NEW RESTAURANT! Cugine’s Italian is a new Italian Restaurant in Stamford’s Harbor Point community at 121 Towne Street. The restaurant, from Stamford restauranteurs John and Morgan Nealon, features alluring, well-plated Italian cuisine and crudos, coupled with refined cocktails and a robust wine list. I recently attended a press dinner at Cugine’s Italian and was impressed with the food and the service. Below you will find my reviews and photos.
My First Impression of Cugine’s Italian:
It’s an adventure to eat at Cugine’s Italian Stamford. There is an air of mystery as you first enter a non-descript door with no signage. You step into what looks like a small flower shop and wonder if you are in the right place. The host/shopkeeper opens the secret door which reveals a sophisticated space with a dark, high-ceilinged interior in shades of green and gold, big chandeliers, and a large inviting bar which together create an elegant speakeasy-type of vibe.
“Our goal with Cugine’s is to offer not only Harbor Point, but Fairfield County as a whole, an entirely new Italian dining experience. This sophisticated restaurant will invite our guests to take a step back in time and dine in the era of Frank Sinatra, with dark interiors and furniture, beautiful soft mood lighting, a period playlist and classic Italian cuisine.”John Nealon (Co-owner Cugine’s Italian)
What to Order at Cugine’s Italian Stamford:
I sampled 2 small plates, 2 mains, 2 desserts, and 2 cocktails during the press preview dinner. Here are my thoughts and reviews.
Cugine’s Italian Appetizers:
Arctic Char Crudo: I’m still thinking about the Arctic Char Crudo at Cugine’s Italian Stamford. It was perfectly prepared and melts in your mouth. It was topped with fried capers which were delicious and offered a nice textural contrast with the very fresh, thinly sliced fish. I ate every single fried caper on the dish! Definitely, a must-order.
Zucchini: This was a dish of shaved zucchini topped with what seemed to be parmesan cheese and salsa verde. This zucchini had layers of flavors- the top layer highlighted the salty tang of the cheese that complemented the zucchini and at the bottom the flavor somehow transformed into what’s reminiscent of Greek Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves).
Cugine’s Italian Large Plates:
Grilled Langoustines: This was my favorite of all the dishes I tried. The langoustine was heavily topped with gremolata which is parsley and garlic lemon mix. I wish I could take home a jar of their gremolata- it’s that good! And it came with a side of citrus fennel salad which was refreshing and complemented perfectly with the langoustines.
Spaghetti Boia: The Spaghetti Boia was delicious. It was cooked perfectly al dente and tossed with egg yolk, chili flakes, marinara, cherry tomatoes, and parsley. Then topped with shaved parmesan cheese. Not overly spicy but a nice subtle kick. The pasta was lightly sauced but very flavorful. It was not one of those generic “side of marinara pasta” dishes you find at your neighborhood red sauce Italian joint but something lighter, deceptively simple yet somehow much more complex. I’m definitely ordering this pasta again when I go back.
Cugine’s Italian Desserts:
Tiramisu: The tiramisu is a must-order. I ate the entire bowl and frankly, did not want to share this! The custard and the cake-like filling are exactly what you imagine a perfect tiramisu is. It’s that good!
Passion Fruit Semifredo: The Passion Fruit Semifredo was delicious. The passion fruit flavor stood out. However, I really enjoyed the tiramisu more.
Being in Cugine’s Italian feels like you are at a dark, moody, Speakeasy. It’s not surprising cocktails are as much the main attraction as their food. I had The Savoy which was a sophisticated drink with bourbon, amaro, maraschino liquor, and orange. I also tried the blackberry cocktail which was refreshing and sweet. Perfect for a sophisticated night out.
What’s on the Menu at Cugine’s Italian Stamford?
The food menu is a true reflection of Chef Rick’s experience with Italian cuisine, pasta and seafood, with appetizers including Steamed Clams with Calabrian chili butter, Crostini with whipped ricotta and roasted grapes, and Meatballs.
Crudo offerings include Tuna Foie with shaved frozen foie, torched, pickled strawberry, Uni with anchovy butter and brioche toast, and Bay Scallop with ceviche, watermelon and mint. Shareable vegetable dishes include Zucchini (shaved raw and grilled with mint salsa verde), Brussels (honey agrodolce, mint) and Mixed Mushrooms (garlic, thyme); a wide assortment of housemade pastas include Wild Boar Gnocchi, Lumache (bay scallops, zucchini, guanciale), Baby Octopus Puttanesca, Ricotta Cavatelli Pesto and Capellini al Limone.
Large plates such as Brick Chicken (taliata, arugula salad, shaved parm slices, balsamic), Grilled Langoustines (fennel and citrus salad, gremolata) and Petite Shoulder Tenderloin (potato-fontina croquettes, grilled lettuce, red wine jus, cauliflower puree) will be followed up by desserts including Panna Cotta, Pistachio Cannoli and Tiramisu with shaved fresh chocolate. Creative pizzas will also be offered, including Clam and Zucchini, Beef Fat, Bresaola, Arugula and Parm Slices, and Charred Chili Pineapple, Pepperoni and Red Onions.
What’s on the Cocktail Menu at Cugine’s Italian?
The cocktail offerings pay homage to classic drink recipes, as well as classic and beloved restaurants, such as The Savoy (with bourbon, amaro, maraschino liquor, orange), Balthazar (gin, Lillet, lemon, honey), and Copacabana (tequila, Campari, lemon, grapefruit soda). A dedicated martini menu includes Rainbow Room (vodka or gin, sherry, honey, salt), Page Six (pistachio espresso martini) and Jimmy Weston’s (vodka or gin, olive juice, pickled jalapeno, blue cheese). A full wine list is available as well, offering bottles or wines by the glass.
Where is Cugine’s Italian Located?
Cugine’s Italian is located at 121 Towne Street in Stamford’s Harbor Point community. It took over the space that was The Lila Rose.
Cugine’s Italian Stamford Hours:
The 80+ seat restaurant is open Friday-Sunday (Friday 5pm-1:30am, Saturday 11:30am-1:30am and Sunday 11:30am-close). The restaurant is currently accepting reservations via OpenTable or phone (203-276-9266).
About Cugine’s Italian Stamford
Cugine’s Italian, located at 121 Towne Street in the bourgeoning Harbor Point community of Stamford, brings a new Italian dining experience to Fairfield County. Taking guests back in time to the era of Frank Sinatra and speakeasys, the dark, moody, warm dining room and bar will complement the alluring, well-plated, classic Italian cuisine, crudos and refined cocktails, while offering a celebratory, special-occasion environment. For more information, visit the restaurant’s Instagram (@cuginesitalian).