Pitch Perfect

Photograph by Bob Capazzo
Above: Pitch Your Peers cofounders: Dara Johnson, Rachael LeMasters, Nina Lindia and Brooke Bohnsack

A few years ago, Nina Lindia realized that her charitable giving was frequent but diffused: $50 here, $100 there, a ticket for a luncheon, a sponsorship for a walk. Nothing seemed significant. “The asks were for really worthy causes that my friends supported, but I thought there had to be a better way to give,” she says.

Together with three friends, Brooke Bohnsack, Dara Johnson and Rachael LeMasters, she started Pitch Your Peers (PYP). The group does exactly what the name implies. Annually, members contribute $1,000 and then pitch the causes that matter most to them to other members, hoping to win the pooled money. The only rules: Members must live in Greenwich, be invited to join and all nonprofits that are pitched must either be based in Greenwich or work in town. “It’s like Shark Tank for charities,” Nina says laughing, “except the women are so much nicer to each other than the TV sharks.”

This past fall, the fifty-nine PYP members gathered at First County Bank’s corporate offices in Stamford for pitch night. They came to listen to their peers tell the story of four Greenwich nonprofits (see sidebar, opposite), and why each is worthy of this year’s group donation. “We run it like a boardroom,” Nina says. “We don’t apologize for asking for money. We pitch.”

The presentations were polished, professional, educational and persuasive, and most important, passionate, exactly what the group of four envisioned when they began PYP three years ago. There were gasps as scary statistics were rattled off, tears at some of the stories, and encouragement, cheers and applause both before, during and after each pitch. It was a perfect example of philanthropy done correctly.

After pitch night, each nonprofit offered an open house, giving members the opportunity to see the work being done firsthand. Online voting followed, and a month later the winners were announced. Kids in Crisis received the top award, $40,000 (which was matched by KIC board member Christine Hikawa and her husband, David Windreich), with Mothers for Others receiving a second-place $17,000 award.

Jodi Applegate, one of the four pitch champions for Kids in Crisis, said the timing could not be better for the nonprofit since it has lost its state funding. “This money will help them provide services that are essential and very expensive,” Jodi says.

PYP member Karina Solomon, who also pitched for Kids in Crisis, adds: “The members of PYP commit time, money and resources to help those in need. Especially at a point in time when funding for so many charities is in jeopardy, such as is the case with Kids in Crisis, PYP is more critical than ever for those struggling in our area.”

Both Jodi and Nina are quick to point out that, although there were two winners, there were no losers since pitches raise the organizations’ profile before a group of women with the means to make a difference. Kids in Crisis is such an example. Last year the group came in second, winning $5,500. What a difference a year makes.


For forty years, Kids in Crisis has protected infants, children and tweens from abuse, neglect and family crisis. They provide free, round-the-clock crisis intervention counseling, temporary emergency shelter, a wide array of prevention programs in local communities and area schools, and advocacy throughout Connecticut. PYP champions: Karina Solomon, Lisa Getson, Suzanne Stillwell, and Jodi Applegate

Mothers for Others supports the well-being of underserved families by providing diapers and gently used baby equipment for children from birth to three years old. Started by local mothers, the organization has served more than 1,000 families in the Greenwich area since 2011. Mothers for Others is volunteer run and receives client referrals from Family Centers, Greenwich Department of Human Services, Kids in Crisis and the YWCA. PYP champions: Rachael LeMasters and Brooke Bohnsack

The Emily Catherine Fedorko Foundation was founded after sixteen-year-old Emily, then a student at Greenwich High School, died in a boating accident. ECFF provides funding to spread education, advocacy and awareness of boating and water-sport safety for adults and children. Through the work of the ECFF, boating laws and boat-operator licensing in our area have been dramatically improved. PYP champion: JJ Worden

Food Rescue U.S., with the help of volunteer drivers, picks up fresh, usable food from restaurants and grocers that would have otherwise been thrown away and delivers the food to families and organizations in need. In Greenwich, food is picked up from Whole Foods, Kings, Upper Crust, Napoli and Sound Beach Pizza and is delivered to Kids in Crisis, Neighbor to Neighbor, Inspirica and Pacific House. PYP champions: Whitney Keys and Lara Stewart


The four cofounders never wanted PYP to become a franchise, but they always knew it could easily be duplicated. There is now a chapter in Seattle. (A friend of a friend of Nina Lindia saw a posting about PYP on Facebook and wanted to know more about it; Nina traveled to Seattle and a chapter was born.) There is also interest from women in other towns throughout Fairfield County, and Nina sees no reason why this idea cannot become a national initiative.

