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Need an Italian Reco in CT

I'm looking to go out for an Italian feast next week and I'd like some updated info as most of the threads dealing with Italian food are quite old.

Here are some general guidelines in order of importance:
1. BIG PORTIONS! Think family styleish.
2. Must have the ability to make a penne vodka dish as one person will only eat "real Italian food" sigh...
3. Can be as far as a 25 minute drive from the Cheshire area.
4. Not too fancy, but not a dive bar pizza joint either.

Places I've been to so don't put them on the list. I'd like to try something new.
La Tavola
Twisted Vine
Tre Scalini
San Marino
Pasta Cosi

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  1. Try Viale on Fairfield Ave in Bridgeport

    Check out the website www.vialeristorante.com

    1. Spartan II is pretty good. Head north up 10, turn right on 322, it'll be on the right before McDonald's.

      1. Abate on Wooster St in New Haven is really good, and so is Adrianna's (http://adrianasrestaurant.net/ ) on Grand Ave in New Haven. Atmosphere is probably better at Adrianna's.

        1. Is Bricco in West Hartford Center too far? We went this weekend and had a FANTASTIC meal--shared by 4...and, yes, they have vodka sauce. If you liked La Tavola, I consider it on a par with both Bricco and OHHH...Luce in Middletown! That might be a little closer for you and parking is less of a PITA since you can park right in Luce's own lot. Those are my three favorite Italian restaurants in Connecticut...in no particular order. I love them all.

          You'll find reviews of Luce (mine and others) on this board. It's my hometown favorite for sure. A little less pricey at night is Fiore II, downtown M'town. I'd say Fiore II is less "fancy" than the others, but by no means a pizza joint, and quality, delicious food, just not the level up as the other three are.

          4 Replies
          1. re: kattyeyes

            OHHH!!! we went to Luce this weekend...it was wonderful- really really good. Portions aren't huge though. Not complaining, even though leftovers would have been nice :)

            1. re: justme123

              You're mocking me, aren't you? ;) I know I've taken food home from Luce before--just depends on what I've ordered. For example, no way can I eat a whole plate of mushroom ravs in one sitting as they're so rich and very filling. There are other dishes I seem to have had no problem finishing all at once, tho'.

            2. re: kattyeyes

              Kattyeyes --
              Oh great expert on Middletown cuisine... A friend recently told me about Ristorante Cantina on Court Street in Middletown. It's in the basement of the Italian Society (or something like that). There's no Chowhound comments on it and the Yelp reviews are mixed. Some love it and some hate it. The naysayers say it's dirty, terrible service, etc. The lovers say the food is great and the portions are big. Have you ever been there? Any opinions?

              1. re: chowmensch

                Hi there,
                You know, I was born and raised here and have never been to the Cantina...probably because I run with too many of the naysayers. ;) Would love to hear what familiar voices here think of it, tho'.

            3. I'd recommend Macchiavelli's in Southington

              1. It looks like Bricco is in the lead so far, but of course I'm open to other suggestions.

                Luce and Adrianna's both look good and I'll go to each at some point, but for this particular dinner I don't think they fit the bill.

                Oddly enough, it doesn't look like there are too many family style Italian places in Connecticut.
                The few I've found don't have much info.
                Has anyone been to Eclisse in Stamford?
                How about Basta in New Haven?
                Il Forno in Branford?
                Pasta Fair in Norwalk?
                Diorio in Waterbury?
                Joey Garlic's in Farmington?

                11 Replies
                1. re: Connecticut Digested

                  Pasta Fair in Norwalk closed motre than a year ago.

                  Il Forno in Branford, better Pizza than food.

                  If you are looking for large portions of family style red sauce Italian, try the Log Cabin in Guilford. Large portions, a family bowl of ziti on the table and respectable red sauce dishes and seafood. Not fine dining, but sound like it will suit your group.

                  1. re: bagelman01

                    The Log Cabin is in Clinton!
                    We have always enjoyed LoMonaco's in Branford. Delicious food and excellent, well priced wine list.
                    In the summer, one of our go to places is Aldario's in Milford. Large portions....reasonable prices.....excellent red sauce!

                    1. re: lsnhc

                      Thanks for coorecting the location of the Log Cabin, I had a brian lapse. I don't agree with you about Aldario's. I worked in Milford for 8 years and our company used them for holiday parties (at the restaurant). Ordinary food, not fresh in a dirty setting.

