The popular Italian eatery returns to Stamford to a new location downtown
photographs by gus cantavero
Quattro Pazzi glows. Walk through the door of this restaurant’s new home on the corner of Bedford and Forest streets, and you’re glad to be here. Polished granite café tables are casual chic, and against the luminous Venetian plaster walls, gold, red and blue decorative accents bring vibrant color to the room. The lighting is flattering, cast by red Murano glass chandeliers and sconces.
The host leads us up an open staircase to the second floor and an equally pleasant room. Big windows framed by airy white curtains give a view of the Avon Theatre’s Art Deco marquee. Our waiter instantly takes care of us, delivering bread and pouring olive oil. We dive into the bowl of warm crusty bread and dip it into the plate of zippy olive oil.
To fortify ourselves while reading Quattro Pazzi’s generous menu, we order several tempting antipasti for the table. Creamy polenta with mushrooms is comforting, smooth and cheesy, with plump shiitake mushrooms adding flavor and body. One bite and we’re already oohing and ahhing, but without greed. Sharing is great with a dish this rich. The peppery baby arugula leaves in the Barbietolla salad are a great foil for the polenta. Chunks of dark red beet and soft red pepper add sweetness to the salad, and a slice of fried goat cheese adds
Grilled jumbo shrimp lean on a tumble of sautéed spinach that’s full of the flavors of garlic and olive oil. The three of us eat this big, wonderful dish with gusto, and there’s no holding back; there’s more than enough for all. Crostini topped with slices of filet mignon and caramelized onions beneath melted fontina cheese are sublime. This is a dream of an open-faced sandwich, both hearty and genteel at the same time.
But now we have to choose from the pastas, and, oh dear, there are seventeen on the menu (including gluten-free and whole-wheat versions). Although chef and co-owner Gino Riccio hails from southern Italy, his influences are from all of Italy’s regions and he puts his own twist on all the pasta dishes. Judging from the menu, he has a fondness for pink sauce, and he likes adding protein to his pastas, as he does in the homemade cavatelli Marco Polo, which mixes strips of chicken with broccoli, garlic and oil. The Marco Polo is a favorite with
regulars, but I’m drawn to the classic cavatelli with broccoli rabe. Sweet sausage and beans in this dish mellow the slight bitterness of the broccoli rabe.
The other signature pasta, fettucine alla Mitty, is a big bowl of soft, homemade fettucine doused in a pink cognac sauce abounding with shrimp, scallops and crabmeat. Purists might say there’s too much sauce, but who can complain when the sauce is so imbued with the flavor of the sea and the seafood is so utterly tender? Gnocchi Sorrentina, homemade ricotta gnocchi in tomato-cream sauce, is lush with melting mozzarella. I only wish for a sprinkling of assorted fresh herbs.
Only the veal Milanese disappoints— an über-thin scallop of veal, deep fried and topped with a salad of greens and coarsely chopped red onion and tomato. I would love it if the vinaigrette were to absorb into the crisp coating, but it’s not happening here. Still, though I’m not thrilled, my friends thoroughly enjoy the dish.
We end our meal with a classic chocolate mousse, made in-house. It is light, rich and intensely chocolatey. The coffee tastes fresh-brewed and is deeply flavored. After eating all this food, a snifter of a fragrant and fiery grappa made from moscato grape skins, stems and seeds, would hit the spot if only I weren’t driving.
Quattro Pazzi (and its sister restaurants in Fairfield and Norwalk) are much loved and it’s easy to see why. Now that it’s back in town, Stamford regulars can once again enjoy the good value offered—the wine list is reasonably priced too—big portions of comforting dishes in a casual but lovely and lively atmosphere.
269 Bedford Street
Mon.–Thu. 12 p.m.–10:30 p.m.
Fri.–Sat. 12 p.m.–11:30 p.m.
Sun. 5 p.m.–10 p.m.