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Fairfield County Neighborhood Italian Restaurants-Solid Food with reasonable prices

Along with all the downtown trendy Italian restaurants in Fairfield County, there are a good number of neighborhood Italian restaurants that consistently serve solid food (with some flair and innovation) at reasonable prices >>entree with salad/pasta/bread in the $16-24 price range.

These restaurants are not fancy, and not overly large, but consistent, clean and usually leaving the customer full and very satisfied. No greasy red sauce taste.

A few of our go tos...................

Franco Gianni's .....Trumbull--Long Hill Green
Maione's...................Fairfield---Stratield Rd
Stella's......................Stratford--Accross from Sikorsky

All of these reputedly are pizzarias, but their pizza is NOT the winner, their cooked meals are.

Please share your neighborhood secrets in the rest of the county.

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  1. funny - I think of Stellas as a greasy red sauce place. Cinzano's in Fairfield fits the bill though of solid, non-trendy Italian.

    1920 Black Rock Tpke, Fairfield, CT 06825

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ima Foodie

      Like Cinzano's, but have only been there for lunch. They do not give both pasta and salad with an entree, but a choice of either pasta or salad. Nice decor.

      Stella's has very good Milanese, Marsala, and Picatta, I don't order red there.

      1920 Black Rock Tpke, Fairfield, CT 06825

    2. You just gave away our "secret". We eat there twice a week. The only thing I would change are the hours. They close the kitchen at 8:30 weekdays. There pizza is the best around, as well as their fried calamari. Their staff is friendy, and service is great.

      Franco Gianni's Pizza
      8 Broadway, Trumbull, CT 06611

      1 Reply
      1. re: barbaract

        Yes, you must dine early, full up by 5:30 deserted by 8:30.

        Don't agree about their pizza, since I'm a New Haven native I find it much too thick. I drive up 25 to Julian 'sfor my Apizzza.

        My brother comes from Milford every week just for their Pasta Fagiolo, complains that they won't sell nit by the quart to go, only as dinners. Today's his 65th birthday, and I order a massive qty for him as a borthday gift.

      2. UPDATE>>>>>
        It's November 2012
        Franco Gianni has gone downhill. Ate there last Saturday night. Wife had the cheese ravioli, like clay. I ordered Ziti and meatballs. The meatballs were fine, the ziti was half cooked. SIL ordered eggplant Parm which was solid grease. Bro had Linguini in red clam sauce. Filled with overpowering uncooked garlic and overcooked pasta.
        MIL ate dinner there last night, Eggplant Parm was all grease and bitter. So after dining therfe weekly for many years we won't be back.

        Stella's in Stratford. Robert Irvine did his Kitchen Impossible stuff and turned a good neighborhood Italian eatery into a cute restaurant with terrible food and poorly trained staff.
        Greeted by the overly loud mother. Seated in a booth that was uncortable and not clean.
        Wife ordered the Black Bean Soup ($6) which was hot and fresh and good, and the eggplant sticks, Eggplant sticks were bitter as hell, and when you cut into them the hot oil poured out. Absolutely inedible. Brother orded veal parm with spaghetti, SIL orderede Linguini with white clam sauce and I ordered The crispy eggplant parm woith cappelini.
        Server brought and served our meals.
        I took one bite of the eggplant and announced that this is crispy, but I've never tasted eggplant like this. Of course not, it was Veal Parm. So Bro handed me my dish (which he had tasted and not liked). The eggplant was NOT crispy, but mushy and greasy. The cappelini was overcooked and drenched in tasteless red sauce and inferior, slightly melted cheese. Bro said his veal parm was burnt. SIL has asked if the clam sauce was fesh and was told yes it was made with fresh clams. NO, there were 4 clams in the shell on top of the plate, but the chopped clams were from a can or bucket, NOT fresh. Salads were ok, byt the cucumber slkices appeared frozed.
        Best part of the meal was the bread basket.
        Serveres were ill trained. constantly interrupting and asking us to lift and hand them dirty dishes. While have after dinner tea, the server bothered us repeatedly to hand her dirty plates, etc. I told her, you can clear after we are finished, stop interrupting us.
        We shall NOt return and advise others to avoid Stella's. Robert Irvine, you blew it>

        So, the only one on last year's list that is still good is Maione's in Fairfiled.

