table 104 Osteria  & Bar
299 Long Ridge Road
203-388-8898
table104stamford.com

Cuisine:
Tuscan

Hours:
Mon.–Thu. 
11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.

Fri.–Sat.
11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m.

Sun. 
11:30 a.m.–9 p.m

Wine Not?

Wine cellars have long been all the rage. But why not let someone else do the cooking and throw a culinary celebration for all the oenophiles in your life? Here are four terrific private wine rooms where you can turn any occasion into something extraordinary.

GM-TN-WineNot-2
GABRIELE’S
The lighting in the wine room of GABRIELE’S STEAKHOUSE is magical, gently illuminating the onyx dining table and floor-to-ceiling wine racks lining the walls. Customize your own food and wine event, or choose one of the six party menus for a night to remember with up to twenty-eight guests. Gabriele’s offers four- or five-course wine dinners throughout the year.

GM-TN-WineNot-3
NAPA & CO.
Back in the day, Napa & Co. of Stamford included a tiny wine store, which was soon converted to the WINE CLOSET, an engaging spot where groups of two to ten eat at an antique pine table surrounded by racks of wine. There are minimums for the room—breakfast, $75; lunch, $200; dinner, $500—and you can either order off the menu or create a special tasting of your own.

GM-TN-WineNot-4
WASHINGTON PRIME
Washington Prime’s PARTY ROOM in Norwalk offers a gorgeous view of the water and the Maritime Aquarium, plus a seventy-inch flatscreen that is WiFi-, AppleTV- and Smart TV-ready, making it the perfect vehicle for presentations, photo collages and videos. The room capacity is twenty-four seated, thirty-five standing, and tables and the menu can be configured to meet your needs.

GM-TN-WineNot-5
VALBELLA
More than 10,000 wine bottles encased in mahogany racks embellish the walls of VALBELLA’S WINE ROOM, making this a mecca for wine lovers. But there’s more: A roaring fireplace and heated granite dining table ensure a party here will be memorable. You and your guests can order from the menu or design a customized dinner to appeal to your party of six to sixteen.

Photographs: corks by istockphoto.com © Luso; madonia by Katie Lauricella; others courtesy of restaurants

 

Cool Comfort

There are a number of reasons to love Del Frisco’s Grille, one of Stamford’s newest restaurants. Begin with its location, smack in the heart of downtown. Add to that a great vibe, comfy seating, its “Meat Up” menu with catchy food categories, and its coconut cream pie—hold that thought—to name a few.

What’s also striking are the acoustics and the ambiance. As you walk in, you register inviting music and the murmur of happy chatter—the place does draw a high-energy crowd—but it does not overwhelm, and once seated you can speak in normal tones. We love, love, love this because all too often we wake the next morning with a sore throat from shouting at our companions just to be heard. The décor, too, is calming: dark wood tones, flattering yellow lighting and a semi-industrial ceiling softened by barn-board wood panels that we suspect are key to the softening acoustics. And on each table is the coolest salt and pepper shaker.

Ahi Tacos
Ahi Tacos

Now, onto the food, beginning with “Food to Fight Over,” which tops the menu. We commend the chef who developed Cheesesteak Egg Rolls. The mastermind took Philadelphia’s favorite beef-and-cheese classic, neatly stuffed it into the crispiest egg roll, and set it on a plate with a perfect blend of sweet-and-spicy chili sauce. Get an order for everyone at the table; you won’t want to share. The Ahi Tacos are also spot-on, crispy and stuffed with a zesty lime-scented tuna tartare that is paired with a spicy citrus mayo, which provides just the right amount of tempered kick. Asian Street Tacos—barbecue pork served with cooling pickled daikon and carrots—is another must-try. (For lunch, you’ll find the same pork mixture served as a Banh Mi.) The only disappointment was the Roasted Corn Bisque, which simply needed more corn.

It’s here you’ll also find Del Frisco’s four flatbread offerings—Roasted Tomato, Wild Mushroom, Sausage and Pepperoni, and Spicy Meatball—any that could be a meal. Same goes for the “Big Greens” salads. The table shared the Kale & Brussels Sprouts; yes, kale is hot now, but when mixed with roasted almonds, a sweet tone of dried cranberries and oranges, shaved Manchego, and a tangy Creole mustard vinaigrette, it really is special.

A word about meat: Del Frisco’s is a chain, and many know its sister restaurants, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House and Sullivan’s Steakhouse. So if meat is your thing, you can’t go wrong. The cheeseburgers feature two double patties with lettuce, tomato, red onion and “Sloppy Sauce,” and are served with an adorable little personal plastic ketchup bottle. And the “Signature Steaks”—filet mignon, New York strip and rib eye—are all served with a choice of hand-mashed potatoes, Sea Salt & Parmesan Frites, Loaded Potato Cakes or shallot-buttered green beans.

Simply Roasted Chicken
Simply Roasted Chicken

Non-meat eaters take heart. There are other offerings, including the Bay of Fundy Salmon offered with chilled Brussels sprouts and quinoa salad. We tried the Simply Roasted Chicken, something you will find hard to resist. This version is moist and finger-lickin’ flavorful, bathed in jus that blends nicely with the mashed potatoes and crunchy asparagus also plated.

We skipped the sides but couldn’t help eyeing the Truffled Mac & Cheese. Definitely next time. And bring the family; although there is no printed children’s menu, there are plenty of offerings your server can recommend.

Definitely leave room for dessert, especially the coconut cream pie, one of the best desserts we’ve ever tasted. At its base is a vanilla wafer crust, topped with coconut custard and a huge mound of coconut-scented whipped cream, and garnished with coconut flakes and shaved white chocolate. Sweet-tooth heaven. As is the oh-so-gooey warm chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and the light butterscotch pudding in a jar, which is enticingly coated with a thick layer of soft salted caramel. We ate entirely too much, but it was worth every calorie.

Coconut Cream Pie
Coconut Cream Pie

DEL FRISCO’S GRILLE
101 Broad Street, Stamford
203-890-9601
delfriscosgrille.com

CUISINE:
American

HOURS: 
Monday–Thursday, 11:00 a.m.–10 p.m.;
Friday–Saturday, 11:00 a.m.–11 p.m.;
Sunday, 11:00 a.m.–9 p.m.