Had a really wonderful evening at this just opened Italian in Stamford on Washington (next to the driveway leading to the Summer Street parking garage.)
While the location is a bit off the beaten downtown track, the space is absolutely sensational -- comfortable country Italian with an elegant chandelier and four-sided winerack greeting you at the entrance. (Cleverly masking what otherwise would be an eyesore stairway to the basement) In a town overloaded with italian, there is no other setting that compares. The corner main booth would be wonderful for a big family party, and it's all like something out of a Coppola film. ( I once looked at this same 1 story space for an office years ago, and the transformation is brilliant and breathtaking.)
Lotsa room between tables and good sound conditioning made for easy conversation. But tables close enuf for convivial atmo.
The cuisine is largely Sicilian influenced: "fresh from the garden and the sea." Though the only water nearby is the unlovely Mill River, Stefano the owner does keep a small herb and tomato garden on the premises.
We started with gnochi in a creamy gorganzola for the table that was perfection. I also apped on a tuna tartare that was tasty, but the slices cut just a mite too thick. The raw fish helped transition from the rich gnochi to my main dish of black ink risotto with calarmari. Nicely el dente, the calarmari firm, but not rubbery, the squid ink savory, the rice delicate. (They offered two other risotta, green and brown.)
A whole Branzini was fileted tableside, nicely done with fork and spoon in the Italian manner by Conner, straight from the ol sod, but annointed honorary Italian. ( His and the bus service was almost impeccable, save for small details like not offering lemon slice with the peligrino, late bread, and a slight confusion on the drink order) The fish was moist and extremely flavorful for a freshwater fish. Had only a taste, but this was far more refined than the grilled Branzini we had last month at Spadaro. Others shared the Dorada, and a seared tuna on seaweed salad, that was just ok, and felt a little out of place on the Italian menu.
A superb bottle of 1984 vin santo tasted like a warm sweet goodnight kiss. Albeit Tuscan.
The prices were a touch under Columbus Park, Il Falco, Emme, Sienna. But cocktails are double digits, and like most restaurants, they make money on liquids. btw, the bar looked inviting, and when the place eventually, hopefully, fills, a good spot to wait for a table.
Only three tables taken on a Tuesday night, but there has been little marketing or word of mouth. They supposedly do a good lunch crowd ... but this is off the T and at least in the evening not a lot of foot traffic, nor any retail on their block. If they can hold out a year or two, should attract the Trump crowd.
Though Stamford hardly needs another Italian, Aria has a lot going for it-- great space, menu and execution. Stefano is a New York vet, who sold out there to start up here. IMHO is another local that deserves support against the Town Center chains and Houlihans which is about to open around the corner.
All in our party of 4 agreed: Aria certainly deserves an encore. (Sorry, couldn't resist)