BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Carol Lentini has cooked for rock bands at Madison Square Garden, been a croupier on a cruise ship, catered for hundreds at Fairfield’s Burr Mansion and bopped around Europe in a cooking career that has spanned 27 years.
But the woman who wowed Fairfield County taste buds through her popular Along Came Carol catering business has set her sites on a new venture — an intimate, boutique dining experience she dubbed The Nook.
“I’m all about making people happy through food,” said Lentini, who opened the space to private parties until now. “It’s been a best-kept secret. Now I want everyone to experience it.”
Tucked next to her commercial kitchen in a storefront in the city’s Black Rock neighborhood, The Nook is a cozy dining space showcasing Lentini’s flair for splashes of bold color and flea-market finds.
At the center are long tables that welcome friends and strangers for a Fridays-only communal dinner. The brainchild of Lentini and her husband/partner Mark Mojcher, The Nook aims to offer a casual, fun evening.
The menu changes each week and usually reflects the seasons and holidays. The “Sunday Supper” menu includes rigatoni with slow-cooked sauce and dollops of fresh ricotta, chicken piccata and freshly baked focaccia, while the “Fruit D’Mare” menu features mussels, clams, calamari, shrimp and mild white fish in a savory sauce and chocolate-dipped mini-creampuffs.
All meals come with appetizers and a four-course meal served family style.
The room can hold 22 comfortably, but Lentini said she prefers smaller groups of adventurous eaters who enjoy meeting new people. Reservation requests come from couples, friends, solo diners and groups.
“I feel like I’ve come home, kind of back to basics,” she said of the experience. “I usually know my customers, and, if I don’t know them, I get to know them.”
The Nook seems a natural pairing for Lentini, a Fairfield native who started her eclectic career path studying art and design at the Museum School of Fine Arts in Boston. She studied textile and graphic design at both the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design, before heading off to Europe.
“I had the travel bug,” said Lentini, who paid for her wanderlust with kitchen jobs. “I peeled so many potatoes in France!”
Lentini’s travels — she often visits siblings in France, Italy and Thailand — inform her food, according to Dede Traynor of Fairfield, who booked The Nook for her book group recently.
“Her food is delicious,” she said. “And it just seems like a nice way to get together.”
The Nook is located at 2984 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport. For more information, visit the website.