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Dec 21, 2011 08:37 AM

1st Look at Carpe Diem, New Canaan

I am normally not the first one to either visit or review a new restaurant, but after dining at Carpe Diem in New Canaan last night, I figure that this would be a time to make exceptions.

My family and I happened to walk past it (in the former Fifty Coins location) on the way to a store. We noticed that they had a menu posted, and were surprised to see that it appeared to be open. After shopping, we decided to give it a try. We later learned from the owner, Alan, that they were doing a soft open and this was their first night. (It appeared that friends and family arrived later on - we were not aware of that when we sat down).

The menu has many Italian standards along with some interesting other choices. Most entrees were under $20, and most appetizers were under $10. They didn't make many changes to the main dining area, but they took out the TVs and painted it in subdued colors.

I started with an item that is uncommon in Fairfield County, the carciofi alla Giudea (Jewish style artichoke). It seemed like an appropriate choice for the first night of Hanukkah, and it didn't disappoint. The outside was crispy, but not burnt, which contrasted with the softer heart. It was served with some greens, which were tasty and avoided the appearance of just an artichoke on a plate.

I followed that with a very hearty and well-seasoned pappardelle bolognese. My wife's veal piccata was nicely lemony with plenty of capers, though my older son's ravioli was good but not great. My younger son ordered linguine alla vongole, which smelled great, but he devoured it so quickly that I never got a chance to try it. (He did declare it to be excellent).

Dinner for 4, including 2 glasses of wine and a Shirley Temple, was just over $100 before tip. We didn't have dessert or coffee, though.

The service was surprisingly efficient considering that this was their first seating. There were a couple of very minor glitches, but nothing out of the ordinary for comparable restaurants in this region. The owner had a very watchful eye on the proceedings, and seems very committed to the restaurant's success.

With carefully prepared dishes at fair prices, he is off to a very good start..

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  1. For a restaurant that is from NYC, the pricing for CT seems fantastic. Glad you enjoyed and I will have to get there next month.

      1. Went back for a 2nd visit last night. The carciofi and tagliatelle once again merited a recommendation, as did the veal milanese and a mussels appetizer. Unfortunately it got quite loud in the dining room with 2 large groups (all women, as were most of the other patrons), but a busy restaurant is preferable to a dead one.