Bar Sügo – “food that Italians eat every day”

The culinary landscape of downtown Norwalk improved significantly with the opening of Bar Sügo, offering Italian cuisine that Chef/Owner Pat Pascarella’s describes as “food that Italians eat every day.”

Bar Sügo’s menu features a wide variety of cicchetti, e primi, and meatballs as well as larger servings of pasta and pizzas to accompany several beers on tap, including Allagash White, Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Strubbe Pils or Thornbridge Raven, or one of the numerous bottles of wine. The interior features a large red and white tiled floor, a copper-topped bar, rustic walls covered with large canvassed photos, with one wall dedicated to displaying the restaurant’s diverse selection of wines…the setting allows for a vibrant atmosphere to complement the delicious food. Chef Pat will prepare variations of Italian cuisine using fresh, flavorful ingredients and keep the price of each of the dishes under $20.

Pascarella graduated from the New York French Culinary Institute and subsequently joined the renowned kitchens of Mario Batali’s Esca and Scott Conant’s L’Impero before moving to Connecticut to cook at Bella Luna, Grand and Saltwater Grill, and most recently Pizzeria Cortina. He received local recognition as the winner of Stamford’s first Iron Chef Competition in 2008. Joining him in Bar Sügo’s kitchen is Sous Chef Joseph Italiano, who joins from Danny Meyer’s Eleven Madison Park where he was the Garde Manger. Together the duo is creating a delicious culinary tour of Italy.

The “salumi e formaggi” contain many wonderful house-made specialties including lardo, duck prosciutto and bresaola plus a delightful prosciutto di Parma and La Tur cheese.

The “cicchettis” (small snacks) include a wide range of options and guests can customize the choices into a mini-tasting menu.

The highlight was the maple glazed crispy pork belly, perfectly braised in a grape-accented beer and topped with a maple glaze and served with lentils and pickled and seared onions. The flavors of the dish seamlessly balanced the richness of the meat with the sweet and sour onions with just a touch of earthiness from the lentils.

For a lighter choice, I enjoyed the baby octopus served on a bed of frisée and the scallops al forno. The octopus was incredibly tender and the flavors were brightened by the addition of a hint of lemon. The scallops were perfectly seared and were accompanied by several of Chef Pat’s purées. On my first visit I enjoyed kabocha squash and apple purées while on the second visit, a celery root purée was substituted for the squash. Both were finished with droplets of 25-year old balsamic vinegar that added a slight sour background to the dish.

The “insalate e primi” contain several salads plus a host of delicious small plates

My favorite was the braised short ribs. The beef was braised in red wine, balsamic vinegar and tomato and presented atop faro, kabocha squash purée and garnished with a delightful gremolata. The meat was moist and extremely tender while the texture maintained the meat’s integrity. The squash and faro added a delightful earthiness plus the crunchy texture of the faro complemented the creaminess of the squash purée. The gremolata was accented with a little lemon and horseradish to give sour and spicy components.

Other options were a creamy Burrata with white anchovies, oil cured olives and cherry tomato confit, which was a light and delicious choice and the mozzarella “in carozza” (between bread) that was likewise served with the cherry tomato confit and finished with a broccoli rabe pesto. The contrasting crispy exterior and creamy interior of the mozzarella worked well with the sweet cherry tomatoes and the full-flavored rabe pesto.

The “meatballs” currently include six choices and Chef Pat offers a “meatball tasting.” The options ranged from a traditional “mommy’s meatballs” that were a delicious all-beef variety to my favorite “veal sweetbread meatballs with pearl onion agrodolce” that combined the slight tartness of the sweetbreads offset by the sweet and sour onions. The “pork meatballs” were incredibly moist and served with a whipped ricotta and the “Ox Hollow’s beef meatballs” offered the deepest flavor of the six choices.

The highlights of the menu were the “house-made pastas” that showcased Chef Pat’s talents, with the pasta cooked just short of al dente. I enjoyed the extra level of texture that each of the pastas brought to these dishes.

