Cotto Wine Bar (Stamford) – Food with Love from Italy

I finally returned to Cotto after a long hiatus and I am glad I did. The atmosphere was alive, the staff was friendly and knowledgeable and the food was very good. The chef recreates the cuisine reminiscent of numerous restaurants in Italy, straightforward Italian food that allows the flavors of the ingredients to shine. Unlike many Fairfield County restaurants where you feel rushed, there was not one iota of pushiness at our table and from what I noticed with the staff interactions at other tables, this is the owners’ philosophy.

Upon arrival on a snowy and icy evening we were met by one of the owners, Silvy Ridolfi, and escorted to our table by her husband and owner Claudio. The interior is beautiful, with photos of Silvy’s movie actress mother (she appeared in films with Sophia Loren) adorning one entire wall, a long bar the other, with a rounded wood covered ceiling creating a very European, slick environment

Once seated we were approached by our server, and over the course of our meal he proved to be an incredible source of information, recommendations and exceptional service. He guided us to several of his favorite dishes and was very competent in his wine selections to pair with the meal.

The menu is large and diverse and divided into several sections including Tapas, charcuterie, cheeses, pastas (with a separate section for house made) pizzas and entrees. We narrowed our choices and decided on a few tapas to begin the meal.

The “New Zealand Lamb Chops” were the best of the appetizers that we sampled. They were prepared to our requested medium-rare and accented with rosemary, garlic, Balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and served with arugula. The meat was rich and flavorful and worked well with the Balsamic. The “Grilled Calamari” was flash grilled and topped with a Balsamic reduction and served with lemon wedges and arugula. I recommend squeezing lemon juice on the calamari to balance the flavors. The “San Marzano Veal Meatballs” were served with a touch of tomato sauce and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano. The portion of six small meatballs were firm in texture with good flavor. The sauce was a nice complement to the herb-spiced meatballs.

Of the four entrees we sampled, the best was the “Organic Roasted Chicken.” The half chicken was roasted in the wood fired oven and delivered a crispy skin and a delicious and succulent interior. The freshly made “Tagliatelle” was served with wild boar ragu and was very good. The house made pasta was silky in texture and thick enough to handle the robust tomato sauce. I would prefer a little less sauce to allow for the rich flavor of the boar to come more to the forefront. The special “Ravioli” for the evening was a spinach ravioli served in a creamy cheese sauce and we asked if a Pomodoro sauce could be substituted. The raviolis were plump and excellent, and worked very well with the rich tomato flavor of the Pomodoro.

Save room for dessert. We ordered two to share, the molten chocolate cake and the bread pudding, both served with pistachio gelato. They were excellent. The chocolate cake oozed a delicious chocolaty center and the pistachio gelato was a great complement. The bread pudding included raisins and was fantastic, offering crispy and moist textures, sweetness and then offset by the pistachio gelato.

It was a great, fun evening of very good food in a relaxed and vibrant atmosphere. I really enjoyed Cotto and look forward to another meal.

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