In addition to pitch night, there are social times throughout the year, so members can meet, mingle and get to know each other.

Last year PYP formed School PYP, a mentor program for high school girls in Greenwich. Teams from Greenwich High School, Sacred Heart and the Stanwich School delivered presentations to PYP members; $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 prizes were awarded.



Pet Perfect

Photographs by Lynda Shenkman Curtis
Above: Nathaniel Witherell residents George Rozsa and Nola Larkin with Skye

Mary Montella sat quietly in her wheelchair at Nathaniel Witherell, looking out a hallway window. Then a staff member wheeled her into the chapel to meet Rhys, a fluffy Old English sheepdog, and Finny, a sweet Tibetan terrier, and her demeanor changed. As Mary started petting the two therapy dogs—one for each hand—she sat up straighter, her face beamed with a big smile and her eyes got brighter. And then she looked deep into their eyes, engaging with each in a most special way.

“I just love them,” she says smiling. “They make me happy.”

Her reaction comes as no surprise to the staff. Justine Vaccaro, director of social work, says that what pets do for their residents, especially those with dementia and Alzheimer’s, is unparalleled. “Pets are consistent. No judgment. Just affection and comfort. They soothe and they interact, something our residents need. We often can’t get our residents to change their facial expressions, but the pets can. And when residents are agitated, the pets can bring ease and keep them from losing their patience.” In addition to improving mood, therapy pets can help to decrease anxiety, lower blood pressure and lessen boredom and loneliness.

Mary Tate, volunteer coordinator, says there is no special training for therapy pets, although all must be well-behaved, have a calm disposition and be comfortable around strangers and with being petted. She also notes that the owners should be outgoing and able to approach the residents.

Therapy pets have been an important part of the volunteer program at Nathaniel Witherell for more than a decade. “Pets take our residents back to a happier time, when they had a home and often a cat or dog of their own,” Mary says. “You just have to watch residents when they are around the pets to see the positive impact these animals have.”

Sheepdog Rhys is the third therapy dog of his owner, Sandy Woodard of Stamford, who began volunteering in 1999. Woodard talks about a recent visit with an almost 100-year-old woman that exemplifies why he finds working with the elderly so rewarding. “As soon as she saw Rhys, she lost sixty-five years and returned to a place long forgotten. Her face lit up, she smiled, and she was happy,” Woodard says. And that’s why he and Rhys keep returning.

Resident Elizabeth Riley with volunteer Dan Fowler and his therapy dog, Thunder


Lisa Wysocki of Greenwich brings in her cat, Bootsie, who travels from resident lap to resident lap. Lisa enlisted the help of her friend, Greenwich’s Susan O’Leary, owner of Tibetan terrier Finny. The dog is the perfect wheelchair height for residents to pet him as they wait for Bootsie to land on their lap.

Quarterly, therapy dogs arrive en masse. The most recent extravaganza was the Halloween parade, where each dog came dressed in costume.

Their hair feels real, they meow, lick their paws, and after a few minutes of petting, begin to purr. “Our dementia and Alzheimer’s residents really don’t know the difference between the robots and the real thing,” said Justine Vaccaro, director of social work. “They bring the same comfort and ease.” Plus, they can visit resident rooms 24/7.

Linda Marini, an administrative assistant, brings her pug to work, and many of the residents stop by daily to pet, play or just hang out.



Something New

Photographs by Thomas McGovern

Although I have been writing about food for a long time, I must admit I had no idea what to expect from Flinders Lane. Aussie food? What’s that all about?

And now I know. There are nods to culinary traditions from Australia’s British settlers, as well as those from the Greek and Italian communities that followed. Plus a strong influence from India and Southeast Asia. It all comes together in fresh, eclectic and interesting ways. (Be warned: The menu does take some time to digest, but since it’s online, we suggest a peek before your venture there.)