        9 Replies
        1. re: bagelman01

          We stopped going there summer of 2011. They have poor air conditioning. We were hot and asked them to turn on the overhead fans. Two 16 year old girls said they were cold, (what the heck?) They turned off the fans. We decided that if they valued the two 16 year olds business more than our twice a week check with big tip, we would take our business elsewhere.. We now enjoy Jennie's in Monroe. Also, when we feel like spending $$, we go to La Scogliere in Shelton. It is REALLY good, and they make a mean drink, too. But, Jennie's is BYOB, and their food is very good, so we go there more often. Too bad, we miss the calamari at Franco Gianni's.

          I wish there were more places in Trumbull to eat.

          Is there something going in across from Home Depot?

          1. re: barbaract

            'we stopped going there..." WHERE???? I posted about two restaurants.
            The owners of Jennie's are friends of ours, but we don't care for their basic red sauce or pizza. It doesn't compare to years ago when they were on Main St in northern Bridgeport.

            Across from Home Depot next to Edge fitness will be another Chips pancake house...Yechhh.

            1. re: bagelman01

              Franco Gianni's has the air conditioning that doesn't quite make it. They know it, but don't own the building.

              We used to go to the old Jennie's, too. We still like the pizza. Have you tried the Italian place across the street? McGowans? We like to go there for a change of pace.

              Chips? I wish there were a Shop Rite going in there. We used to love Stop and Shop, but not so much, now. But that is off topic. :).

              1. re: barbaract

                actually, they do own the building and are getting ready to tear it down and build a new bigger building with apartments upstairs. Franci Gianni's and Luigi's bakry are owned by the same family and share the building.

                McGowan's in Monroe has been both terrible and filthy for many years

            2. re: barbaract

              I know I replied to this post months ago, but 2 vastly different experiences at Jennies in the past two week prompt this post.

              Two weeks ago, I took my 24 year old for dinner to Jennies on a Thursday night. There were 4 tables out of 48 seats occupied at 7:30PM. Daughter had Tortellini in Brodo and I had Pasta Faggiolo (Red) to start. Huge servings at only $5, a delicious bargain. Daughter had ziti with meatballs. She loved it. I ordered the special, baked pastas with choice of meatballs or sausage. I received: 2 stuffed shells, 2 manicotti, 2 cheese ravioli and 2 huge sausages (5 inches long x 2 inches thick. I had one piece each of the pastas and took the rest home for my youngest, A great meal with great service at reasonable prices.

              So, last night, my 15 year old and her boyfriend were going out to dinner to celebrate bf getting driver's license and because it was raining, wife and I said we'd drive them and we'd also have dinner, but a a separate table. I dropped them off and parked the car. A miserable hostess (Lynn?) gave the teens a hard time and told them they couldn't have thier own table. This was at 6pm and a half empty restaurant. My wife explained that the teens were on a date and paying their own check. After much discussion and complaining about it, the b*tch allowed that the teens could have a table, but we would have to sit at the adjoining table. The entire evening,m the staff was staring at the teens (daughter took pictures of this) and making nasty comments about them in Italian. One problem, bf was born in Italy, and his family only speaks Italian at home. Wife and I lost our appetite and were disgusted. Instead of ordering, soup, apps, main and wine, we split a pizza, taking most of it home. bf loved his salad and lasagne, daughterloved her liguini and red clam sauce, but swore she'd never return due to attitude of hostess and waitresses.
              Wife wouldn't let me open my mouth, says she'll call and handle this, BUT, this forum and yelp will allow me to get the word out about the lousy treatment and service at Jennie's.

            3. re: bagelman01

              How's the pizza at Stella's? Going there tonight for an end of season football party. Doesn't sound too promising from what I've read elsewhere.

              1. re: LorenV

                Don't know, I haven't had it in 5 years. When we were there Saturday night for their vile food, we were seated in the garden room. We walked through the main/bar room on the way in and out and every table was eating pizza, not dinners. Maybe we should have taken the hint...
                The pizza looked like respectable NY style Neopolitan pies.

                As far as the food and decor goes, Robert Irvine really blew it. Booths and tables in the booths are too small to hold the place settings and food. The wall of lemons looks stupid. The servers and bus people are poorly trained, and owner's mama doesn't know how to shut up.
                We saw many staff members sit down at patrons' tables and hug and kiss them, probably tasted better than the food.

                1. re: bagelman01

                  Pizza was EH. Not bad but nothing to write home about either. The sauce was pretty flavorless too.

                  BTW, I know it was a Monday and all but there was NO ONE in the restaurant side (we were in the banquet room) the entire time our party was there (6-8PM). Pretty odd. There wasn't even a sole person at the bar either. And by comparison Parker in the same plaza had quite a good crowd inside. Even before Monday Night Football was set to begin.

