Terra Sole (Ridgefield) – Classic Italian with a Few Twists

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Terra Sole Ristorante is located in downtown Ridgefield, down the alley known as Big Shop Lane and sits atop another Ridgefield destination restaurant, Luc’s. The cuisine is based on Italian cuisine, with a few twists from the chef. Established in 2009, the restaurant is the brain-child of Lana and Pietro Polini. Petro was previously the general manager at Siena Ristorante in Stamford and brings his effervescent personality to each table he visits during the course of the evening. His family still resides in Puglia and Rimini, where they own and operate restaurants; serving the cuisine from southeast Italian is in his blood.

I was invited to a media event at the restaurant, and I am very thankful that I accepted. My colleague at CTbites had previously written a glowing review and I was excited to sample the chef’s cuisine. The interior is relaxing, with 55 seats in the main dining area and an additional 10 in the separate bar. There is a large patio where an additional 70 guests can enjoy the food, when the weather permits.

The evening started with a basket of bread, the focaccia is made on site and the other bread are delivered from Brooklyn. I dipped a piece of the bread in the olive oil and was transported to Italy…the olive oil was some of the best I have ever tasted. I asked Pietro about the olive oil and was informed that he imports it from Italy. This was a great start to the meal.

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After a plate of exceptional cheeses and charcuterie, we sampled several appetizers. The first was one of the specials for the evening, a tuna tartare. Large chunks of tuna sat atop a guacamole and fava beans, sitting in a pool of soy and finished with drizzles of wasabi cream. The al dente fava beans added an interesting textural contrast to the otherwise traditional presentation.

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This was followed by “Fichi Speck e Pistacchio.” Roasted California mission figs were wrapped in speck, and served with a dollop of whipped ricotta. toasted pistachios, and finished with a cherry sauce. This combination of sweet from the figs and the cherries was complemented by the salty speck. Served with a few slices of grilled bread this was a favorite of many at the table.

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The “Polpette” was the next dish, and the meat included in this appetizer changes regularly and range from beef to duck and foie gras. The current version is veal, and was served in a delightful San Marzano tomato sauce and finished with shaved Ricotta Salata and basil. The meatballs were delicious with a soft texture throughout.

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This was followed by the “Insalata di Cavoletti,” shaved miniature Brussels sprouts with toasted hazelnuts, crispy imported Pancetta in a truffle Parmigiano vinaigrette. It was served with Westfield goat cheese croquettes. The earthiness of the shredded sprouts was elevated by the addition of the truffle vinaigrette and additional crunch and saltiness from the pancetta. The highlight of this salad was the croquettes, that were soft, delicate and fantastic.

 

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We were also enjoyed two pastas; my favorite of the two was the Cavatelli. It was served with an incredibly deep and rich tomato sauce, that offered just a hint of spiciness.

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The other pasta was a Five Cheese Ravioli topped with a few sautéed mushrooms and drizzled with truffle oil. The pasta was the perfect thickness and the cheese-mushroom-truffle combination was fantastic, with the sautéed mushrooms highlighting the ingredients.

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My favorite dish of the entire night was the “Maile alla Scarpariello;” a double cut Berkshire pork chop stuffed with organic spinach & Westfield goat cheese, finished with Scarpariello sauce, organic escarole, and goat cheese mashed potatoes. The chop was rubbed with a spicy mixture and when paired with the hot & sweet cherry peppers and the sauce created a delicious combination. The mashed potatoes were delicious and the escarole rounded the dish nicely. As much as I loved this presentation, I would have liked it even more without the goat cheese stuffing.

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The “Salmone allo Champagne” was also delicious. It included a Champagne poached king salmon topped with fresh horseradish and paprika and served with organic red quinoa & roasted organic vegetables. The salmon was moist and delicious and was a great complement to the red quinoa. The various vegetable added an earthy component.

