Real-deal Italian food in a funky, cool place in Norwalk is winning over foodies with its good taste.
Photographs by Thomas McGovern
An Italian tapas restaurant/wine bar/pizzeria tucked away along Norwalk’s Wall Street, Bar Sugo has been discovered. The funky/cool interiors will take you back in time to your favorite out-of-the way SoHo wine bar. Instead of kitschy Italian décor, the designers gave a wink to Italy with souped-up red-and-white checked floors, exposed-brick and paneled walls, a tin ceiling, zinc bar and gas-fired pizza oven.
When you walk in, it feels like you’re stepping into a party that’s just heating up. Waiters scoot past with trays loaded with chilled martinis, red wine and craft beers; classic rock plays on the sound system and you can feel the pulsating energy heating up the space.
If you have a big group, reserve the elevated ten-seater near the retractable plate-glass window in advance. Party of four to six? Head over to the cozy, red banquets. Just two, or flying solo? Snag a perch at the bar and watch the pizza maker and mixologist do their thing.
What raises the bar at Bar Sugo? It’s the rustic-meets-modern Italian fare, created by Pasquale “Pat” Pascarella, a dynamic young chef who made his bones in the kitchens of Mario Batali’s Esca and Scott Conant’s L’Impero, and then honed his skills as a gourmet pie master at Cortina Pizzeria in Bridgeport and Norwalk. These days, he’s all about sourcing the best local ingredients from Sport Hill Farm in Easton, Millstone Farm in Wilton and other Connecticut purveyors. He says, “This summer, you’ll see more local and some cool concoctions that you will not find anywhere else.”
Here, you can find your bliss in homemade pasta (cavatelli with traditional bolognese, sage velouté and ricotta), but the real fun lies in mixing, matching and tasting Chef Pat’s bold, seasonal creations with friends. The portions are designed for sampling, so be adventurous.
Get the ball rolling with a well-priced Chianti or Dolcetto and few of the seventeen Italian “chicchetti” (small bites). These change with the seasons, and will whet your appetite for what is yet to come. Winter favorites include short-rib arancini; roasted Brussels sprouts with smoked sea salt and pearl onions; and asparagus with duck prosciutto. The spring/summer choices include Satur Farms asparagus, served with a poached egg from Sport Hill Farm (Easton), buttermilk dressing and black pepper; Stonington scallops with a fricasee of morel mushrooms and fava beans; and Millstone Farm (Wilton) heirloom tomato salad with cucumbers and Pascarella’s own opal basil. Try one for $7.50, three for $20 and five for $30.
Next, split a thirteen-inch brick-oven pie (like the caramelized onion, sopressata, fontina and aged balsamic), a salad (try the beets with goat cheese, grapefruit in pistachio vinaigrette), and a fresh mozzarella dish (there are five types: bufala, smoked, burrata, Wisconsin and homemade; each arrives with its perfect complement of truffle honey, fig jam or twelve-year-old balsamic).
Don’t forget the meatballs—Mommy’s, pork, rabbit, Ox Hollow, Crispy Veal and Ricotta, or Sugo’s. Can’t decide? Do the Meatball Tasting ($17) and sample all six.
If you have room, ask about the homemade desserts. “In the summer,” Pascarella says, “they are all based on seasonal stuff, so think berries, cherries, peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines.”
Warm weather means Bar Sugo will be open for lunch, dinner and Italian Sunday Brunch with Bellinis. Outdoor café dining will be popping up on the sidewalk and a cozy outdoor lounge space in back will allow patrons to linger after dinner. The place is hot, so it’s best to go early, or make a reservation.
102 Wall Street, Norwalk; 203-956-7134
Hours: Open for lunch and dinner all week; brunch on Sundays. Reservations are recommended for larger parties.