                  1. re: bagelman01

                    it's 13 months since I posted this. I haven't been back and don't intend to do so, BUT today I received an email from the owner in response to an on-line review I made 13 months ago.

                    To the owner: TOO LITTLE, WAY TOO LATE!!!! Why would I be interested to your reply top my bad review of dinner at your place 13 months ago. It's obvious you don't care and/or dopn't know how to run your business. If you wanted a chance to regain my business, you wouldn't wait 13 months, 13 days would be stretching it.

              2. Tonelli's in Bethel. The food is consistently good, and huge portions. Their eggplant parm is excellent, as is their spaghetti in red clam sauce. Their lasagna's pretty good too.

                Prices are reasonable, but did go up after they renovated. Still a very good value, especially when you consider that you take home more than you can eat.

                1. My go-to places are Vincent's in Huntington center and Jennie's. Nothing earth-shattering but both are decent. At Vincent's, the ravioli and chicken piccata are pretty good. The pizza is OK. I do like Julian's as well but it is too far to get it home while it is still hot. Jennie's is a good fall back as well. Chicken piccata, portobella, and marsala are good there. Pizza is decent, but I will go all the way back to when they were on Grand St. in Bridgeport when it was great.
                  I have not been there in a while, but the grinders at Franco Gianni's were pretty good.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: JTilCT

                    Julian's is our Fairfield County apizza restgaurant of choice, but we eat there, Apizza doesn't travel well. I am a New Haven native and when I don't want to drive to Sally's on Wooster Street I go to Julian's.
                    And to others, please don't suggest Pepe's branches in Danbury or Fairfield. After almost 60 years of eating Sally's, I don't eat Pepe's. It's a New Haven thing..............

                    1. re: bagelman01

                      UPDATE TIME>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
                      Julian's is now our Fairfield County apizza place to avoid.
                      Wife and I went in yesterday at 6PM for a quick bite. She wanted to eat early (I later found out she needed me out of the house so that the guests for my surprise birthday party could arrive and my daughter could set up).

                      We were one of two tables occupied and the place was busy with takeout orders. A local high school waitress took out order, a calzone for myself and an eggplant grinder for my wife. 15 minutes later she set down my calzone and walked away. I thought she was going into the back kitchen to get my wife's grinder, but no, she stood behind the counter taking telephone orders. Meanwhile my calzone was growing cold (I would not start eating before my wife received her food). It took 10 minutes to get the girl's (Yes it is policically correct if I'm 60 and she's under 18) attention and I asked where my wife's food was. We were told, he's making it now and she walked away. 5 minutes later, she came to the table slammed the plate down and tried to walk away. I stopped her dead in her tracks and asked where the napkins and fork were. Annoyed as hell she went and got the napkins and fork and by that time I cut my calzone and found it missing the onions and peppers it was supposed to contain. I said to her the onions and peppers are missing and was told she'd let him (who 'him' is I don't know) know about it. By 6:55 we were finished with the oart of the food we chose to eat, but never saw this twit leave the counter to check on tables. I had 1/2 a calzone left that I would have taken for the dogs If given a chance. BUT we got up, I went to the car to avoid making a scene at the counter and my wife went to ask for a check and pay. No mention or apology was made for the lousy service or the missing ingredients in my calzone. For the first time in her life, my wife stiffed a server.

                      We won't be returning. There are 8 pizza places between my home and Julian's (a less than 10 minute drive) and we don't have to put up with this bad service and food made wrong. So after almoist 10 years of recommending them, now I say stay away. Julian's closed their Bridgeport location in the past 2 years, if they continue to run Monroe this poorly, it won't be far behind.

                      Julian's from a go to to a stay away!
                      BTW>>>>I called this noon to speak to the manager and complain (no manager was on duty last night),and was told no manager on duty today, either.

                      1. re: bagelman01

                        That's too bad- we love Julian's. Which location did you go to?

                        1. re: Ima Foodie

                          "if they continue to run Monroe this poorly,"

                          guess you missed it in the post.

                          At last count, there are now 11 places serving pizza between our house and Julian's in Monroe (less than 5 miles)

                  2. Our go-to place in that regard is Italia in Norwalk. It sports solid food (not much innovation, though), entrees in the $16-24 sweet spot, consistent, clean, and leaves us full and satisfied. Although they do a solid pizza business, I confess that after many meals, I haven't even tried the pizza. Veal & peppers, eggplant/chicken parm, and various pastas are the most popular orders in our family.