Chef Pat’s simple spaghetti with tomato and basil was full of bright tomato flavors and when combined with the meatballs from the meatball sampler plate, created a memorable and diverse spaghetti and meatball dinner.

The Bolognese sauce was outstanding and served with either Pappardelle or Cavatelli. Each presented a slightly different textural quality with the traditional pappardelle supplementing the rich sauce while the cavatelli played an equal co-star role. The Bolognese is one of the best in the area and included a touch of mascarpone cheese to create a silky finish.

The cavatelli with house-made sausage, broccoli rabe and almonds was a light and enjoyable alternative. The chicken stock based sauce was light and mild and complemented the other robust ingredients. The taggliatelle with wild mushrooms, farmer’s cheese and black truffles was another excellent choice and combined a large and diverse selection of wild mushrooms in a rich broth and finished with farmer’s cheese.

And pizza lovers can rest easier now that Chef Pat’s fantastic pizzas have returned and the new ovens are creating an even better crust. The pizza selections include many of my favorites from a simple Margherita that showcase the delicious tomato sauce and mozzarella to the ultra-extreme CTbites combination that includes Chef Pat’s delectable braised short ribs, potato, soft and sweet caramelized onions and topped with oozing eggs.

After only a few weeks, Bar Sügo is delivering outstanding Italian cuisine. As Chef Pat said, “this is the food I like to make”…and after sampling many of his dishes I say “this is the food we love to eat.”

Bar Sügo – 102 Wall Street – Norwalk, CT 06854 – 203.956.7134

This review was originally published on CTbites on October 28, 2012 at http://www.ctbites.com/home/2012/10/28/bar-sugo-opens-in-norwalk-w-authentic-italian.html

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South End – A “Modern Tavern” in New Canaan

In early July CTbites previewed the opening of South End, the newest addition to the New Canaan restaurant scene.  Nearly two months of frenzied activity has confirmed the local appreciation that the creative cuisine of Chef Nicholas Martschenko is alive on Pine Street.

Overseeing the front of the house is Keith Siskind, his business partner, and the duo redesigned the interior at South End to create a relaxing atmosphere by intertwining rustic charm with modern comfort. The tables are carefully arranged to allow for pleasant conversation and the overall noise level creates a vibrant buzz without overwhelming intrusion. With upwards of 85 seats, 30 of which are contained around the energetic bar area, South End offers pleasant ambience to enjoy the wonderful cuisine that emerges from the kitchen.

The duo’s ambition to create the “Modern Tavern” is a rousing success. Siskind developed an excellent relationship with two local breweries, New Canaan’s Charter Oak and Stamford’s Half Full (Bright Ale) and both are prominently displayed on the taps overlooking the bar. In addition to these local brews, South End’s taps are serving a Pilsner from Brooklyn Brewery and Palm, a Euro Pale Lager from Belgium. The bar is also stocked with numerous beers, liquors and wines.

While enjoying a beer, wine or cocktail and perusing the menu, you may want to consider nibbling and sharing two of South End’s wonderful appetizers; Nonna’s Meatballs, which are absolutely delicious, or a selection of Artisanal Meats and Cheeses, served on a piece of reclaimed wood.

One of my favorite hot appetizers was the trio of Prosciutto Wrapped Figs stuffed with goat cheese and served with blistered grapes and finished with Saba syrup. They were delectable with an outstanding flavor combination of the sweet figs offset by the saltiness of the prosciutto and the deep sweet-sour composition of the Saba syrup.

The recently introduced Roasted PEI Mussels were served in a tomato and fennel broth that was slightly thickened with rouille and served with slices of grilled garlic bread. This dish delivered a fantastic combination of flavors; the tomatoes adding a sweet quality to the tender mussels while the fennel added a delightful licorice accent to the broth.

I recommend South End’s Heirloom Tomato Salad (end of the season upon us) that includes several varieties of seasonally ripe tomatoes, a touch of a tomato gelee, plus a tiny scoop of basil ice cream sitting atop a slice of mozzarella. The flavors of the tomatoes were sweet and delicious and when combined with the mozzarella and basil ice cream and a little of the pesto created a wonderful balance of flavors and textures. This was a refreshing and delightful dish.