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The other entrée was a pan roasted black cod with celery root and mashed potato puree, two varieties of Gaeta olives, capers grape tomatoes, and a swath of sweet pea and mint puree. Thick cut filet was incredibly moist and seasoned, and the Mediterranean style presentation created a plate of vibrant flavors. The sweet pea puree was a nice contrast to the other bold ingredients.

Throughout the dinner Pietro introduced wines he personally chose to pair with each course from one of the restaurant’s two hundred labels.

Overall, the food at Terra Sole was delicious, each dish started with classic Italian dishes and in many cases, were slightly modified. The décor, the service, the ambience and the exuberant host all make for a wonderful evening.

This was a media event. The author was not compensated for this review; the meal was provided without charge. The opinions contained herein are solely those of the author.

 

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My Top Five+ Fairfield County CT Dishes from 2013

2013 was an amazing year for food lovers in Fairfield County…several great restaurants opened, several chefs moved and are now creating incredible meals in new locations, several more restaurants announced their openings and I cannot wait.

During the year I enjoyed hundreds of courses in Connecticut and on my travels. With all of those flavors and textures, it was an incredibly difficult task in choosing my five favorite Fairfield County dishes for 2013. In fact, I did not since I couldn’t whittle the last one from this list, so it is six, plus three special categories.

Here are my favorite dishes from 2013:

  • elm – The “Tagliatelli Neri” is over the top umami heaven. The dish begins with hand-made cuttlefish ink pasta topped with Peekeytoe crab, sea urchin, sea urchin butter, Calabrian chili, garlic bread crumbs and brightened with Meyer lemon juice and oil. The flavors dance on the palate and textures from the silky pasta to the crunchy garlic bread crumbs, are like none I experienced anywhere else.
  • Match – “Pho” is an incredible Vietnamese soup that Fairfield County needs to embrace. The broth is made from oxtails, ginger, onion, cinnamon, and star anise. When served, thinly sliced rib eye is added and cooked and then finished with cilantro, noodles and Sriracha. This dish is absolutely magical in its complexity of flavors and textures.
  • South End – “Nonna’s Meatballs” are comprised of pork and veal (that’s right, no beef) that are lightly mixed with tons of sheep’s milk ricotta and Parmesan cheese, then lightly fried and cooked in a crushed tomato sauce. The soft and tender texture of South End’s meatballs separates them from all of the others…they are fantastic.
  • Nola –The “Poached Lobster & Cornbread Waffle” is one of my favorite combinations in the area with butter-poached lobster, Queso Fresco cheese, topped with a brown sauce served with sweet, crispy waffles. The outstanding flavors are complemented by the best brown sauce north of Mr. B’s Bistro in the French Quarter.
  • Mama’s Boy – The “Shrimp and Grits” just keep getting better. Perfectly prepared U15 white shrimp, red peppers, scallions, and Tasso sit atop Tennessee sourced grits and finished with a simple garlic butter, white wine, and cream sauce. The grits are my favorite and when paired with the shrimp create an outstanding dish.
  • Bar Sugo – The “Spaghetti Neri” includes squid ink pasta, smoked tomato sauce, shrimp, bread crumbs and Bottarga. The pasta and shrimp are complemented by the smokiness and spiciness of the tomato sauce, but the entire presentation is elevated by the Bottarga, which adds a delightful brininess to the dish.

Top Hamburger – The Whelk – Over 70 hamburgers comprised my 2013 Hamburger search and The Whelk’s hamburger was my favorite. Full of rich flavor, encased in a great bun and topped with some great cheese, onions and house made pickles.

Top Bolognese – Cava Wine Bar – My colleague at CTBites, Lou Gorfain, and I scoured lower Fairfield County for our Bolognese round-up and my personal favorite was Cava’s Gnocchi with Bolognese. What set this apart from the others was the soft, ricotta gnocchi that were pillows of deliciousness.

Top Pizza – Locali – This newcomer uses age-old pizza-making techniques, San Marzano DOP tomatoes and house made mozzarella. The flavors, texture and the perfect amount of char from the wood burning oven produce some of the best Neapolitan pizza this side of the Campo dei Fiori.