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62 Main Street
New Canaan, CT 06840
Margherita Aloi's dream was to own a beautiful restaurant with a white picket fence, and she's found the perfect spot in a former colonial church in New Canaan. Listed as a celebrity chef in Zagat's for years and nominated for Crane's forty under forty in New York, she creates Italian/Mediterranean cuisine with style. Whether it's roasted fish filleted at your table or prime dry-aged beef with rosemary oil, it's going to be great. Enjoy bread pudding or warm peach upside-down cake for dessert. Classic decor with a casual feel. Outdoor patio.
Price (main dish): $16-25
Moffly Media Review: Aloi offers Italian comfort food in New Canaan
By Rosemarie Anner
Margherita Aloi, a culinary whiz kid from Piedmont, Italy, opened Aloi after an illustrious career in Manhattan (she was named a celebrity chef in 2002 when she directed the kitchen at Arezzo). She paints the far wall of the dining room every season in a color she feels is appropriate for that time of year: yellow in summer, orange for fall; and in an all-white space, that vibrant blast of color lifts your spirits before you even order your Sangiovese. The piping on her chef’s jacket matches the color of that wall. It’s this kind of individualism that dictates the food at Aloi.
Among the appetizers, figs show up with gossamer-thin veal carpaccio and bits of goat cheese, while a surprise of ripe nectarines and blueberries perks up a salad of endive and arugula sharpened by shavings of salty pecorino cheese. A crab cake is crowned with an inverted, savory artichoke heart. This combination is set in the center of what looks like the spokes of a wheel made up of baby lettuce leaves and ragged-edged arugula, which comes from the chef’s home garden.
Entrées reveal that same creative tweaking of the traditional. Why leave Cornish hen alone, though roasted and deliciously seasoned, when you can add depth with a halo of thin luganega sausage? Let lobster poke its tail into fresh pea soup, into a corn and celery salad or play tag with chanterelle mushrooms in a maze of house-made pappardelle. These little notes of surprise make the food so enjoyable.
Whatever your choices, be sure one of them is pasta, definitely Aloi’s strong suit. Freshly made every day from flour imported from Italy, the dough is feathery light. Whether it was cavatelli sauced with sausage and peas, linguini tossed with clams, fettuccini bathed with “one hundred tomatoes” or spinach ravioli cosseted by caramelized onions and pancetta, all of the dishes were delicious, the sauces flavored by parsley, marjoram, thyme or basil.
Not everything on the menu hits the mark. A veal chop special one night looked spectacular but was leathery to the bite. A breaded sole was unfortunately overcooked, and, once, the wine was too warm. But the veal scaloppini with lemon slices and capers had a tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture; halibut in a bed of cherry tomatoes, broccoli rabe and black olives was richly rewarding; risotto with zucchini was so creamy, it was silky. A sea bass cooked in parchment paper with cockles, tomatoes, peppers and mushrooms was a revelation.
Every dessert was wonderful. The tiramisù was ethereal, sorbets sang of real fruit, and the apple crostada, paired with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, was perfect. The surprise was the flourless chocolate cake our friend insisted on ordering. Margherita’s version was impressive, light but not coy in its sweetness.
The atmosphere at Aloi relects a high-end, comfort-food mentality with lots of white on the tables and walls. The place can get noisy, since there is no carpeting and the low ceiling ricochets sound. Service is relaxed, too much so at times, but the staff know their food and wine and can help with suggestions. The wine list is balanced between affordable bottles and high-end pleasers like Super Tuscans, Barolos and Barbarescos. And the aromas will have you panting for dinner.
Hours: L: Tues.-Fri. D: Tues.-Sun.
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