And yes, kangaroo is served, but more on that later.

Co-owner Chris McPherson explains that when he and Chris Rendell decided to open an Australian restaurant in New York City a few years ago, they named it after one of their favorite narrow lanes in their hometown of Melbourne. And when it came time to open a second location, 184 Summer St. seemed the perfect fit since it sits on a “lane” that leads into a parking garage, a path they share with the movie theater.

The décor is sophisticated and charming, yet slightly edgy, with floor-to-ceiling windows, lots of wood and subway tiles, pops of color mixed in with metal and black chandeliers, an open kitchen (complete with an eating counter), and an inviting bar. On first impression, there’s an air of fun, and you are made to feel welcome by the knowledgeable and friendly staff, including McPherson, who is there most of the time to answer any questions and make sure things are running smoothly.

Now, back to that kangaroo. There was one offering, a starter salad starring this marsupial, which was simply grilled, thinly sliced and served with a mint, cilantro and chili-lime dressing. The result was an explosion of flavors that included a warm kick. (The current winter menu now serves kangaroo as a main course, with root vegetables, smoked yogurt and tangy sumac. Another intriguing blend of flavors to look forward to.)

If you’re a fan of scallops, try the Flinders Lane version, melt-in-your-mouth sweet, and immense. The scallops are served with braised hijiki (seaweed), pea shoots and a chili-cashew relish, making it a spectacular dish. Other starters we tried included the sausage rolls, pork encased in a light puff pastry served with peppery sambal mayonnaise. Our group shared one plate of these, and we all vowed we’d each get our own next time. Rounding out the first course were steamed buns, filled with a rich, juicy pork belly and presented with bright, pickled slaw and hoisin mayo. What a savory revelation, with its complementing textures and flavors, this rich yet delicate dish turned out to be.

(We passed on the oysters but early diners take note: Get there before 7 p.m. for $1 oysters. The varieties change; my editor was there recently and enjoyed a half dozen from Wellfleet.)

Our main course only elevated our Aussie experience. Case in point: Our group argued over which one of us chose the best entrée, something that has never happened before. Let’s start with the handmade tagliatelle, a perfect pasta to pair with braised lamb shoulder, tomato sauce and gremolata. This combo was very light yet comforting, as we imagine the gnocchi on the menu, served with wild mushrooms, peas and Pecorino, would also be.

Add that endorsement to another for the roasted snapper, a big, lovely piece of perfectly cooked, flaky fish set atop a nest of baby bok choy and scallions swimming in the most fragrant soy-ginger broth, complete with large slices of fresh ginger. (The current menu now offers this preparation with branzino.) Of course, we also had to try Australian rack of lamb served with a tomato kasundi (chutney) and dusted with the Egyptian spice blend, dukkah. Lovely. Flavorful. Tender. Perfection!

Our final shared main, coconut curry laksa, bowled us over with its huge shrimp and chunks of crab. Blended with tofu, bean sprouts and rice noodles, it was served in a magnificent sweet-and-spicy coconut curry broth, an ambrosia guaranteed to warm up even the coldest night.

Speaking of sweet, be sure to order the sticky date pudding with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce for dessert. It is decadent but surprisingly subtle and intricate. For chocolate purists, save room for the brownie with an ever-so-moist-it-practically-oozes interior. So hard to resist.

We’ll be back, and next time we will order “Feed Me,” a five-course dinner at $55 a person. Brunch is also calling us, because that will be our chance to sample the Australian staple vegemite, which they serve on sourdough (or gluten-free) bread with plum jam. Sure, we hear vegemite is an acquired taste, but when you’re sampling a culture’s food, you owe it to yourself to give the unusual a try. We’re so glad we did.


184 Summer St.


Mon.–Thu., 11 a.m.–3 p.m.; 5–11 p.m.
Fri., 11 a.m.–3 p.m.; 5 p.m.–midnight
Sat., 11 a.m.–2 a.m. Sun., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.



Outside the Box

Photographs by Julie Bidwell
Above: Jonathan Edmond and Jim Perry offer clients the one-two punch of fitness and self-confidence.

