The River Restaurant really needs some PR work. It is a restaurant stuck in the corner of a shopping center with no suggestion of what is inside. This is to the left of Wal-Mart! The place next to it is vacant...
You enter a nondescript strip-mall door and step into a amazingly nice entryway and on into a well decorated, colorful, upscale looking restaurant. one of the first things you see is the bar. It's not Tre Scalini, but it's nice inside (and Tre Scalini's carpet was atrocious the last time I was there). Now, here's the oddity that may make or break it for some: there are no windows in the dining room! There aren't many windows at all...
Someone suggested it's "old school". I'd say the sauce with pasta and the clams is old school, but a fish special was nice and the restaurant was a pleasant surprise. I had zuppa di clams, fra diavoli, and then the special which sounded like "solar bass", whatever that is. It tasted a lot like sea bass. Perhaps it was cellar bass? It was a nice-sized fresh piece of fish in a light lemon sauce (but was under-salted).
The warm bread was very tasty. Service was good and professional.
I was told the chef was from Roseland, in Derby, but Mike has moved on and Eddie and his kin run the kitchen.
I spent $5 a glass for wine and $36 before tip. The only negative was I didn't get a fresh fork with my fish entree and a spoon would have been nice with the clams so I could have scooped up the tomato sauce more easily.
I think you should try this place. It may not be really exotic food, but it has the standard suspects on the menu. I intend to go back and give it a try for dinner though Mickey's, in Hamden is a minute or two closer and downtown New Haven is not much more time for us.
Photos: I ate almost half my fish before photographing it and I ate two clams. Always in a hurry to eat!
656 New Haven Ave Ste 11, Derby, CT 06418