Mary Kate Hogan
The Cos Cobber
Before farm-to-table and fusion, gastropubs and gelaterias, there was that breed of restaurant that served good old-fashioned, all-American food. Remember the kind of place where home cooking trumped haute cuisine? Where you could pop in any time, grab a bite and bump into someone you know? It’s not so common in Greenwich these days.
As the casual, family-style eatery has become in short supply, Chris and Caren Frattaroli, who are co-owners of The Cos Cobber, saw an opportunity. Their restaurant revives the neighborhood joint, filling a void for people missing old local haunts like the Horseneck Tavern, Tumbledown Dick’s and the Chopping Block. “Our whole premise was to bring back a piece of Greenwich, to be like the places that people loved and grew up with,” says Chris, or Fratt, as he’s known to friends. (In fact, the place is named after the original Cos Cobber, an A-frame diner famous for its 15-cent burgers that operated a block down the Post Road in the ’50s and ’60s.)
Though too young to have eaten at the original restaurant, Chris and Caren (Vizzo) were both raised in Greenwich and have big families that have lived here for decades. Now the town natives are bringing new energy to the spot that was originally the Country Squire and more recently the Landmark Diner, in a space freshly renovated by Frattaroli Development. In the evenings, Chris is on hand to pour beer or wine for customers and lend an ear to regulars, while Caren checks on each table personally, making sure that everyone is enjoying the meal. “We want to get to know people, know their names and know what they want to eat,” says Chris, who has long dreamed of owning a place like this. “I’ve always wanted to have a really great restaurant, a place that has plates overflowing with waffles and pancakes for breakfast, sandwiches piled high with pastrami, really great burgers and also beer and wine.”
After a soft launch this summer, The Cos Cobber team unveiled its full menu this fall—“a collaboration of everything we like to eat,” says Chris. It includes diner classics and specials soon to come. While the new Cos Cobber is nostalgic, it has a fresh, New Englandy decor with cream-colored beadboard on the walls, big comfortable booths, nautical pendant lights and black-and-white photos of historic Cos Cob scenes on the walls. Two flat-screen TVs provide background entertainment, inviting diners to linger over football games and helping parents of preschoolers cope with witching hour by airing kids’ shows in the early evening.
In fact, my daughter’s favorite, Olivia, happened to be on one of the screens as we pulled up to The Cos Cobber for a recent supper. She could hardly wait to climb into the booth and was happily occupied while we enjoyed a relaxing dinner and bottle of wine with another couple. From a list of appetizers that’s bound to be popular with the football crowd but also includes lighter choices like tuna tartare and stuffed portabella, we chose calamari, a hearty portion and tasty version of the staple, and spinach dip with tortilla chips, a creamy, tangy rendition like the kind that always gets devoured at a potluck. The wings are terrific, with meat that easily pulls off the bone and a sauce that’s spicy but not burn-your-mouth hot, along with the requisite celery and blue cheese.
A must-order salad is The Cos Cobber: a blend of fresh greens topped with a fan of sliced avocado, thick cucumber pieces, ripe tomatoes and crispy bacon, as well as gorgonzola cheese, lightly dressed and not at all heavy.
Among the seafood entrées, I especially liked the Salmon Napoleon, served in a lemon-wine cream sauce with fresh spinach and lush mashed potatoes. The lobster roll is the purist version, simply seafood and melted butter on a toasted bun. Fish and chips are crispy and so substantial that my husband, who has a major appetite, couldn’t finish all of it.
As you would expect from a Frattaroli-Vizzo pairing, the Italian classics are right on the money. “My father wanted linguini with clams,” Caren explains, “so it’s on the menu.” We liked the chicken scarapiello, a juicy version with a heap of cherry peppers on top adding a nice bit of spice, and potatoes, zucchini and squash on the side to ground the heat. (Note: All the vegetables here were fresh and well prepared—this is definitely not a greasy spoon.) There are several pasta options, and we all savored bites of the Rigatoni Calabria, a zesty dish with sundried tomatoes, broccoli rabe, sausage, white beans and plenty of garlic. Good dessert choices include a sinful chocolate-peanut butter pie and apple cobbler a la mode.
Prices at today’s Cos Cobber may not be at the 15-cent-burger level, but they are certainly reasonable. The most expensive bottle on the brief wine list is the Pinot Noir Francis Ford Coppola at $35. At this rate, you can afford to eat out more often.
“Our focus was to make it an inviting place with good food and good prices,” says Chris. To that end, The Cos Cobber crew is planning special events for the Super Bowl, a charity dinner to benefit the neighboring Kids in Crisis as well as ongoing Friday-night teacher happy hours and Monday-night-football drink specials. In the meantime, for the every day, this welcoming spot is an easy answer to the age-old question: Where should we go tonight?