May 23, 2013
Written by Fran Sikorski
Thursday, 30 June 2011 10:55
Opening a new restaurant is not as easy as it looks, according to Paul Desiano and his Japanese-born wife, Ai, who established their first restaurant, Plate, in Ridgefield, on Sept. 14, 2010, and recently changed the name to Cello after being notified another restaurant had copyrighted the same name. Ownership and staff remain intact. An enhancement with the new name is housemade limoncello that will be followed by other flavors served singularly or by flights (tasting size).The Desianos met while working together at Manhattan’s Aquavit, and are also the owners of a corporate catering business, Café on the Boulevard in Stamford. They moved from New York City to Stamford planning to start a family and are the parents of two children, Sophie, three, and one-year-old Cole.
It took a year to find the right space for their restaurant; it was by chance they saw an ad that led them to Ridgefield and the location of the former Insieme restaurant, an intimate space tucked away in Copp’s Hill Market Place.
“Right from the beginning, people have been happy with our concept, of different techniques and flavors with traditional foods,” Chef Desiano said during a tableside visit.
Three of us were ready for our dining experience at Cello on a Saturday night.
The restaurant was filled to capacity, and the noise level was very high in the cozy dining space, an alert to anyone wanting a quiet evening dining out. Week night reservations or lunch are suggested to introduce yourself to Cello and its talented chef-owners.
Enjoying the menu, however, was a pleasure and service was well-timed. While selecting dishes for our own “tasting,” we enjoyed an impressive Bundonno Casavecchia alla Piazza Chianti.
Handmade pastas at Cello are available in primi portions for appetizer or middle course only ($10 to $14).
Antipasti $8 to $11, were pea soup with pancetta and mint and beet and potato soup accented with Greek yogurt; caprese, mozzarella with arugula/basil pesto and fried mozzarella with fire-roasted tomato sauce; and melt-in-your mouth seared scallops with saffron risotto.
A house favorite is the hearty vegetable napoleon: portobello mushroom, squash, beets and goat cheese.
Chef Desiano departs from traditionally-constructed dishes and produces many surprises. Our pastas were Bolognese Pappardelle with pancetta, veal and pork; roasted cauliflower fettuccini with mint and aioli (different and delicious); and one of the house favorites, black and white fettuccini with baby octopus, shrimp, scallops, and light tomato garlic sauce that elicited raves.
The menu at Cello changes frequently to reflect what’s seasonal; entrees, which generally range from $17 to $24, may sound traditional, but are not. Panko-crusted, pan-seared crispy salmon is served with lemon risotto and spinach puree; hanger steak is accompanied by celery root, Brussels sprouts and walnuts; chicken parmesan is rolled with prosciutto and spinach with an arugula cream sauce; and scallop stew features mussels, shrimp, saffron and dill broth.
Desserts, $9, were ultra-creative: Earl Grey crème brûlée, banana nut cake presented as French toast with fruit in a generous portion; chocolate gelato cake; and housemade fresh mint and basil ice cream and gelato.
103 Danbury Road,
Serving lunch 12 to 2:30, Tuesday through Friday; dinner from 5:30 to closing Tuesday through Saturday; Gravy Dinner, $15, Sunday from 3:30 to 6:30. Closed Monday.
Reservations suggested; necessary Friday and Saturday evenings; handicap accessible; all credit cards accepted; children accommodated; full bar, wines, internationally sourced, available by the glass, $5 to $13; by the bottle, $28 to $180; New American/Italian fine dining; limited take-out; smart casual dress; private functions up to 35; wine dinners; seasonal outdoor dining.
Bastile Day will be celebrated at Bernard’s at 20 West Lane in Ridgefield on Sunday, July 17, with a French country buffet including Bernard’s “famous cassoulet” and other treats as well as French wines. The cost is $75 per person, tax and gratuity not included. Reservations, 203-438-8282.
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