My favorite appetizer / entrée was the Grilled Fresh Bacon, served atop mustard spaetzle, and paired with peach chutney and a sherry sauce. The meat was slow-braised and incredibly moist. The sherry sauce was brushed over the meat to create a wonderful balance of flavors and the slightly crisp edges of the spaetzle were a great offset to its soft texture. The peach chutney added a sweet and delicious complement to the slightly sour sherry sauce.

Chef Martschenko’s talent to create incredible pasta dishes was evident in several of the pasta dishes that I enjoyed. All of the pastas are house-made and shows the passion he developed as the Executive Chef at i Trulli.

My favorite pasta was the Tagliatelle Bolognese, a version that should remain the cornerstone of South End’s ever-changing menu. The pasta was the perfect thickness to handle the rich flavors of the veal, pork, and beef based Bolognese. The sauce was a traditional preparation and finished with rosemary and basil. On each visit this dish was ordered by at least one person at our table and in every instance the entire table tasted and thoroughly enjoyed the rich flavors of the sauce combined with the texture of the pasta.

Another recommended choice is the Veal Cannelloni, house-made crepes stuffed with veal, spinach and ricotta cheese and served with a Sicilian pistachio sauce.  A second recommendation is one of several variations of the Orrechiette, whether with a delicious braised rabbit or ground Italian sausage. The sauce that accompanies the Orrechiette changes often and I have enjoyed the braised rabbit as well as the sausage and broccoli rabe.

The entrées include selections of fish, meats and poultry. Three of the entrees that I thoroughly enjoyed included the Roasted Amish Chicken, the Grilled Pork Chop and the Scottish Organic Salmon.

The Roasted Chicken was described by Chef Martschenko as “the epitome of the modern tavern” cuisine. It was served atop spinach plus a wide assortment of mushrooms. The tarragon jus was a perfect complement to the perfectly roasted chicken. The chicken was succulent and the skin was crisped to perfection. The mashed potatoes were served in an iron crock and were whipped with oil and finished with butter and cream; totally decadent and absolutely delicious.

The Pork chop is first slow braised, then finished on the grill and served with diced potatoes (sweet and russet) plus spinach; the cooking method created a perfectly consistent and juicy doneness to the meat and the quick grill added a textural difference. The sherry sauce was outstanding, reduced almost to a consistency of a demi-glace, with intense flavors and perfectly complemented the pork, the crispy potatoes and the bacon.

For a lighter choice, the Salmon is a delightful option. The asparagus vinaigrette brought the entire dish together and was served with a variety of beans and peas, potatoes and a wonderful selection of mushrooms. The salmon was incredibly moist on the interior and the skin was perfectly crisped.

Chef Markschenko is also preparing scrumptious desserts including the South End Sundae and Raspberry/Nectarine Cobbler. The Sundae pairs pistachio and vanilla ice creams, a fudgy chocolate sauce, Luxardo cherries, roasted almonds, and is served with an anise biscotti. The ice cream was delicious, but the highlight was the Luxardo cherries; and when covered with some of the rich fudge, was a perfect ending to the meal. The Cobbler delivered a perfect balance of crunchy and smooth, with the fruits baked to maintain a crisp texture, the sweet streusel topping added addition crunchiness and the smooth toasted almond ice cream created a perfect partner to the cobbler.

After a mere two months, South End is a welcoming restaurant in New Canaan serving delicious and constantly changing choices. Chef Martschenko continues to develop flavors and combinations for his guests in New Canaan enjoy while Siskind has created a relaxing and friendly environment for all to enjoy. The New Canaan restaurant footprint now extends to Pine Street with the addition of South End.

–          South End – 36 Pine Street – New Canaan, CT, 06840    –

203-966-5200

Originally publishes on http://www.ctbites.com on  September 30, 2012

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