When Napa & Co. decided to close its doors in Stamford in early 2017, it left a hole in the city’s dining scene. Many would argue (I certainly would) it was one of, if not the best, restaurant in Stamford during its decade-long run. Almost a year after Napa vacated, an Italian restaurant by the name of Bar Zepoli took over the space.
While it’s unfair to compare Bar Zepoli to the previous tenant, people still will. They shouldn’t. (It’s not the same type of food. Not even close.) The only remnants are the dining room décor, where if you had dined at Napa, you can still kind of picture it. The formerly green and white area is now all exposed brick, wood furniture, and “dope” (as the kids are saying) artwork by Leigha Zimmer. The private room with wine racks and bottles that cover parts of the wall is a nice touch too, and appropriate for a special occasion.
Bar Zepoli’s focus is Italian-American. It serves old-world Italian classics and new-school fare with aq menu executed by Chef Antonio Greco.
Chef Greco’s menu utilizes free-range chicken, organic salmon, and grass-fed beef, but he doesn’t shy away from the food he grew up eating. With that said, don’t skip his meatballs. They tasted as if they were straight out of nonna’s kitchen, served with a dollop of creamy ricotta, and grilled bread so you can clean up all that fresh plum tomato sauce. Worth sharing is a massive salumi platter that comes with Greco’s homemade tomato marmalade that Bar Zepoli should start jarring and selling. The thin-sliced, lightly fried eggplant rollatini (stuffed with ricotta) was another hit, as were the meaty crab cakes.
Of the main offerings, the pasta dishes were mostly okay. They nailed the rigatoni Bolognese with a well-seasoned sauce and al dente ridged pasta, and I liked the pasta al forno despite its saltiness; it’s a béchamel-coated rigatoni with sliced salumi and grated Grana Padano cheese, like an Italian rendition of mac ‘n’ cheese. I wasn’t as much into the Angus ragu with orecchiette, that played more like a beef stew than a pasta dish. Others at my table loved it.
Bar Zepoli’s meat and fish entrées were 50/50, meaning I liked something about each, but I thought it needed a bit more love. The chicken scarpiello would’ve been excellent had it been spicier. The King salmon was a beautifully presented dish (and the salmon flaked apart nicely) but could’ve used more seasoning. The chianti-braised Colorado lamb shank, however, was epic. It practically fell off the bone, and I enjoyed swirling the carrots, wild mushrooms, and mashed potatoes in the braising liquid. This is a very comforting, cohesive dish.
If you’re planning on drinking, Bar Zepoli has a serious 200+ wine selection and more than a handful of rotating beer taps that feature above average suds. They also have 10 specialty cocktails to choose from, but of the three I sampled, only the Maple Bourbon Old Fashioned hit the mark.
Bar Zepoli is good. It may not make Stamford or area food snobs forget about what used to be there, and it doesn’t have to. Sometimes “good” gets the job done.
75 Broad St; Stamford
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