Check out these seven new and noteworthy Connecticut restaurants, from a Mexican mezcal and tequila bar in West Hartford to a family-friendly Italian spot in Norwalk near the Maritime Aquarium.
El Santo in West Hartford Center, which opened in May, specializes in tequila and mezcal, with a menu inspired by the dishes of Mexico City. Diners will find tacos filled with ribeye, al pastor, birria, fish and shrimp, along with entrees like enchiladas, fajitas and cochinita pibil. A particular emphasis on seafood dishes spotlights ceviche and aguachile, arroz con mariscos and pescado zarandeado (grilled whole fish.) Cocktails include a mezcal-based Negroni and a smoked Paloma, as well as six specialty flavored margaritas.
970 Farmington Ave., 860-206-4698, @elsantoct.
In April, father and son John and Vito Fornarelli opened a second outpost of their downtown Hartford Italian restaurant in Colchester. The menu features appetizers like eggplant rollatini, Sicilian calamari and braciole; pastas, including ravioli and spaghetti with meatballs, and entrees like veal marsala, chicken parmesan with vodka sauce and Fornarelli’s lemon chicken over polenta.
112 Halls Hill Road, 860-531-9160, @fornarellis
Constantino's, Robyn and Michael Bordes’ “passion project," recently opened in the former Stateline Deli space with a menu of pizzas, salads, appetizers, sandwiches, pastas and Italian-inspired entrees. Pizza will be the star of the menu, with options like "basic cheese" buffalo chicken, veggie, Sicilian and what Bordes says will become Constantino's signature item, a "4-corner" Sicilian-style pizza baked in a smaller pan that ensures the desirable edge pieces. For dessert, enjoy several flavors of ice cream and Italian ice.
699 W. Putnam Ave., 203-681-2316, @constantinosofgreenwich.
Mamma Bella Cucina opened its doors May 2 near Norwalk’s Maritime Aquarium, taking the space recently vacated by RHK Seafood Boil & Bar. The menu features traditional Italian fare and dishes with modern twists, aiming to be a family-friendly spot that's also a destination for casual dinners and drinks. Mamma Bella Cucina offers pastas, panini, soups, salads, entrees and 12-inch pizzas, along with a lineup of "Italian tapas," or small plates like meatballs, burrata, arancini, calamari, bruschetta, mussels and polenta Bolognese.
19 N. Water Street., 203-354-4664, @mammabellacucina.
In May, Il Gabbiano opened in the waterfront Long Wharf space that once housed Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale, Leon’s and the Rusty Scupper. Owner Valentino Stakaj, who also owns Adriana’s in New Haven and La Lupa in North Haven, presents an Italian steakhouse-style menu with filet mignon, New York strip and ribeye — both bone-in and boneless — along with a “bistec fiorentina” porterhouse and a tomahawk ribeye. Il Gabbiano also features classic Italian pastas and risotto dishes, and entrees with chicken, seafood, veal and pork.
501 Long Wharf Drive, 203-821-7425.
Sandra DeRosa Briggs, known for the fun and hip vibe she brought to her restaurant Hair of the Dog, recently debuted a second Milford eatery in the former Tavern on Point space. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is about nostalgia, spotlighting music, television and movies with favorite characters and themes from throughout the generations on every wall. The menu is sprinkled with references to films, featuring appetizers and shareable platters like “50 First Dates” (a cheese and charcuterie board), “Yo Adrien,” (a platter with pasta, a mini chicken parm grinder and meatballs or sausage and peppers) and “The Sandlot” (assorted sliders with pretzel bites, garlic parm tots and mini hot dogs.)
521 New Haven Ave., 203-283-7711, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot on Facebook
After 10 years as a catering company, Farmboys Smokin’ Bar-B-Q now has a restaurant space. In early May, South Carolina native Matt Lombardo and his wife, Stacey, opened the doors to the restaurant on South Street in Danbury. The dine-in menu features sandwiches and platters with pulled pork, pulled chicken, brisket and smoked sausage, with sides like smoked mac and cheese, coleslaw, baked beans and BBQ-seasoned fries. Farmboys also has a full bar, with bourbon and whiskey-based cocktails, beer and wine.
30 South St., 203-616-5942, @farmboyssmokinbbq.