An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
Jun 30, 2014
07:42 AMThe Connecticut Table
Authentic Italian in Casual Atmosphere, Romanacci Cafe the Perfect Stop
It is a unique place that can transform itself from a casual, family friendly lunch and dinner spot to a young and hip late night stop after a dinner of popcorn at the movies. Romanacci Cafe (which translates as “From Rome”) on the Norwalk-Westport border is such a place, offering Artisan pizzas, salads, Focaccia paninis, crepes and freshly made Italian pastries.
Tucked into a strip center on the Post Road, Romanacci is the handiwork of two brothers, Graziano and Maurizio Ricci (below). Both hail from Rome, where they attended culinary school and worked alongside their parents as well as in other family-run restaurants.
Graziano migrated to the US almost 18 years ago and eventually oversaw the kitchen in New Haven’s Hot Tomatoes. He subsequently convinced his younger brother, Maurizio, to join him as its maître d’, and they finally chased their dream of owning a restaurant. When the owner of Norwalk’s Osteria Romana decided to sell his business, the brothers decided to purchase the restaurant with the intention of bringing a younger attitude and clientele to complement Graziano’s fresh pastas, breads, and sauces. Osteria Romana continues to thrive with a loyal and regular crowd, outdoor seating and a cozy bar area.
But it is Romanacci, just a few doors away that now offers the casual, drop-in ambiance that reminds one of a café or espresso bar in Rome. Originally a variety store, the original plan was to use it as a back-up kitchen or “laboratory” to highlight Graziano’s daily made pastas, breads, sauces and pastries. Loyal customers started purchasing many of the freshly made items and eventually tables were added for them to enjoy pizza and pastries. Suddenly, Graziano’s dream of a fun, casual restaurant reminiscent of his homeland was within reach. Both brothers began to design the interior with its bright orange wall, blackboard menus, high-top wood tables, recycled wood counter/bar and a new brick oven. A savvy female guest even suggested the handbag hooks, which are provided at every table and under the counter (ladies take note…I love this!).