Marla Martello always wanted to box but never felt comfortable walking into a traditional gym. Then Belly and Body opened in Old Greenwich, and her workout was forever changed. She’s there three times a week, working on strength, coordination and stamina and says that in all her years of exercising, she has never found anything that has worked as well or that she enjoys as much. That’s exactly what co-owners Jonathan Edmond and Jim Perry want to hear.

“It’s upbeat, you can go at your own pace, and there really is nothing to be afraid of or intimidated about,” Marla says. “It’s hard. I couldn’t wait for my first class to end. I also decided I was never coming back. But I did. And then I did again. And now I am hooked.”

The space is sleek and bright, with the bright red boxing bags adding a dynamic pop of color to the dominant shades of gray, cream and metallic. Edmond chose all the equipment, while designers Kay Story and Diane Viton selected the right color tones and accoutrements to create an almost spa-like environment.

Classes are forty-five minutes, beginning with fifteen minutes of cardio (skipping rope, sprinting, speed ladder work, swinging kettlebells); fifteen minutes of boxing; and fifteen minutes of cool down (stretching on a yoga mat or barre or working with small weights). “I am not going to lie: It’s really tough,” Edmond says. “But it’s a nice challenge. I tailor the warm-up to complement the boxing, working all the muscle groups but not fatiguing the muscles with too many repetitions.”

Class size is capped at ten. “I want to check that everyone is doing each exercise the right way and moving with weight correctly,” Edmond says. Sessions are $38 each, although there are packages to bring costs down and a three-month membership that allows participants to sign up for classes a month in advance.

Edmond, a National Strength and Conditioning Association-certified personal trainer, has been teaching martial arts and physical fitness in Greenwich for more than a decade. He was Perry’s personal trainer, although their relationship quickly morphed into a friendship, and now, a business partnership.

Perry is also a “customer”—working out here three times a week. “It is different from anything I have ever done before, a total body workout that hits my legs, core and upper body,” he says. “At my age [fifty-two], I am really starting to feel the exercise I have done all my life in my knees. But I leave here without any aches and pains.”

Yet for Perry, it’s about more than exercise. “It’s a great way to learn self-defense and relieve stress and tension,” he says. “Honestly, there is nothing better than hitting a punching bag.”

It may be a tough workout, but Jonathan Edmond guarantees you’ll have fun while you sweat.

Edmond says anyone can learn to box and it’s never too late to learn. His youngest client is fifteen; his oldest, just south of seventy. About 80 percent of his clients are women.

Many of his clients have special needs, including one with cerebral palsy. Since Edmond is a personal trainer, he designs programs to meet individual requirements.


Boxing is a complex sport that is so much more than simply hitting a bag. The repetitions become meditative. It’s hard to think of your to-do list when you are concentrating so hard on one thing. Edmond says you’ll also:

1 Learn to breathe deeply (a requirement for landing a proper punch)
2 Improve your balance and coordination (especially important as you age)
3 Increase strength
4 Build awareness and self-confidence
5 Develop rhythm and timing
6 Relieve stress and tension
7 Learn self-defense

Belly and Body
1381 E. Putnam Ave., Old Greenwich, 203-637-3399 bellyandbody.com



Inside Job

This summer Laura Michaels moved her interior design studio from Armonk to the spot in Glenville that Finch’s Pharmacy called home for forty years. The totally renovated 1,800-square-foot space showcases her hip, glam, yet very approachable design aesthetic. When so many designers think small, Laura goes big, maximizing design to scale, a concept she says the restaurant and hotel industries execute so well.

Her goal is to make the design process exciting and pleasurable. “People don’t realize that interior design can be fun. They think it has to be so serious. I am out to change that,” she says. You know you’re in for a treat as soon as you step inside the studio and retail space where soothing grays and whites serve as the backdrop. Here, customers can pop in, look around, peruse the furniture, grab a hostess gift—easily done since items start at $20—or an accessory for their home.

Walk through the store and up a step into the studio, where the design magic happens. Laura works in both residential and commercial spaces and does it all—from creating custom-made furniture manufactured in the U.S. to designing tile tableaus you’ll never see in your neighbor’s home. (Ask to see her metal-stud tiles.)

“I connect easily with my clients. They inspire me and I draw from that to create designs that fit their personalities,” she says.