                    2. re: bagelman01

                      I know the OP asked for "family style" Italian with large portions and while Log Cabin in Clinton does provide that, I cannot recommend them. It is quantity over quality there imo. Red sauce at LC is very average, no real distinctive or memorable flavor. Also, while Joey Garlic's has an excellent burger and good pizza it is nowhere near the quality of Bricco's. Bricco's (West Hartford or Glastonbury). One caveat about Bricco's, however. Further down on this thread, the OP characterizes Bricco as "quieter than Joey Galics." Not really true. Bricco's can get pretty loud.

                      1. re: chowmensch

                        OP's post sounded like OP was looking for average, not great. and Log Cabin met the stated criteria 1, 2 +4 might be over 25 minute drive depending on traffic. We have found that Log Cabin's food is better earlier in the day than at night. Seems like the sauce suffers from being on the heat all day.

                        1. re: bagelman01

                          I've only been there at night and agree that the sauce is not that good at that time.

                        2. re: chowmensch

                          chowmensch, agree--Bricco can get pretty loud.

                          1. re: kattyeyes

                            Agreed, and I would also place Bricco firmly in the 'too fancy' category. Guess it's a matter of perspective.

                            1. re: ratbuddy

                              Well, I did say Bricco was on a par with La Tavola (a place the OP had already been) and Luce. It will be interesting to see how this feast turns out!

                      2. re: Connecticut Digested

                        Forget Basta. There's lots of good Italian food in New Haven, but this isn't where to find it (especially with your parameters).

                        1. re: Connecticut Digested

                          Joey Garlic's, IMHO, has decent pies and other dishes are average, but it's loud (it's very open inside, but no view of the kitchen, if that's important) and a bit too busy for my taste. Of course, when I was younger, that wouldn't bother me, but I prefer quieter places now.

                        2. Try Gabrielles in Orange The. Zupa de clams is excellent

                          1. Al Forno in Old Saybrook is certainly a down-to-earth family Italian restaurant, and it has penne vodka on the menu as well. I don't recall taking portions home very often, but I do remember always being quite full when I left.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: DonShirer

                              +1 on Alforno (love, love, love their pizza--and, of course, their bread) and your take on it. Creative salads, too. More casual atmosphere than Bricco, great service, nice choice of wines by the glass and great espresso/cappucino, too.

                            2. You can also try Pagliacci's in Plainville. They have enormous portions with reasonable prices. It's been there for years and is always busy.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: hotwing

                                Started going there/taking out from there recently. Great pasta dishes, nice broccoli rabe side (can't get enough of that)...but finally tried the pizza last night...practically tasteless. Good texture to the dough, but even with eggplant, couldn't fathom the sauce from the cheese. Can't recommend Pagliacci's for pizza but for all else, they do a fine job.

                              2. Portifino in New Haven (think that's the name) on State St.
                                Campania in Branford
                                Anthony's in Guilford

                                1. Well it looks like Bricco and Joey Garlic's are the finalists unless a dark horse enters the race late.
                                  From the looks of it, Bricco is the quieter more upscale place and JG's is a little more raucous and middle of the road.
                                  Thank you everyone who has taken the time to mention a spot. There are a few places in here that don't fit this trip, but will probably be looked at for another date.
                                  Please keep the reco's coming if there are places that aren't listed here that I should be taking a look at.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Connecticut Digested

                                    IMHO First and Last in Plainville is better than Pagliacci's or Joey Garlic's. It has the best Lasagne in the area. Peppercorn's in Hartford is excellent too.

                                  2. Ralph n Riches in Bridgeport if you are going on a Sunday does a family style "Sunday Sauce." Atmosphere is nice. Parking is easy for large group of cars. http://www.ralphnrichsct.com/

                                    They also have private areas, so if you know in advance, I'm sure they would do a family-style function for your table on any night if they know ahead of time.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: cheereeo

                                      Downtown Bridgeport is outside the 25 minute drive from Cheshire (requirement #3). But they do put out a nice Sunday Sauce meal.

                                    2. What town do you prefer to stay in/near? There are so many choices.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: temilove

                                        see OP's requirement #3
                                        New Haven on The south, Hartford on the north
                                        Newtown on the west, Glastonbury on the east should be the approximate boundaries

                                      2. The 25 minute boundary was 3rd on the list meaning if there was a place slightly outside, I'd still throw it into the mix. I just didn't want to get a list of places in Manchester or New London that I wouldn't be able to use.
                                        Basically, Danburyish to the south west, West Hartford/Farmington to the north, Middletownish to the east, and Guilford/Branford to the south east.

                                        I've never been in Bricco's, I just assumed if JG had a loud more family oriented crowd it would be louder than the more upscale Bricco's. Likened to La Tavola, that place can get "loud", but it's more just table chatter as opposed to kids playing and more of a family environment.

