Home Fairfield Cugine’s Italian brings an old-school dining experience to Stamford

Cugine’s Italian brings an old-school dining experience to Stamford

Grilled langoustines with fennel and citrus salad and gremolata.

Cugine’s Italian, located in Stamford’s Harbor Point on 121 Towne St., had its grand opening on June 10, with a preview dinner for the media held on June 8.

The restaurant is co-owned by John and Morgan Nealon, who also own The Lila Rose and Taco Daddy, also at 121 Towne St. Rick O’Connor, who had gained experience over the years in Japanese restaurant Kawa Ni in Westport, Moderne Barn in Armonk and Marea in Manhattan, is also a co-owner of the new restaurant and its executive chef.

“He’s worked hard to create a fresh and seasonal ingredient-driven menu featuring many familiar favorites, but also many new dishes,” said Morgan Nealon of Chef O’Connor and his abilities.

Tuna foie with shaved frozen foie, torched, pickled strawberry. Photos by Edward Arriaza.

In contrast to the modern styling and conventionally inviting atmosphere of neighboring Taco Daddy, Cugine’s Italian goes for a significantly subdued, old-school presentation: dim lighting courtesy of chandeliers, green-and-gold tables and chairs, rows of black-and-white photographs in the back and a portrait of Frank Sinatra exiting a helicopter with drink in hand are designed to transport guests back to a bygone era of dining.

Chef O’Connor served a variety of dishes to those in attendance, including a seafood dish of the crudo variety: tuna foie with shaved frozen foie, torched, pickled strawberry. Lobster was served in the form of grilled langoustines with fennel and citrus salad and gremolata.

The bar at Cugine’s Italian. Photos by Edward Arriaza.

Patrons of the preview dinner were also treated to meatballs served with parmesan, marinara sauce and breadcrumbs. Pasta offerings included wild boar gnocchi; spaghetti boia served with egg yolk, chili flakes, marinara, cherry tomatoes and parsley; and ricotta cavatelli pesto served with basil, garlic, cream and parmesan.

Guests also dined on zucchini shaved raw and grilled with mint salsa verde; spinache and ricotta crespelle; and branzino served with roasted potato wedges, roasted red peppers, and Castelvestrano olives. Lastly, for dessert, Chef O’Connor served guests panna cotta, pistachio cannoli, passion fruit semifredo and tiramisu with shaved chocolate.

Guests will also have a variety of drinks to enhance their dishes.

“On the beverage side, I leaned into my background to put together a menu of refined, yet familiar cocktails that will complement Chef Rick’s dishes,” Morgan Nealon said.

This included Balthazar, composed of gin, Lillet, lemon and honey, as well as The Savoy, served with bourbon, amaro, maraschino liquor and orange. For martinis, Cugine’s Italian offers Page Six, a pistachio espresso martini, and Jimmy Weston’s, a vodka or gin with olive juice, pickled jalapeno and blue cheese.

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