                    In a different vein, Letizia in Norwalk, which has terrific thin-crust pizza, also has a menu of solid standard fare. But, I rarely order anything other than pizza there.

                    I grew up on LI, where back of the pizza joint Italian restaurants were exceptionally common, and sometimes very good, so I never scoff at "red sauce joints." They fill a need for comfort food (Italia is our go-to place in a blackout), so we view them in a different way from our favorite chef-driven Italian meals at places like Carpe Diem in New Canaan, or certainly Da Pietro in Westport.

                    Thanks for opening an overdue thread.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: SteveSCT

                      Maybe I am in the "Thanksgiving" mode, but isn't it nice that we all have a "go to" restaurant. We can afford a dinner out when we don't want to cook? I am very grateful. :)

                      1. re: barbaract

                        That is a wise and welcome sentiment.

                    2. This is a great thread. All of my family (blood relatives) lives right in/near Trumbull, and I was planning to drive down post-holidays to treat my aunt/cousins. I appreciate the updates, though I truly shake my head that (barring change of ownership or Robert Irvine stupid intervention) a solid place can go so very downhill.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: pinehurst

                        we wonder if Franco Gianni's changed cooks. or if the owner has been on vacation the past two weeks..............seems like they have not recovered from the Hurrican Sandy rush when they were one of the few restaurants in the area open and feeding many times their usual number.

                        Last night our daughters had dinner there. The Linguine in Red Clam sauce, usually a superb dish, was pure HOT (too much red pepper flakes) and the garlic was raw and sharp. On the other hand, eldest daughter's onion pizza was picture perfect and tasted great.

                        1. re: bagelman01

                          I think Via Svorza on Westport Ave. in Norwalk is better than ALL of the above! If you haven't been there lately, go check it out! It's wonderful!!!!

                      2. I had dinner last week at Villa Italia on E. Main St. in Stamford. What an awesome little place. Not the nicest location, probably located in one of the most unattractive locations but they do what they know and execute it very well.

                        The interior is convex to the exterior. It's really warm and inviting as is the service. The menu is familiar but updated, prices are pretty fair and the little bread rolls are so light and crispy. I hate to even mention this place but it is totally worthy of praise! I think it's off the radar due to the location but I could eat here ever night.

                        Yes, I really don't like the location! :)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mushroomaffairs

                          You are right! that place is a hidden gem....AWESOME!

                        2. I always recommend massimo's on Boston ave in Bridgeport and villa pizza on Barnum ave in Stratford

                          1. Time for a bump to this old thread of mine.............

                            I moved to Trumbull 9 years ago this month. In the area there are a number of restaurants that operate under the Vazzy's name.

                            I had tried the Monroe and Milford (now closed) locations and was not impressed. I never went back or tried the others.

                            Sunday evening my wife and I were on Huntington Turnpike in Bridgeport about 7PM and quite hungry. We decided to try the Original Vazzy's at Huntington and Broadbridge.
                            It was jammed and noisy. BUT there was an extensive menu at all price points and plenty of waitstaff.

                            An excellent bread basket was presented with homemade cheesy garlic flat bread, rustic Italian bread and cherry peppers. We ordered a fresh mozzarella salad with roasted red peppers and Prosciutto as an appetizer. It came out as a huge portion on a dinner plate. 8 slices of fresh mozzarelly separated by tomato slices. Wife didn't care for the off-season tomatoes (I didn't eat them), 5 rolled slices of Prosciutto, a mound of wonderful baby greens in a balsamic dressing tooped br delicious roasted red peppers all for $6.95. After the appetizers and the bread we were mostly full.,
                            Wife had ordered a steak and gorgonzola wedge and I had ordered an eggplant wedge.
                            Both arrived fresh from the oven on fantastic bread (that had the taste and texture of Arthur Ave in the Bronx) and a massive helping of crispy hot waffle fries. Needless to say we ate less than half, as we were full.
                            My wife wanted a bit if dessert and Stefania, our wonderful waitress suggested the black cherry cheesecake. It appeared the size of a large slice of NY cheesecake, but has the conderful consistency and taste of a ricotta cheesecake. It could had been shared by three adults and was only $6.
                            With 2 sodas, an appetzier, 2 heros and a dessert the bill was only $42, truly a bargain.

                            We did see some wonderfull apizza being served to the diners seated next to us. It looked bery New Haven style, irregular oval shape and served on a sheet pan ala Sally's. I look forward to trying in on a return visit.

