The Secret Ingredient...
...to a great dining experience
We all go out to eat and we all have our very own lists of favorite restaurants. One may wonder what it is about a place that makes them want to go back. The food has to be great for sure. The drink menu may be the persuading factor for some. The ambiance is another important element. How about the price point? Or the service? Of course — these things matter. And they most certainly make or break a dining experience.
There is one more element that constitutes a great dining experience for me. It’s the chefs and owners of these dining establishments. Meeting them and conversing with them, always gives me a deeper appreciation of the restaurant and its food. I like to understand their point of view — because sometimes, it may not be my point of view. But if I understand why that chef cooked the way he/she did or why a restaurant owner crafted a specific style of menu — well! then I will be looking at it from a different perspective. And to me it is priceless.
I haven’t eaten at every single restaurant in Fairfield county...yet, but I am certainly working on it. In my experience thus far, there are a few restaurants that have managed to make a lasting impression on mainly because of it chef or owner.
Here are some that come to mind:
- Chef Lionel and his lovely wife at Bon Appetit in Wilton. I love how they are always eager to greet everyone and come and chat with them. They always make me feel like I am visiting an old friend for dinner.
- Chef Pietro Scotti of Da Pierto, Westport. Words can’t describe the infectious, fun-loving, food-loving, people-loving personality of this chef. It doesn’t hurt that his food is spectacular as well. :-)
- Chef Bun Lai, at Miya’s Sushi in New Haven, is such a happy, fun-loving guy. Each sushi roll you order will be an experience in itself. And a big part of that experience is Chef Lai himself, as he chats with each diner about its origin and the story behind its creation.
- Andre Iodice at Finalmente Trattoria, Westport. Andre, the owner, will always make it a point to come and chat with you. He will make sure that you are happy with the order and the food is to your liking.
- Eric Monte, the manager at Fez in Stamford. What a great guy. He will make sure that you are always having a great time and love the food and music at Fez as much as he does.
- The ever smiling, ever welcoming Hassoun family at Safita in Fairfield. The husband makes sure that all guests are taken care of at the front of the house, while the wife makes outstanding food in the kitchen. A total package!
- Gopi. You may remember him from Coromandel in South Norwalk. Now Gopi has left Coromandel and opened up a delightful, fast casual Indian restaurant in New Haven. If his warm smile and enthusiastic personality won't make you a believer, the delicious food at Tikkaway Grill sure will.
- Gino the owner/chef at Boca in Stamford. Gino also owns Quattro Pazzi in Stamford and Fairfield as well as Osiana in Fairfield. This man has so much passion for food and for bringing the wonderful flavors of the mediterranean to his diners. Boca is his latest venture and it is Gino’s vibrant and passionate personality personified.
- Martel. Marty Levine is always at the restaurant. Always paying attention to the diners and making it a point to speak to each and every one. Most people who walk in are like Marty’s old friends.
- And finally, Craft Butchery in Westport and its amazingly talented owner Ryan Fibiger. Technically this is not a restaurant, although they are starting to offer prepared foods at their new location. But I really admire how Ryan and his entire team is always so eager to help each person select the exact thing they need.