                                        I'm actually looking for SOLID food. I was hoping to find a higher than average quality American-Italian place. If there is a 4star place that fits the bill, that's fine, it's just usually the higher the quality of the food, the smaller the portions get. If you want big portions, you're usually stuck in between the better than mom and pops random place and worse than the fancy sit down original menu high end restaurant.
                                        From what I can gather from reviews and websites, Bricco's and JG's fit the bill as being the top and bottom of that range. Bricco's being the tier below when you start getting into the higher end places, and JG's being the tier above the local mom and pop stops that might be good, but you aren't planning a dinner around. If there is something that lodges itself in between the two, and still falls into the above guidelines, I'd be a happy camper.

                                        It will be a Thursday so sadly Sunday is out.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Connecticut Digested

                                          I'd definitely call Bricco top end, for the area anyway. Prices are right around Cavey's.

                                          Another thought came to me, Amici's in Avon. The more I think about it, the more I think it's exactly what you're looking for. It's right near 167 on 44, and has good food coupled with decent portions.

                                          1. re: Connecticut Digested

                                            I'm glad you clarified--you've nailed it--loudness at Bricco would be just as you might encounter at La Tavola...unless you sat downstairs near the wine cellar--never found that to be loud and once we figured it out, we always sat there. Neither place has kids running around or anything like that. And your description of higher than average quality is apt.

                                            That said, would it help if I gave you a rundown of our meals while they're still relatively fresh in my mind?

                                            The fried calamari appetizer was EXCELLENT. Mind you, I never eat calamari (not a big seafood kid). On my friend's recommendation, I decided to try a small ring. Glad I did!

                                            A couple of different salads hit the table, one Caesar (?) and one with a deep-fried hard boiled egg, which was a new idea to me. I can't find that particular salad on the menu, but I was impressed with the egg.

                                            I had the steak tartare crostini for my appetizer. I couldn't have cared less about the crostini part--their warm basket of fresh bread that came to our table TWICE already made a dent in my appetite--but it's so rare (HA!) to find tartare on a menu, I couldn't resist. Delicious.

                                            We shared our main courses:

                                            "Because the description made us jump!" :) RUSTICHELLA GARGANELLI (prosciutto, cream, radicchio, peas, truffle butter & Parmigiano). We weren't familiar with this particular shape of pasta. Rustichella has ridges and is pinched in the middle--and it's made in-house. This was one of my favorites, maybe because it was a little different from what I'm used to making--interesting combination of textures and flavors.

                                            HOUSEMADE LINGUINI “SCAMPI STYLE” - CT scallops, lemon, caper, broccolini & white wine. Very tender seared scallops. Nicely executed.

                                            SPRING RAVIOLI (?) WITH ASPARAGUS - This one was mine and I don't see it on the menu today. I ordered the appetizer size since I had tartare earlier...still had a hard time finishing and "fought" with my friends over who would finish what...we were all so full.

                                            PEPPERONI PIZZA (no, really!) - For the one in our party who preferred to stick to the basics. I didn't eat any, but it looked terrific. It was the size of a regular (not personal size) small pizza--pepperoni thinly sliced and curled upward with crispiness. She ate one slice and took the rest home, letting us know places closer to home for her would serve a pizza like that for the same price and it WOULD be just a personal pie rather than a whole pizza.

                                            We were all stuffed, but as we had agreed this was like a mini-vacation, getting together and having such a feast, we ordered two desserts: tiramisu and the lemon sampler. It was really too much food for four people who had dinner, drinks and apps, but delicious nonetheless. Our favorite lemon dessert was the lemon tart.

                                            I hope you go to Bricco. We had a helluva time and am sure you would, too! Excellent service and great coffee/espresso/cappuccino to boot!

                                          2. Best kept secret.... Anastasio's Ristorante on Wooster Street in New Haven. Not only is everything oversized, the chef, Luis, will make anything that you want if he has the ingredients in the kitchen. Most importantly... the food is delicious!!!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: MRBIG201

                                              Totally AGREE! Wooster Street's best kept secret- egglplant parm soo tender and NOT overly salty- and of course don't leave without a slice of binolfi (sp)

                                              1. I like Gabriella's on the Post Rd in Orange, large menu, the Zuppa de Clams is very good, as is the gnocchi and panne cotte appetizer

                                                1. Go for Via Svorza in Norwalk, Ct. Call see if they will make your dish. check out the menu online.... the food is great, and so are the portions!