Restaurateurs reach for the sky

After a full-house debut on July 30, Italian restaurant Cielo has officially filled the space at 142 Old Ridgefield Road left void by Luca Ristorante Italiano in May.
Cielo — meaning “sky” in Italian — is decorated with cloudscapes and features curtainless windows that allow natural light to permeate the dining room.
“We wanted it to have a more airy, open and modern feel,” said Emi Basaran, who opened the restaurant together with her husband, Hakan.
Hakan has had almost every job in the restaurant business, from cleaning and busing tables to cooking and managing.
Before opening his own restaurants with Emi, he managed Nello, an Italian restaurant on Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He also reopened the Oak Bar at the landmark Plaza Hotel and Le Caprice at the Pierre Hotel.
Hakan and Emi opened Carpe Diem in New York City in 2010 and relocated it to Emi’s hometown of New Canaan in December 2011.
While working in New Canaan, the couple also opened and later sold the tapas restaurant, Picador.
Both New Canaan restaurants received favorable reviews from the New York Times. Carpe Diem earned a “good” rating, while Picador earned a “very good” one.
But unfortunately for Hakan and Emi, and some would say for the town of New Canaan’s restaurant scene, the landlord who leased the space for Carpe Diem decided to sell the building, now to become the new New Canaan post office.
Having already sold the successful Picador, the Basarans were in the market for a new location.
Emi had known about Wilton because she played against its teams in soccer when she was growing up.
With Luca recently vacated and the couple living on North Wilton Road just eight minutes away, relocating to Wilton Center made perfect sense, Emi said.
Hakan and Emi also share a love for Wilton’s “small-town feeling,” making the decision to move even easier.
“It’s a small community,” said Emi, “but they support their local businesses. When new businesses pop up, they show their support. They’re very outgoing, I must say.”
“People in Wilton love going out to eat,” Hakan added. “They love having nice restaurants in their town, and it’s exciting to be here.”

The food

Hakan is Turkish, but excepting the Spanish-style Picador, all of his restaurants have served Italian food.
“It’s a comfort food,” Hakan said. “It can be very elegant, but you can also eat it every day of the week if you want.”
The food at Cielo is of the northern Italian variety.
According to Hakan, their specialty is the Branzino Al Sale, which the menu describes as “roasted branzino (with) white wine, lemon, capers, broccoli (and) couscous.”
“It’s Mediterranean,” Hakan said. “It’s not from the ocean; it’s from the sea, giving it a recognizable taste. We bake it in sea salt, crust it with herbs and serve the whole fish.
Another special item on the Cielo menu, said Emi, is the Paglia e Fieno Al Gratin, described as “green and white linguine (with) Parmesan, pecorino, prosciutto San Daniele, peas (and) cream.”
“I’ve only seen green and white pasta at one or two other restaurants in New York City,” she said.
Emi also said there is a certain distinguishing factor to Cielo’s food arrived at by Hakan’s meticulous efforts to procure better-than-average ingredients.
“I think our food stands out for its quality. Unlike other restaurants, Hakan goes from vendor to vendor, place to place, and hand picks our ingredients,” she said.
“All of our pastas, sauces and deserts are homemade,” added Hakan.
And while the food seems to possess a distinct character, so does the menu.
Unlike some restaurants that feature static menus, Cielo’s menu changes with the seasons.
“In autumn, for example,” said Hakan, “we will have lasagna, veal ossobuco, lamb ossobuco and butternut squash.”
The Basarans have more planned for the future than just serving good Italian food.
They want to do takeout, cater and host private events.
“We could do baby showers, bridal showers and large scale lunch takeout for offices,” Emi said.
Some of this they’ve already done.
Open for just two weeks, Cielo has already hosted a private party for 31 that featured a three-piece band.
As for the finishing touches, the couple is waiting on more artwork to arrive. Cushions for the chairs were recently delivered as well.