NEWTOWN, Conn. — Robert Marini may have gotten his start in construction, but he knows a thing or two about the restaurant business.
“You’ve got to have fresh ingredients and treat them with respect, do the right thing,” the Trumbull resident said recently. “Everything has to be fresh. That’s the key.”
The winning recipe has worked so well at award-winning Tazza Osteria & Bar, the Fairfield restaurant he co-owns, that he and his partners have opened a second location on Main Street in Newtown.
“We wanted to be a year or two open at the first place before we decided to branch out,” said Marini, who runs both restaurants with Lenny Manchisi of Shelton and Roberto Furnari of Newtown. “Newtown was really a perfect fit.”
The new Tazza Cucina & Bar, which opened recently in the space once occupied by Pub 25, mimics much of the Fairfield location’s “creative Italian” fare. The menu boasts mouthwatering small plates such as Nina’s arancini, burrito Caprese, grilled octopus and gnocchi, as well as a full line of salads, short rib panini, gorgonzola burgers and more.
“We added a couple more pasta dishes,” Marini said. “It’s been well received.”
Tazza’s signature pizzas did not make the menu because the new location doesn’t have a proper pizza oven, Marini said.
What does travel well is Tazza’s reputation. The restaurant has received rave reviews from diners and veteran critics alike.
Connecticut Magazine named Tazza its 2015 Best New Restaurant in the state.
Seasoned New York Times restaurant critic Patricia Brooks dubbed Nina’s arancini — inventively plated arborio rice balls shaped into a “pear” — “superb!”
“Dining at Tazza Osteria & Bar is like opening a small, unassuming package and discovering sparkling jewels inside,” Brooks wrote in the April 2015 review, giving Tazza an excellent rating.
Marini said Brooks dined at the restaurant several times before completing her review. “It was better when we didn’t know she was there,” he said of the pressure of cooking for the esteemed critic.
Marini said the restaurant business requires hands-on dedication, which means one of the owners is on site at all times. But they’ve pleased with the results.
“You have to be invested in the place,” he said. “We really appreciate everyone who comes in.”
Tazza Cucina & Bar is located at 266 S. Main St. in Newtown. Call 203-270-3425 for directions and more information.