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Southern New England

Nancy's Rosemary and Sage, Old Saybrook, CT


Restaurants & Bars 16

Nancy's Rosemary and Sage, Old Saybrook, CT

linguist | Aug 4, 2009 08:58 AM

My wife and I found ourselves in Old Saybrook yesterday evening, and on the way back to Guilford we stopped at Nancy's Rosemary and Sage. It's not in the Chow database, apparently, but the location (1080 Boston Post Road, Old Saybrook; phone 860 388-1166) has an interesting history.

This was the original site of Cafe Routier, until 2001 when they moved to Westbrook. In early 2002, the restaurant was re-opened under the name "Rosemary and Sage" by Mickey Josephs, and operated as a fairly high end bistro: well regarded, though it didn't become as well known as Cafe Routier had been, I think. In mid-2003, a car drove into the place and wrecked it; it was closed for nearly a year, but re-opened (still as Rosemary and Sage) in June of 2004. After less than a year, though, the restaurant was sold to its current owner, who reopened it in 2005 as "Nancy's Rosemary and Sage." Mickey Josephs, in the meantime, moved his base of operations to Hamden, where he opened Mickey's in 2006. I've now been to all three of the restaurants here, and also to CR in Westbrook - I guess I have to go to Mickey's to complete the cycle.

OK, you're looking for food, not history, but I think the story of this place is interesting. And I'm puzzled that there has been essentially no mention of it in its current form on this board, at least as far as I can tell.

Bottom line: it's well worth a visit. The food is quite good, and carefully done with attention to ingredients and sources. There's a full bar, with lots of specialty cocktails for those of you who like that sort of thing and a quite decent wine list at very reasonable prices. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the menu is that nearly all of the main courses are available both in full sized and "petite" portions, with the latter running roughly 2/3 the price of the full portions. This makes it eminently practical to have an appetizer, main course, and one of the home-made desserts and get away still able to walk (depending, of course, on one's patronage of the bar in the meantime).

For the summertime, there are several tables outside. The place is on route 1, and there's a gas station next door, so you won't confuse this with Paris, but the noise level was not at all unreasonable, and the outdoor seating was really quite pleasant (on the first non-rainy summer evening in some time).

A basket of pretty good garlic bread is brought when you sit down, with a strange but seductive sauce involving yogurt, garlic, and something purple. Try it - you'll finish it. My wife then began with a creamy tomato and garlic soup, which she liked, and I had clams casino: a simple dish that's easy to ruin (cf. Leon's travesty, for example), but that was just perfect here. Very good, fresh, tender littlenecks simply adorned with a bit of bacon and some herbs. Then she had the "scampi bianco" [sic], fine fresh (not frozen) shrimp with spinach, artichoke, and sun dried tomato over linguine. I had coconut shrimp, again very fresh and made to order, with good fries and ok coleslaw. I know this wasn't the greatest test of the restaurant, and there are other more interesting and more complex things on the menu, but that's what I felt like last night.

The desserts, as I say, are all said to be made in house (presumably not counting the Haagen Dazs ice cream....). My key lime pie was just what it should be (speaking as a one-time Floridian), and I would be more than willing to try most of the other things on the dessert menu, including an apple rumble, a blueberry dish of some sort, homemade cheesecake, etc. And I would probably have room for one of them, given the possibility of the small portion entree.

Service (from Nancy herself) was detailed and personal. She knows what she's doing and wants to do it right. Her restaurant is less formal and less ambitious than either of the two previous incarnations on the site, but it's well worth a visit, and I hope it will get more attention.

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