Vespa Restaurant recently introduced its new culinary team, Executive Chef David White and Pastry Chef Susanne Berne to create a vibrant menu to complement the relaxing décor and wonderful water view. The duo will collaborate in creating a menu for the full dining experience, from the first bite of Antipasti to the last bite of Dolci. In addition, the restaurant recently unveiled its lunch service, a new dessert menu and the commencement of “Apertivo Hour” from 4-6PM, offering half price beer, wine, $8 select cocktails and a small plates menu.
Chef David joins Vespa from The Inn at Pound Ridge, where he was the Chef de Cuisine. Prior to working with Chef Jean-Georges, he sharpened his skills in Europe before returning to the US to further refine his talents with award-winning Andrew Masciangelo at Savona. Chef Berne’s passion for the culinary arts was sparked by a pastry course in college before receiving her Grande Diploma in Pastry Arts in 1999. She subsequently won back-to-back ACF Florida Pastry Challenges in 2003 & 2005.
CTbites recently visited Vespa to sample a variety of the new culinary team’s Italian-inspired creations.
The highlight of the meal was the Spicy Lumache (pictured above). The house-made, snail-shell shaped lumache was perfect for Vespa’s chunky and robust heirloom tomato sauce, which included broccoli rabe, large chunks of spicy sausage, charred fennel, and sprinkled with sourdough breadcrumbs. The heirloom tomato sauce delivered a touch of spiciness from the addition of Calabrian chilies and included chunks of spicy sausage, with additional heat from a smidgen of red pepper flakes. The broccoli rabe was soft and void of all its inherent bitterness, and the fennel added a wonderful earthiness. This was an outstanding preparation and one of my favorite pasta combinations in a long time.
We sampled three dishes from the “Secondi” section, the best was the Short Rib Sandwich (seen above). A toasted, buttery brioche was filled with two good-sized pieces of short rib, a slice of lettuce and a mound of slaw served along with shoe-string fries. The meat was braised low and slow for over two hours, and was soft, delicious and incredibly flavorful. The slaw was creamy and delivered a surprise, a nice little kick from the inclusion of Calabrian chili and the brioche was a great choice for its butteriness. This was one of the most incredible sandwiches I have eaten in a long time.
The Crab Cake was excellent. Two large crab-laden patties were crispy on the exterior and soft and moist on the interior. It was almost exclusively crab meat, very little filler, with a bit of crunch and sweetness from a few finely diced peppers. The two crab cakes were covered with shredded vegetables that were lightly pickled to balance the dish.
The last Secondi was the Poached Eggs. Two poached eggs were joined on the plate with grilled asparagus, pancetta and finished with a few slices of smoked salmon. The poached eggs were cooked well and the grilled asparagus were tasty but the salmon was less than appealing in both texture and taste, and the pancetta was overwhelmed by the sherry and was too sour.
We next moved to a trio of desserts currently on the menu and one that will join shortly. My favorite of the current choices was the Peanut Butter Crunch Cake. This cylinder shaped extravaganza began with a layer of banana cake, topped with layers of milk chocolate peanut butter crunch, and peanut butter cremeaux, all encased in a chocolate glaze and served with a scoop of chocolate gelato from Gelatissimo in New Canaan. The soft banana cake was moist and delicious with the middle layer was reminiscent of a Butterfinger candy bar with a crunchy-gooey texture. The chocolate glaze was outstanding and the gelato was a great complement to the other ingredients. The cake was joined with a few slices of bruléed bananas to further accentuate the banana cake. This dessert delivered a balance of one of my favorite combinations…banana, chocolate and peanuts.
The Pistachio Opera Cake presented a completely different profile. Three layers of pistachio sponge cake were intermingled with a layer of pistachio meringue and a layer of chocolate ganache, finished with a pistachio cream. It was presented alongside sour cherry jam and a scoop of chocolate gelato. The meringue presented a textural contrast to the soft cake and the sour cherry jam was a great addition to balance the other delightful ingredients.
The last of the current desserts was a plate of Family style Zeppoles paired with chocolate, caramel and a white Sangria sauces. The warm ricotta donuts were crispy on the exterior and soft and moist on the interior. Although deep fried, these were virtually oil-free to the taste, but they were a bit bland. They were sprinkled with powdered sugar, which added a hint of sweetness before dipping into one of the sauces. The three sauces were all delicious and delivered the required sweetness.
Chef Berne saved the best for last with her Coconut Panna Cotta, a tribute to the Pina Colada. This delightfully refreshing dessert was served in a glass ramekin and began with a perfectly prepared coconut panna cotta, which was smooth and luxurious. The second layer was the Sangria gelée which added a wonderful sweet component with the inclusion of passion fruit and white peaches. The two layers were topped with chunks of spiced pineapple. This was a fantastic combinations of traditional tropical flavors that were outstanding.
Overall Vespa 2.0 has a wonderful cuisine to enjoy in the beautiful and low-key environment with a relaxing water view of Saugatuck River.
2A Post Road West – Westport, Connecticut.
Short Rib Sandwich
Peanut butter crunch cake
Coconut Panna Cotta
Pistachio Opera Cake
Did Not Like