3 Riversville Road, 203-531-7047; lauramichaelsdesign.com


“People tend to use safe colors, usually in lighter shades,” Laura says. She suggests choosing one room—or maybe just a wall—and paint it a dense, dark color in a glossy paint that will reflect light. Want to kick it up a tad? “Lacquer a wall or a ceiling. Heaven!” she says.

Get rid of all the little stuff in your home, like figurines or vases. “Small doesn’t make a statement, but many people are afraid of large scale and are comfortable with small,” she says. “Think of a coffee table, with three small items on it. Instead, add one large piece and people will notice.”

3  ART
For clients looking for serious art that will increase in value, Laura works with a curator. If you’re on a budget, she suggests coffee table art, reproductions that add charm and character.

A selection of pillows can change the feel of any room. Often, they add just the pop of color your room needs.

Laura suggests finding the smallest fixture you have. Then buy a substitute that will take up as much room as possible. That’s how you make a statement!



The Art of Design

Gilles and Aida Clement recognized Fairfield County needed a gallery that showcased the contemporary, adventurous art offered in Chelsea—New York City’s premier contemporary art district. They also knew they possessed the pedigrees and knowledge to create such a daring, exciting undertaking.

Three years ago, they established the Gilles Clement Gallery in Westport and last December opened its sister at 45 East Putnam Avenue in Greenwich. Most recently they added to the family in July with a new unique design studio located at 120 East Putnam Avenue.

The studio, Gilles Clement Designs, specializes in European transitional design that focuses on elegance and comfort while pushing artistic boundaries—a style that makes Gilles feel most comfortable. Raised in Paris, his artistic parents were always on the move, and the young Gilles felt equally at home in Geneva, Switzerland, Monte Carlo and at their Westport country house. “It was the seventies, and I lived a very extravagant and very sophisticated life surrounded by celebrities, art and artists,” he says.

This influence has fostered an aesthetic that is now seen in some of the chicest homes in Fairfield County. His designs are bold, original and creative, incorporating the unexpected into a base of elegance and refinement. “We understand our clients’ vision and carefully guide them through each step in the design process,” he says.

Of the gallery just down the road, Gilles says, “We have created spaces featuring an international collection of artists that you would traditionally not find outside of a main city. Our clients are telling us that they have never seen so many pieces in one gallery. We are raising the bar, creating something that is a novelty.”

Expect to find an impressive array of pop and street art from up-and-coming and established American and international artists. Gilles also works with other galleries to provide works for his clients from artists outside his stable. gclementdesigns.com; gclementgallery.com


“You will never go wrong if you follow this simple advice.”

“Every time someone makes an amazing investment in art, it is because they love it. It all comes back to love.”

No worries if you can’t make up your mind. Gilles says he often goes into a prospective client’s home to understand their style and then points them in the direction of artists he feels are in line with who they are.



Cooking Up Something New

Louis Van Leeuwen would often drive by the old Town and Country building on Mianus Pond and think, “What a dump.” But as owner of Greenwich Construction, he knew he could do something about it.

Last year he bought the building, restored it to its original architectural beauty, and today it serves as the headquarters for his two businesses, the construction company and Curry & Kingston Cabinetry. Although kitchen and bath projects have always been integral to his business, the new headquarters—an ultra-chic industrial space—is the perfect backdrop for a retail design showroom headed by Curry & Kingston’s partner and director of design, Kathy Currie. Van Leeuwen calls her the “brains behind the business.”

The showroom offers high-end cabinetry, and although it doesn’t compete with big-box stores, he says his customers are often surprised how competitive his prices are. He credits the company’s success to a combination of design talent, price and quality.

“There are a lot of architects and designers that don’t listen to the customer. Before they even talk to them, they decide what they want to design. Kathy is a super-talented designer who listens very carefully to what the customer wants, then takes that information and interprets their wants and needs into a design that works for them. The result is always functional and quite beautiful.”

He adds that no job is too small—or big—for his company to handle. “Come in, look around, and see what we can do for you,” he suggests.

Curry & Kingston
209 River Road Extension, Cos Cob, 203-900-1121; curryandkingston.com



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:
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


11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.

11:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

101 Broad Street, Stamford


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.