                            I'm sorry it took me 9 years to try the oridginal Vazzy's.

                            1. Time for another bump to my old thread...........

                              Last week Mrs. B, youngest daughter and BF, bro and SIL had dinner at Trattoria Roma in the White Hills Shopping Center (RT 110) northern Shelton.

                              This was superb fine Italian food. prepared to order at reasonable prices. Wife and I had had lunch there 6 years ago and I have no idea why we have never gotten back, it just isn't near anything we frequent, but only a 15 minute drive.

                              Brother had Zuppa Di Clams Red which was served over linguine (not mentioned on the menu). rated *****
                              SIL wanted Scampi, but not shellfish, so the waitress (owner's wife) suggested they make her chicken scampi. SIL who never likes anything finished her dish.

                              Youngest daughter had Eggplant Parm. It was heavy on eggplant and light on breading in a medium tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella...wonderful
                              Mrs. B had lobster Ravioli. This is the best buy in the place $14, anywhere else is $20 or more and these home made light and airy delights were full of lobster and ricotta.

                              I asked them to make me a plate of angel hair with marinated artichoke hearts, and mushrooms in an aioli. I was licking my lips and sorry when it was gone.

                              All dishes came with a choice of soup...that night was a red pasta fagioli (Bro said it was good) or a salad of high end greens (very fresh, no iceberg or romaine to be seen).

                              Home made high gluten rolls fresh from the oven were served with a plate of oil that was infused with garlic, basil and hot pepper. It had quite a kick.

                              We all loved our meals and can't wait to return. The owner told us that on Wednesday nights they are running a $7.95 pasta dinner including choice of meat balls, sausage, baby clams, etc and soup or salad. Response has been heavy so reservations are recommended. Seconds are included, but she said everyone is so full from the first helping that virtually no one asks for more.

                              Note: we almost didn't get out of the car because the front door was propped open and it was a very hot night. No a/c no B family business. But I walked in and found the lobby for pizza/takeout is not air conditioned, but the dining room is well cooled.

                              No ambiance to the shopping center, but a lovely dining experience.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: bagelman01

                                When you're down-county check this place out in South Norwalk located across from the Oyster Festival grounds. Old school Italian-American dishes done very well and reasonably priced.

                                We used to be regulars @ Italia on Main Street but haven't been back since we stumbled onto this place.

                              2. Next update:
                                Stella's Stratford>>>had a Restaurant Impossible makeover a couple years ago, but lousy food.
                                Website expired May 24th, Phone out of service......

                                Took daughter to Franco Gianni's tonight for Pizza. New Waitress, used to work at Stella's says she'll be going back when it reopens, problems with permits, etc. Intimated that the owners of Franco Gianni's are taking over and wanted her to work both locations.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: bagelman01

                                  Just did a drive-by by Stella's.

                                  "Open for Mother's Day" displayed prominently on the valence above the windows. But there is a "coming Soon" sign for another restaurant. It may be Franco's, it was after the witching hour so I don't remember the name.

                                  It took over 3 years since the Restaurant Impossible episode for Stella's to die. I hope the owners didn't lose too badly since the owner had a large ego (on the show).

                                  It will be interesting to see the new joint since Casa Nova is 1/2 mile up the road in the equivalent of Shelton's Appalachia and was a little more upscale plus the bonus of a wood fired oven for their pizza's which my wife does not like & prefers GG's 5 minutes over in Milford.

                                  1. re: algct

                                    agree with your wife about Casa Nova and like GG's, but as this thread I started years ago is specifically about Fairfield County I don't mention them here. My pet peeve with GG's is that they serve paper plates in the dining room.

                                    As for your comments that it took over three years since Irvine's makeover for Stella's to die.....
                                    Stella's was dead before Irvine came to town, they just buried it this year. Momma got tired of pumping money into a business that sonny boy could't run.

                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                      Paper plates in the dining room of a restaurant? Even boston market serves your meal on a real plate with silverware.

                                      1. re: bagelman01

                                        Whoops! Forgot about the Fairfield County constraints.

                                        True about the dead restaurant walking syndrome - if your restaurant were not in trouble, Robert Irvine would still be slinging hash somewhere & not making a decent living in the entertainment business.

                                        Also forgot about Biagio's Osteria in Ryder's Landing, another upscale joint with OK food, but a bit pricey. Nice if you like to listen to "The 3 Tenors" or Andrea Bottichelli (sic) on the flat screen TV, but it seems like the restaurant equivalent of a sports bar.
                                        Enjoyed the osso buco though.